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Picture: James McDonald aboard Nature Strip after winning last year’s edition of The Everest (AAP).


The WSB R7.5 million Gold Rush, which will be run on WSB Cape Town Met day next January, is based on Australia’s richest race, the Everest, which is to be run at Randwick in Sydney on Saturday. 

By Trevor Marshallsea from Fox Sports
It’s the richest race this country has, a multi-million dollar minute-and-a-bit dangling a near-ridiculous $6.2 million to the winner, and – wait for it – $443,750 for running last.
What have we come to? Well, it’s The Everest, of course, Sydney’s showy, much-hyped sprint race which will be run for the sixth time at Randwick on Saturday.
With total prizemoney of $15 million, it’s also the richest race on grass in the world (though there’s a couple on dirt worth more).
It’s the event that’s shaken up Australian racing – immediately leapfrogging the Melbourne Cup on its inception to become the country’s most lucrative race. And on the score of how much hype goes into it every year, as shouty promoters assure us of its unmissable greatness at every turn, it beats all other comers by the length of the straight.
It’s also a brilliantly fitting event for Sydney. While Melbourne’s highlight is a tough and tactical 3200-metre grind for the stout-hearted around Flemington, the Harbour City’s big two – this one and the Golden Slipper – are fleeting sprints over 1200 metres.
This one is held via a novel “slot holder” format under which the 12 runners are selected. We’ll explain that later, but one thing it means is it can’t be given Group status, the label applied to distinguish the best races the world over many years now, as in Group 1, 2 or 3.
Regardless of that, the Australian Turf Club website boasts The Everest “brings together the best sprinters from around the world”. If “around the world” means Brisbane and Melbourne, then OK. But counting the full field of 12 plus four emergencies this year, 13 are trained in Sydney, two in Victoria, and one in Queensland.
Noone’s going to care a lot about that, though, when the gates fly open in this ultimate dash for cash: not the winning owners, the cashed-up jockey (probably James McDonald like it always is), or trainer (most likely Chris Waller, and ditto).
This edition has drawn a quality field of some of the nation’s best sprinters, headed by last year’s winner and Royal Ascot conqueror Nature Strip, who has a chance to come very close to Winx’s prizemoney record if he goes back-to-back. Still, it’s not like it’s the type of field you wouldn’t see in some of Australia’s other major 1200m races – they haven’t dropped in from outer space, or overseas, to make the fifteen mill seem entirely fitting – but it looms as an engrossing contest nonetheless, despite Sydney providing what’s likely to be yet another heavy track.
The Everest, a 1200-metre sprint for a maximum field of 12 horses, around Randwick.
It’s held under weight-for-age conditions, the acknowledged drawcard for top-class gallopers, in which weights are allocated according to age rather than on form, as in handicaps like the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. Mares carry two kilos less than males in the same age bracket.
And so, we have eight-year-old gelding Nature Strip at the top of the field with 58.5kg, a four-year-old mare in Shades Of Rose who’s got 56.5g, and three-year-old males in Jacquinot and Giga Kick with just 53kg.
As mentioned, $15 million. Winner earns $6.2m, second wins $2.3m, and all horses in the second half of the field win $443,750, meaning there’s no difference between finishing 12th or seventh, which we hope the less fancied horses don’t read about before Saturday.
Copied from the home of all things bold and brash, the USA, The Everest has an unusual entry fee structure. A person, or entity, can decide to become a slot holder, buying said slot (after approval from the authorities) for $600,000, which helps fund the whole thing. So while $443,750 is a lot for running last, it still represents a loss. So too does anything running sixth ($500,000) or worse.
Having bought their position, slot holders will then nominate which horse will fill their spot, and work out with that horse’s owners what sort of deal they’ll make for the sharing of spoils. Therefore, the field isn’t brought together by regular means, under long-established patterns, and therefore no Group status. This year at least, unlike a couple of years ago, it’s a genuine G1-level field.
The said slot holders include breeding and racing industry giants such as Godolphin, Coolmore, the TAB, The Star casino, and smaller concerns such as James Harron Bloodstock, and trainer Chris Waller, who prepared Winx and has Nature Strip.
Race 7 of 10 on the Randwick card, on Saturday at 4:15pm AEDT (07h00 SA Time).
