Top Ranked and Ellsberg share spoils in Epsom dead heat

Ellsberg (Brenton Avdulla for Gerald Ryan and Stirling Alexiou) and Top Ranked (Hugh Bowman for Annabel Neasham) shared the spoils of the Epsom after a thrilling dead-heat finish.

Gerald Ryan admits he had all but given up hope on Ellsberg’s career progressing.

Annabel Neasham didn’t think Top Ranked won.

But both were celebrating a Group 1 victory in the $1.5 million Epsom Handicap over 1600m at Randwick, the result a thrilling dead-heat.

2022 Epsom Handicap Replay

Ryan, with co-trainer Stirling Alexiou, only opted to run his five-year-old in this feature on Wednesday morning.

“It was a last-minute decision. Ten to nine on Wednesday morning we decided to run and well, it’s been good,” he said.

After three unsuccessful attempts in Sydney over the mile, Ryan went very close to giving up on his courageous stallion.

“It’s good when you buy the horse as a yearling and bring him along. We’ve been desperate to win a Group 1 with him, but I had basically given up hope,” he said.

“We’d been here three times at the mile and we had been found wanting, but he stuck his head out today. He’s so honest.

“I think it’s just three times that he has been out of the first four. I wish I had more of them.”

It was a long-awaited first Group 1 triumph for the Ryan-Alexiou team.

“It’s our first Group One together. We had Ellsberg’s father, we bought him as a yearling,” Ryan said.

“We paid a lot of money for him. There are good blokes in the horse with us, a great syndicate.”

Ellsberg’s jockey Hugh Bowman thought Brenton Avdulla edged him out on Neasham’s seven-year-old stallion.

“I thought he (Avdulla) got the bob. I felt like it was a bob of the head margin,” Bowman said.

“I felt like after the post I still had a margin on him, but on the line I wasn’t so confident. But there was a fair bit going on.”

Bowman said the Heavy 8 conditions played into Ellsberg’s hands.

“We’ve got a heavy track here, testing conditions for all horses and it was a solidly run event, which I really wasn’t predicting with the smaller Epsom field this year,” he said.

“But I thought that played into my horse’s favour.

“I followed Brenton in the run, came out when I was ready and Annabel has just done an amazing job with him to bring him back from a slight injury in the Chipping Norton.

“To bring him back to win at this level is a great training performance, but it’s no surprise because we know how good he is.”

Neasham also didn’t think her runner got the victory.

“I walked onto the track and I just wanted to see how the horse has pulled up. I actually didn’t think we’d got it,” she said.

But after the dead-heat result was confirmed, Neasham said Top Ranked deserved a Cox Plate starting spot.

“Unbelievable horse. Second up just two weeks from a run, off a long layoff. The question is whether they give him a spot in the Cox Plate, but they have to after that. He’s a Group 1 horse,” she said.

Avdulla thought he edged out Bowman’s mount on the line.

“Halfway up I thought Hughie was home and the closer we got to the line I knew I was coming strong, and I thought on the post I got him,” he said.

“But racing is a funny thing. When I came back (to scale) I would’ve been shattered if my number didn’t come up.

“And the longer we were here (waiting for a result) we both said to each other ‘I just hope for a dead-heat’.”

Avdulla said it was amazing to get a Group 1 victory aboard a horse he wasn’t going to ride up until Wednesday.

“It’s a Group 1 race – I only picked up the ride on Wednesday,” he said.

“He wasn’t going to run, so we got him in last minute. I didn’t think he was well in at the weight (56kg), but he was still able to share in a Group 1, so it’s amazing.”

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