Behind the richest turf race in the world
"Twelve horses, 1200m, and $14 million to be won or lost in a little over a minute."
That's the premise of Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club's The Everest, which has been dubbed "the world's richest race on turf".
The Everest is the brainchild of Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys, who says the race is "a unique concept in Australia" because it attracts the world's best sprinters - a point of difference that will again put the global sporting spotlight on horse racing in Sydney.
While many top-line races in Australia and overseas are middle-distance events of between 2000m and 2400m, supporters say that the 1200m distance of the Everest recognises the nation's strength in producing speedy horses - such as Black Caviar - who perform their best over short distances.
"Innovation is essential to not only thrive, but to survive," V'landys told news.com.au.
"What the Everest illustrates is that Racing NSW is always looking for new initiatives to grow interest and participants in racing, and is ever-evolving.
"We developed a new race, with a unique concept, which was an overwhelming success in its first year and has captivated the attention of not just Australia, but the world."
WHEN IS THE EVEREST?
The Everest will be held on Saturday, October 19 at the Royal Randwick, Sydney, with races beginning at 12.30pm AEDT.
V'landys expects this year's turnout to be bigger than ever before, despite the race clashing for the second time in its three-year running with Victoria's Caulfield Cup Carnival - an event that "marks the start of the world-famous Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne."
"The inaugural running of The Everest in 2017 was an overwhelming success, attracting a modern-day record of 33,512," said V'landys, adding that attendance in 2018 "easily surpassed" the previous year.
How many people does he expect to buy a ticket to this year's carnival? "As many as can get into Royal Randwick before they shut the gates."
The event has proven successful for two key reasons, V'landys says - in particular, the demographic it targets itself at.
"We know that under 35's don't want to do what their parents do - and the Melbourne Cup is very much a race for parents, which is why the younger generation have adopted the Everest as 'their' race," he said.
"In 2018, 78.2 per cent of the crowd were under 35 years of age, which illustrates how it's captivated this younger audience - a remarkable achievement, given the plethora of entertainment options vying for their attention in this day and age."
The Everest's other appealing factor in 2019 is the addition of Australia's second richest race - the Golden Eagle - to NSW's spring racing program.
"It would be easy for us to rest on our laurels and bask in the success of The Everest, but this year we have explored new initiatives," V'landys said.
The Golden Eagle - with prize money of $7.5 million - will be run at Rosehill Gardens on November 2, clashing with Melbourne's Derby Day.
The decision to run the Sydney races at the beginning of the season has been subject to controversy, with the Everest - and now, the Golden Eagle - accused of posing a threat to Melbourne's spring racing carnival. V'landys has defended his decision, saying he'd be "derelict" in his duties if he didn't consider the beginning of spring as prime time for holding the races.
"This isn't about NSW versus Victoria," he said, adding that Racing NSW "just want to have existence in that period of time.
"The Melbourne spring carnival has developed itself into a world event with its traditional races," he said.
"We're attempting to complement the races in Victoria so we don't clash in a lot of ways, and have a presence in spring by introducing new races that young people embrace and engage as their generation's event."
HOW DOES THE EVEREST WORK?
The concept of the Everest is loosely modelled on the US's Pegasus system.
Twelve slot (starting position) holders pay money to "nominate a horse in the race - and don't need to own a horse themselves - and negotiate with horse owners to select the horse that they think will provide them with the best opportunity to win the Everest", V'landys said.
Each slot represents a position in the 1200m weight-for-age race, are sold for $600,000, and open to anyone who wants to purchase - resulting in "people from all walks of life partnering in the race."
"When Redzel won last year, it was a partnership between the slot holder - a Chinese billionaire - and the horse's owners - a syndicate of 17 everyday Australians, everyone from a taxi driver and electrician, to police officers and a doctor," V'landys said, adding that the team will be back again, hoping for a third straight win of the race," V'landys said.
"This race creates a genuinely life-changing opportunity for these everyday Aussie owners."
In order to secure a position, investors originally had to commit for three years - with holders who signed on in 2017 paying an initial cost of $1.8 million. But, V'landys said, many had since exercised their options until 2022, "in recognition of the success of both the concept and the race itself".