Surf Dancer waves goodbye to Shannon rivals

The Big Dance is the spring goal for Shannon Stakes winner Surf Dancer.

Surf Dancer has given Tulloch Lodge trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott pause for thought with his comprehensive first-up win in the Group 2 Shannon Stakes at Rosehill.  

As the winner of the South Grafton Cup in July, the six-year-old is qualified for the $2 million Big Dance at Randwick on Melbourne Cup day and Bott confirmed that race will be his goal. 

However, as the winner of Saturday's Shannon Stakes (1500m), Surf Dancer is also exempt from a ballot for next weekend's Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) and while Bott isn't keen on a seven-day back-up, he hasn't completely ruled it out. 

"I don't think we would run this guy. He's first-up today and I can't imagine we'd back him up but never say never," Bott said. 

"We really could but in fairness, I think we're going to stick with our eyes on the prize and that's the Big Dance for him. 

"He's qualified for that, he won a race up in Grafton, so the plan was always to give him a good freshen up and a couple of runs into the Big Dance." 

Surf Dancer ($5) camped off leader Ellsberg and sprinted quickly when asked for an effort by jockey Regan Bayliss, holding Old Flame ($3.60) at bay with Ellsberg ($3.30 fav) third. 

A European import, Surf Dancer was having his first test in Group company since coming to Australia and Bott was pleased to see him handle it with aplomb. 

"We threw him in the deep end coming here today, but he's responded very well," he said. 

"When we were able to get that nice spot outside the lead with the 53 kilos, I thought he was going to be very hard to run down from there." 

Bott confirmed Converge and Cross Talk would both line up in the Epsom Handicap and said he had been pleased with the progress of both horses.

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