One of the world’s oldest sports has found a new wrinkle and it is catching on like wildfire. The 2017 horse racing season started with the brand new Pegasus World Cup with owners putting up $1 million each for a winner-take-all race. The starting slots sold out within a week. Shortly after the running of the Pegasus, the Australian partnership of Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club announced a similar race for the Sydney spring carnival in October.
It was decided the TAB Everest on October 14 would be contested on turf at 1200 meters, a distance properly suited to highly regarded Australian sprinters. The Everest would be run for a $10 million prize under weight-for-age conditions at Royal Randwick. Once again, the slots sold out quickly at $600,000 each for a position in the starter’s gate. It took two months to fill the field this time, partly because horsemen had to commit to three years.
Despite the high ticket price, The Everest will not be a vanity affair for elite owners of horse flesh. Lining up in the 12-horse field will be seven individual Group 1 winners who have won 84 races and $24 million in purse money among them. Two of the contenders set Sydney track records in their last starts.
Despite some of the continent’s richest horses, bet365 has installed a filly purchased for only $20,000 as the favorite in the inaugural Everest. She Will Reign has won five of six starts as she puts the wraps on her age three season, including the Golden Slipper that was the richest race in the world for two-year olds last year. She Will Reign has banked over $3.4 million in prize money.
Punters backing She Will Reign at 7/2 will be joining one of China’s richest men in the bet. Yuesheng Zhang negotiated the slot as She Will Reign’s ownership is a consortium of every day blokes who had never owned a race horse before buying shares in the filly. She Will Reign has already run down older horses in the Group 1 Moir Stakes and trainer Gary Portelli has her right on schedule for the world’s richest turf race.
The well-honored Chautauqua will be expected to give the hottest challenge. The six-year old grey gelding has been rated the world’s best sprinter for the past two years and in April over this course at Randwick he won his third consecutive TJ Smith Stakes with an amazing run from last place. Hall of Fame trainer John Hawkes and his sons Michael and Wayne will no doubt have the crowd favorite in The Everest as fans who will be calculating the impact of weight on the veteran campaigner. Chautauqua is currently offered at 11/2.
At five years old, Vega Magic is also listed at 11/2. Vega Magic is in fine form with two wins in his last three stakes. He tuned up for The Everest with a convincing win in the $1 million Memsie Stakes. Hall of Fame trainer David Hayes will send Vega Magic to the post, one of two horses he will have chasing the $600,000 first prize, plus a trophy valued at $320,000.
The other star sprinter in Hayes’ barn is Redkirk Warrior, also at 13/2. Redkirk Warrior turned heads when he became the first horse in over 100 years to win the Newmarket Handicap first-up. Redkirk Warrior kept his winning form at Flemington in the Bobbie Lewis.
Redzel is another aged sprinter who has not been as celebrated as some others but is coming into his own at the age of five. Redzel won his last two starts in 2016 in the Hall Mark Stakes and the Group 1 Doomden and this year ran away from the field in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes. Recently, Redzel smashed the Royal Randwick track record in the 1100-meter The Shorts in a race that featured several competitors he will meet in The Everest. Odds on Redzel are 13/2.
A third contender at 13/2 is English who was just nipped in The Shorts chasing Redzel in his record-setting run. The connections are first-rate – trainer Gai Waterhouse and Blake Shinn will be in the class. In addition to being a classy entry, English has always shown well on the Royal Randwick turf.
The Everest field is deep enough that Deploy of Chris Waller Racing is offered at 10/1. Deploy had begun his career lightly regarded but has won seven of his last nine starts. The last two times Gerald Ryan has sent Deploy out all he has done is set track records at Randwick at 1200 meters and Rosehill at 1300 meters.
Clearly Innocent is another Group 1 winner and is still only 12/1 in the deep Everest line-up. A fast-finishing third in the Premier Stakes only adds to the resume of the Kris Lees-trained sprinter.
Australia’s winningest trainer, Darren Weir, will be saddling Brave Smash at 25/1. The five-year old horse started his racing career in Japan before heading Down Under where he has found his footing, showing improvement in each of his two races. Brave Smash ran second behind Vega Magic in his debut and then won at Moonee Valley.
Fell Swoop has a story much like favorite She Will Reign. Purchased as a yearling for only $45,000, he has won $1.6 million on the track. Fell Swoop has nine wins in 23 starts for trainer Matthew Dale and the gelding has five placings in Group 1 level competition. But all that earns a sprinter in The Everest field is long shot odds at 50/1.
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