The biggie is Nature Strip, who seems to have put his patchy ways behind him. He used to win when he wasn’t fancied so much, and dog it when he was a raging odds-on favourite, as if he could read a tote board and succumbed to the pressure. But not so much lately. In his past three starts he’s bolted in with Randwick’s autumn sprint highlight, the TJ Smith Stakes (much like this one in being a WFA 1200m contest, only it is a Group 1), went to England and won the race Black Caviar won that time – the 1200m Platinum Jubilee – then resumed from a spell to win The Shorts (1100m), also at Randwick, quite comfortably.
All this has helped him earn a ranking as the world’s third-best horse according to rankings boffins. He’s won a mighty 22 of his 39 races, and $19,060,008. We’re not sure what the $8.00 was for on the end – must’ve been a very cheap race early on in his career – but if he wins his second Everest this Saturday he’ll have $25,260,008 – just behind Winx’s $26,451,175. Another win in the TJ Smith next autumn and he’ll have her.
Thing is, Wallers trains/trained both those horses. While he didn’t have Nature Strip for the first 12 starts of his career, his 10 percent trainer’s share of near enough to $50 million means he’s probably not a bad bloke to know.
Same could be said for James McDonald, the expat Kiwi who’s simply a riding freak – the best jockey this country has seen since Mick Dittman, who retired in 2007. This season alone – which started on August 1 – McDonald’s mounts have won 47 races, at a phenomenal strike-rate of one in four. with the second-best in the country Jamie Kah with 32.
Moreover, McDonald’s rides have reaped $9.72m in prizemoney in that time alone. Second-best is Hugh Bowman with a mere $3.9m. Last season, McDonald’s mounts claimed $36.5m in prizemoney, and jockeys take five percent. Second was Bowman, again, with $19.6m.Nature Strip is the short-priced favourite with Pointsbet at around $2.10, with his main challenger framed as Hugh Bowman’s ride (of course), Lost And Running. He’s a very good six-year-old trained by John O’Shea at Randwick, and is considerably better now than when fourth in last year’s Everest.
Nature Strip’s old sparring partner Eduardo will take him on again. The pair have had a string of torrid battles over the years, the Federer and Nadal of sprint racing. But when we say “old sparring partner”, the emphasis these days is on the “old”. Eduardo is now nine, and while he’ll never tire of trying, he was a plain fourth to Nature Strip last time out. He’s the $9.50 third favourite this time.
There’s a few young up-and-comers out to take a swipe at the champ: Mazu, a four-year-old who’s dad is one of the hottest stallions around at present, a Japanese horse called Maurice. And three-year-olds Jacquinot and Giga Kick look to have most exciting futures. Whether they can dethrone Nature Strip at this stage remains to be seen, but their lighter weights help.
Redzel, in 2017
Nature Strip, in 2021
FORECAST: Rain on Friday, but fine on Saturday, but with so much precipitation lately, the track’s likely to be heavy. It was a heavy 8 when the rating went up on Wednesday night.
The Kosciuszko (the mini-Everest, if you will) – Race 5, 2.50pm. A set-weights race for country-trained horses, aged three or older, over 1200m, and worth $2 million.
The Silver Eagle – Race 8, 4.50pm. A 1300m event worth a million bucks for four-year-olds; a warm-up for The Golden Eagle (yes, these are all real race names), which is worth $10m.
The Five Diamonds Prelude – Race 9, 5.30pm. A set-weights 1500m race for five-year-olds worth $1m and a lead-up to the main race of that name in a few weeks.
The Sydney Stakes – Group 3, 1200m, Race 6, 3:25pm. A weight-for-age race for three-year-olds and upwards. Even though it’s worth $2m, it’s something of a consolation for sprinters not going to the big dance (the metaphorical big dance, not the other oddly-named race of that name to be held on Melbourne Cup day). In fact, four of its entrants are the four Everest emergencies sweating on a run in the feature if something else is scratched.
The Craven Plate – Group 3, 1800m, Race 3, 1:40pm, WFA for 3yos and up, worth $500,000. A middle-distance affair headed by the well-performed Cascadian.
