Despite all the money in the world The Everest is still just another horse race

Alex Broun 22:38 12/10/2018
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The Opera House adorned with the logo of The Everest.

Although many sporting organisations in the last few years may have tried, you cannot buy history.

History, in the sporting arena, has to be earned and often the hard way. Try telling that to the gang behind The Everest.

The brain child of the ambitious Racing New South Wales (NSW) chief executive Peter V’landys, The Everest is the richest turf race in the world, as they will keep telling anyone who will listen.

(However, the richest race in the world is of course the UAE’s own Dubai World Cup, which is run on Meydan’s dirt track in March).

The race may only be in its second year and too young to be even given Group status, but that hasn’t stopped V’landys, along with his cohorts at Destination NSW, trying to big it up as the biggest thing since… well since horse racing began in Babylon over two and half thousand years ago.

The Everest had an odd format known as “slot racing”.

The way it works is there are 12 slots for the race which are open to be purchased for AUD$600,000 per slot (around Dh1.5million).

Strapper Christine Duffy tries to control last year's winner Redzel.

Strapper Christine Duffy tries to control last year’s winner Redzel.

Whoever buys the slot then teams up with a horse owner to field a runner. So, for example, last year the syndicate of 30 owners of Redzel struck a deal with slotholder James Harron, owner of a bloodstock agency, to use his slot to enter their horse, which went on to win the race.

This year Redzel, again heavily favoured to win, is running in the slot of Yulong Investments established by Chinese businessman Yuesheng Zhang, which has emerged as a major player in the Australian thoroughbred racing and breeding industry in recent years.

Harron has Vega Magic in his slot, the David Hayes trained six-year-old finished an unlucky runner-up to Redzel last year.

The slot system supposedly adds another level of intrigue to the event but the main reason may be that with 12 slotholders putting up a combined AUD$7.2 milliion, Racing NSW only has to stake the remaining AUD$5.8million of the AUD$13million purse, which if we haven’t pointed out is the richest turf race in the world!

The Everest likes to make a lot of noise about the money, last year even distributing tawdry publicity shots of the then AUD$10million prize money arranged around the trophy, which depicts a horse climbing Everest, the mountain that is.

The reason why Racing NSW make so much fuss about the cash is they need a point of difference from Australia’s number one horse race, “the race that stops the nation”, the Melbourne Cup, which this year will be run on November 6, less than a month after its noisy northern neighbour.

But whereas the Melbourne Cup, which has been running for over 150 years, is a true test of horse, jockey and trainer stretching over two-miles (3,200 metres) The Everest is a little more than a lottery as it is run as a sprint over less than one mile, 1,200 metres. (The Dubai World Cup splits the two at 2,000).

The horse-on-mountain Everest trophy.

The horse-on-mountain Everest trophy.

Redzel’s winning time last year was just 68 seconds, which worked out at about AUD$150,000 per second (almost Dhs400,000).

But The Everest isn’t about who is the better horse, jockey or trainer – it’s about Sydney trying to get one up over Melbourne in the ongoing spat between Australia’s two biggest cities. The only surprise is they didn’t call it The Sydney Cup.

To give a bit of that history, when the states united to become the Federation of Australia in 1901, Melbourne or Sydney could not agree who should be the capital of the new commonwealth, so they built a new city in between (Canberra) which became the capital.

117 years later, the rivalry is just as intense with Sydneysiders following NRL while Melburnians (and the rest of Australia) barracking for AFL.

And it has to be said the Sydney locals did all they could to try and put The Everest on the map last year with 33,512 race fans flocking to Royal Randwick, which (as they quickly pointed out) was the biggest crowd at the track this century. (All 17 years of it.)

But all the hyperbole in the world, and there has been a mountain of it, is not going to give The Everest the one thing it wants more than anything – class – and maybe Group 1 status.

It’s also so desperate to make it self seem important that it drew the ire of thousands of Sydneysiders who turned up at the Opera House earlier this week to try to stop the barrier draw being projected on the sails of the famous UNESCO listed building.

The Opera House, no matter what Australian conservative shock jock Alan Jones may say, is an Australian icon – unlike The Everest.

The final damning evidence for the richest turf race in the world is that one of the top slot holders Chris Waller, the trainer of record breaker Winx, and the man training his runner Brave Smash, Darren Weir, won’t even be in Sydney on race day.

Guess where they’ll be: in Melbourne, at the Caulfield Guineas, which unlike The Everest is a Group 1 race.

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