Everest a peak moment for Sydney racing
Despite occasional infractions, there has been a long-established gentleman’s agreement in Australian racing that the spring belongs to Melbourne and the autumn is Sydney’s time to showcase the stars of the turf.
That landscape, however, most likely changed forever in the aftermath of the inaugural running of The Everest at Sydney’s Randwick racecourse on Saturday. By any measure – racing, crowd, atmosphere, betting turnover – it was a success.
Backed by 12 slot holders putting up $600,000 each to have a piece of the best sprinting talent in the country The Everest carried a $10 million purse, making the 1200m sprint the richest turf race in the world.
The Everest announced its arrival with the biggest crowd at Randwick since the Sydney racetrack’s facilities were given a $150 million makeover and were opened in 2013.
And the 33,512 racegoers laid a foundation for a new benchmark for pari-mutuel turnover, for so long the driver for Australian prize money levels that are among the highest in the world.
The Everest meeting clashed with Guineas day at Caulfield, traditionally the launching site for four weeks of racing in Melbourne that captures an international audience.
But Guineas day, with its four Group One races, now seems destined to have to share racing’s attention with The Everest meeting, although there are plans for the Sydney race to be run under lights on a Friday night from as early as next year.
For the traditionalists, Guineas day always delivers quality with 10 races of black-type status, and the purists should be satisfied it remains a pivotal moment in the spring.
Redzel rules against Australia’s best sprinters
The Everest result was a triumph for the egalitarian nature of racing in Australia.
Redzel (Snitzel), modestly priced at $120,000 as a Magic Millions yearling sales purchase, fended off the nation’s best sprinters.
Bought by Triple Crown Syndications, a Sydney-based bloodstock company founded by brothers Chris and Michael Ward, Redzel was publicly advertised and sold in an ownership model that makes racing affordable and appealing to everyday Australians.
Redzel started his racing career with Rosehill trainer Gerald Ryan but made his way across town to the Peter and Paul Snowden stable at Randwick when the father-and-son team became principal trainers for Triple Crown.
A no-nonsense racehorse adaptable to all types of ground, he came of age as a Group One sprinter in winning one of the major sprints during the Brisbane winter carnival, the Doomben 10,000.
It was the strength of that form and his potential for improvement that attracted the attention of Everest slot-holder James Harron, a young bloodstock agent who teamed up with the Snowdens to win Australia’s most important two-year-old race, the Golden Slipper, with Capitalist in 2016.
Redzel’s jockey Kerrin McEvoy needs little introduction to the international racing scene as a long-time retained rider for Sheikh Mohammed in Europe and Australia before going freelance in 2014.
McEvoy won his second Melbourne Cup last year and the ride on Redzel only confirmed his rating as a big-race specialist
He had the five-year-old on a comfortable rein riding the speed and established a winning break at the 200m before holding off Vega Magic (Lope De Vega) and the Japanese-bred sprinter Brave Smash (Tosen Phantom).
Chautauqua (Encosta De Lago), the world’s highest-rated sprinter, had to wait for runs through the field before closing off to finish fourth on a track that made it difficult to swoop down the outside.
Mighty Boss lands Caulfield Guineas upset
The $2 million Caulfield Guineas, a 1600m Group One race for three-year-olds, produced an unexpected result when Mighty Boss made a late run on the inside to beat Godolphin colt Kementari.
Barely rating a mention in the lead-up to a race that invariably ensures a winning colt will be a sought-after stallion prospect, Mighty Boss (Not A Single Doubt) landed the Guineas for trainer Mick Price and jockey Michael Walker as a 100-1 chance.
Mighty Boss went into the Guineas at his sixth start with his only win coming in a race for maiden two-year-olds on a Victorian country track.
But there were encouraging signs in a lead-up race to the Guineas with a minor placing at Group Two level, although most hopes were pinned on the eventual third-placed filly Catchy (Fastnet trock) and the ultimately luckless Royal Symphony (Domesday).
The Guineas ushered in a changing of the guard for Price as Mighty Boss became his latest Group One winner on a day he farewelled Lankan Rupee (Redoute’s Choice) from racing.
A sprinter once rated the best in the world, Lankan Rupee was retired after finishing down the course in the Schillaci Stakes. Like Mighty Boss he is also owned by Muzaffar Yaseen, through his company Teeley Assets.