1. NATURE STRIP(Barrier 12) Approx Pointsbet odds: $2.15/$1.30. FOR: Is a proven, tough warhorse who’s ranked the third-best galloper in the world, with an international rating of 123 (which is a significant edge on second-highest ranked Eduardo’s 118). Is proven in the wet, loves this track, and has the best in the business behind him in jockey James McDonald and trainer Chris Waller. AGAINST: Tempted to say not a lot, but has drawn the outside starting gate in barrier 12. His class and McDonald’s guile should overcome that in a field this size, however, for it’s not like it’s gate 24 of 24. WET FORM: Soft: 9 starts, 6 wins, 1 second, 0 thirds (9: 6-1-0); Heavy: 4: 3-0-1. The one they all have to beat.
2. EDUARDO (9)$8.50/$2.60. FOR: Is a big-hearted sprinter who’s been the main thorn in Nature Strip’s side over the years. Victory for this nine-year-old would be a win for the sentimentalists, and a fitting cap to a remarkable career nearing its end. He also has regular ride Nash Rawiller back in the saddle, who was on him eight times in a row for five wins before missing his last run. Loves the wet. AGAINST: That last run, even with Rawiller out injured, was a mediocre fourth, fading out in a race 100m shorter than this one. He is nine, after all, and his best days might be behind him. WET FORM: Soft: 8: 5-0-2; Heavy: 6: 4-1-0. Each-way.
3. LOST AND RUNNING (7)$6.50/$2.25. FOR: Is an emerging type if already a 6YO, lightly-raced with just 16 starts for nine wins. Announced himself with a fourth in this race last year, and with a good barrier, Hugh Bowman aboard, and strong wet form including a last start win over two opponents here in Mazu and Masked Crusader, he looms as Nature Strip’s biggest threat. AGAINST: Has yet to win at the very top level, so he’s still not proven in the big grand finals. Only just got past Mazu by a neck last start, and it’s hard to envisage Mazu worrying Nature Strip here. WET FORM: Soft: 6: 2-1-1; Heavy: 2: 2-0-0. Each-way.
Lost And Running, ridden by Hugh Bowman.
Lost And Running, ridden by Hugh Bowman.
Source: Getty Images
4. MASKED CRUSADER (10) $13/$3.60. FOR: Has former WA wizard Willie Pike in the saddle, who goes well in big races. Trainers are trying winkers (mini blinkers) to get his mind better on the job. Flew home for second – beaten only a neck – to Nature Strip in this race last year. Has warmed up for this with a sixth then a third (to Lost And Running and Mazu) when flashing home over 1200m. AGAINST: That’s what he does – flies home after settling at the back, doing just enough to seduce you into thinking he could win next time. He hasn’t achieved that since last October, and many among us have been burnt, and will say he’s fittingly-named like those not-to-be-trusted blokes in old time wrestling. Still, he could live up to that reputation again by going and winning this. Heavy form isn’t that great, however. WET FORM: Soft: 6: 2-2-0; Heavy: 3: 0-1-1. Place best.
5. MAZU (11) $16/$4. FOR: Shapes as a star of the future, and has some great bloodlines, with Japanese sires such as his dad Maurice sweeping the world at present. Is from the Snowden stable, which won the first two of these things with Redzel. Is a natural born winner, with seven victories from 14 starts, but with six coming in a row as he grew into his skin last campaign. Handles the wet. AGAINST: Hasn’t quite lived up to the hype of his six on end in this preparation, with a fifth behind Nature Strip followed by a second to Lost And Running. Has his regular rider Sam Clipperton in the saddle, but he’s not so much known as a big race specialist, with three Group 1 wins from 87 goes. WET FORM: Soft: 4: 2-0-0; Heavy: 5: 4-1-0. Each-way hope.
6. PRIVATE EYE (3) $14/$3.70. FOR: Has the same gun trainer as Eduardo in Joe Pride. Normally considered more suited to longer trips like 1400-1600m, but tuned up for this with a slashing two-length win up the straight 1200m at Flemington in a Group 2 which suggests he’s been trained for this shorter assignment. Has an inside gate, a decent jockey in Brenton Avdulla, and handles the wet. AGAINST: Despite the 1200m win last start he’s not proven against the very top class of short-course horses in the land. And you’ll have to check on the day, but by race seven the inside of the track mightn’t be the best place to be. WET FORM: Soft: 5: 2-0-0; Heavy: 5: 2-0-1. Place best.