Purcell steps into Group One spotlight
Caulfield provided a red-letter day for trainer Aaron Purcell.
Purcell’s first Group One runner turned out to be a winner when filly Aloisia (Azamour) also found clear running on the inside to claim the $500,000 Thousand Guineas over 1600m for fillies.
The 40-year-old took centre stage at the expense of his close friend Ciaron Maher, last year’s Caulfield Cup-winning trainer who is serving a six-month ban over his involvement in the ownership bona fides of high-class racemare Azkadellia (Shinko King).
Purcell took over Maher’s Caulfield stable last month and Aloisia’s win came as a bonus on her way to the VRC Oaks, the principal staying test for three-year-old fillies during the Melbourne Cup carnival.
Aloisia is owned by OTI Racing, a syndication group that has enjoyed success with European imports such as the 2008 Melbourne Cup runner-up Bauer (Halling).
Former Australian Test cricketer Simon O’Donnell is heavily involved in OTI and the syndicate immediately followed its Thousand Guineas success when ex-French stayer Gailo Chop (Deportivo) won the Group One Caulfield Stakes, a weight-for-age race over 2000m.
Gailo Chop first ventured to Australia for the 2015 Melbourne spring carnival and won the Group One Mackinnon Stakes over 2000m after running in Winx’s (Street Cry) first Cox Plate.
A seven-year-old, Gailo Chop spent 17 months sidelined because of injury but he is a force again under Victoria’s leader trainer Darren Weir.
Three northern hemisphere-trained horses had their first spring carnival outings in the Caulfield Stakes and none were more impressive than Aidan O’Brien’s Johannes Vermeer (Galileo).
A Group One winner in France, Johannes Vermeer turned in an outstanding Caulfield Cup trial to take late ground of Gailo Chop in finishing second.
Group One double for Weir
Weir’s success with internationall-bred horses continued when former Japanese middle-distance star Tosen Stardom (Deep Impact) broke through for his first Australian win in the Group One Toorak Handicap over 1600m.
Tosen Stardom carries the colours of the Australian Bloodstock syndicate which came to international prominence when the German stayer Protectionist won the 2014 Melbourne Cup.
Lord Fandango makes it three for OTI
OTI was involved in three Caulfield winners with former English stayer Lord Fandango (Lord Of England) backing up a recent country cup victory to claim the Group Two Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) and give an emotional former English trainer Archie Alexander his biggest winner in his short time preparing gallopers from his new base at the Victoria city of Ballarat.
Once a last-chance race for stayers to win their way into the Caulfield Cup, the Herbert Power is now targeted as a spring pipe-opener point for overseas horses seeking a portion of the riches on offer during the Melbourne .
As such, there was interest in English-trained pair, Hugo Palmer’s Wall Of Fire (Canford Cliffs) and Godolphin’s Kidmenever (Baltic King) for Charlie Appleby.
Wall Of Fire, who has already travelled to Dubai and the United States this year, was the best of the duo and firmed in Melbourne Cup markets with a solid-finishing second.
Kidmenever was beaten a long way but the Appleby stable regrouped quickly to win the $300,000 Cranbourne Cup on Sunday with Folkswood (Exceed And Excel), with Everest-winning jockey McEvoy making the trip from Sydney to the Victorian provincial racetrack.
ATC resurrects St Leger
As a support for The Everest card, the Australian Turf Club revived one of its oldest races, the St Leger Stakes.
First run in 1841, it was won by famous names of the turf such as Phar Lap and Peter Pan before it was disbanded.
To mark its return, the race carried a $500,000 purse and was run under set-weights conditions over 2600m with the winner, the Darren Weir-trained Big Duke (Raven’s Pass), heading for the Melbourne Cup via the Moonee Valley Gold Cup on Cox Plate day.
Everest consolation for In Her Time
Slotholders couldn’t find a place for the outstanding sprinter In Her Time in the Everest and she was left as an emergency for the $10 million race.
However, a nice consolation prize awaited connections when In Her Time (Time Thief) won the Listed Sydney Stakes over 1200m offering $500,000.
And she took some bragging rights for the day, running a tenth of a second faster for the distance than Redzel did in winning The Everest.