7. OVERPASS (6) $34/$6. FOR: Can bob up and win on occasion, and has the winkers on this time to hopefully put his mind on the job. Ran a decent second to Nature Strip when first-up from a spell two runs ago. AGAINST: Bit of a roughie, this bloke, who was an ordinary sixth to Lost And Running and Mazu last start. Poor heavy form, and jockey with not much of a big time record in Rachel King (2 G1 wins from 79 attempts). WET FORM: Soft: 4: 3-1-0; Heavy: 4: 0-0-0. Others preferred.
8. INGRATIATING (4) $41/$7. FOR: Prepared by a crack trainer in James Cummings. Was a good 2YO who had a form dip at three but appears to have come back a better 4YO stallion this time in, winning first-up and placing second in an 1100m G2 last start, at Caulfield last Saturday. AGAINST: Is an example of where a selected field can lead to questionable quality. He’s been chosen by his stable Godolphin, who hold a slot. On class, you’d think they should’ve chosen their runner who beat him home last week, Paulele, but Paulele has suspect heavy form. Ingratiating has run some handy placings over 1200m, but hasn’t won beyond 1100m. WET FORM: Soft: 3: 0-1-1; Heavy: 2: 1-0-0. Not for us.
9. JOYFUL FORTUNE (1) $61/$9.50. FOR: Former Hong Konger who’s a 6YO but very lightly raced, with three wins from just eight starts. Mostly, he’s been restricted by injuries which kept him out for more than a year after his transfer to Australia. This campaign though, he’s shown his speed with a win over 1100m at Flemington – on a heavy 10. That’s as heavy as it gets, and it was his only try on wet ground. He’s also had three barrier trials (practice races) and won them all. AGAINST: Class, That Flemington win was in a Benchmark 70 race. We could explain it more fully, but it’s about 10 rungs below this on the class spectrum. He’s not started in a Group race yet. WET FORM: Soft: 0: 0-0-0; Heavy: 1: 1-0-0. The odds say it all.
10. SHADES OF ROSE (8) $41/$7. FOR: Kerrin McEvoy jumps out, since he rode Redzel to his wins in the first two Everests, and Classique Legend to his win in the fourth one. And this 4YO mare is a winner, having scored in seven of her nine starts. She’s won her past four, including in G2 class over 1200m last start, and can handle the wet. AGAINST: That last start was her first in Group class, and though she handled it well she didn’t beat much, and not by much. Mares haven’t had much of a record in Everests so far, with their best effort a fifth in 2020 (Haut Brion Her). WET FORM: Soft: 3: 3-0-0; Heavy: 3: 1-1-0. Not in this class.
11. JACQUINOT (2) $10/$3. FOR: Very classy 3YO with a light weight, a fine big-day jockey in Damian Lane, and an inside alley. Again, that can be a hindrance on a wet day, but he settles out the back and should come around them and swoop on them late. Showed good toe as a 2YO but has boomed at three, impressively winning both starts since his birthday. AGAINST: His last start was a late-swopping win over 1400m. That suggests he might find these more experienced sprinters too nippy over 1200m, but he will be charging home late. Has had one heavy run for a sixth, but finished fairly that day from the back, and it was the Golden Slipper, the best 2YO race we have. WET FORM: Soft: 1: 1-0-0. Heavy: 1: 0-0-0.
12. GIGA KICK (5) $21/$5. FOR: This bloke’s a winner, with four from four starts. Has a big race jockey in Craig Williams, and is a horse on the way up with a light weight in this. AGAINST: Still a big class question. He just got there by a nose last start, in a G2 for 3YOs, and over 1100m, which is the furthest he’s been. Untried in heavy, and would have to be a real swimmer to upset several rivals here who are more experienced, including in the wet. WET FORM: Soft: 1: 1-0-0; Heavy: N/A. Place only.
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13. FORBIDDEN LOVE $91/$16. FOR: Likes the heavy and won three in a row on such going – a G2, G1 and G1 – last time in. AGAINST: Has struggled to repeat that form with a sixth and and eighth this preparation, and though they were on soft and not her favoured heavy going, she’s a mare who’ll be taking on mares’ poor record in this race, and against several better placed rivals. WET FORM: Soft: 4: 1-0-0; Heavy: 8: 5-0-0. Forbidden bet.
14. APACHE CHASE $151/$26. FOR: Showed his ability by winning a G1 in Brisbane last May over 1300m. AGAINST: Ordinary wet form, including a fifth of nine in that Lost And Running/Mazu race in his only start this campaign. WET FORM: Soft: 1: 0-1-0; Heavy: 3: 0-0-1. Nope.