BY any measure, the inaugural running of The Everest was a resounding success.
Huge crowds on course, an influx of money coming into betting pools and a quality race to boot, the first-ever $10 million feature ticked just about every box it could have.
Except one – international appeal.
When The Everest was announced back in February, Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding AO said, “The Everest will be a game-changer for racing in Sydney and provide a stage for showcasing the best Australian sprinters against leading international contenders.”
Australian Turf Club chairman Laurie Macri echoed those sentiments, stating that The Everest would put “Sydney racing on the world stage”.
If this was the mission statement of The Everest, was it a failure?
The race was a star-studded sprint for the ages, but without an international horse the ilk of American dynamo Lady Aurelia, or fellow superstar sprinter Caravaggio, it is hard to look at The Everest as anything more than just another sprint race for Australia’s best.
We already have the Group One Newmarket Handicap as Australia’s premiere sprint race, so why did we need another?
The race was a huge success in terms of turnover and numbers on track, but to truly garner the worldwide attention Racing NSW desperately craves we need to see the best of the best making the trip down under for the huge prize money.
Generating buzz around the first-ever running of a race is the easy part. Keeping sustained interest in an event that caters to the richest of the rich will be the challenging part.
What is Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys’ answer to this question? Moving the race to a night meet.
“It’s always been our wish to have a big event under lights at Randwick,” V’landys said.
“I think we’ve developed that event in The Everest. We’re hoping the 2018 edition will be under lights on a Friday night at Randwick.
“I think it will attract a record audience … (and) we’re negotiating with international TV stations to get it to an audience between 200-300 million people.”
Is this the right course of action?
Racing as a spectacle has always been about pitting the best horses against each other, and with the added excitement of an underdog coming through the ranks to topple the big dogs.
With the latter off the table due to the slot-holder concept, the only course of action is attracting the best horses in the world down under. Forget catering to the worldwide audience if their best gallopers are not down here. A quick look on Twitter will tell you that neither the Americans nor the Brits took a great deal of interest in The Everest.
Imagine how that would change if their best gallopers made the journey?
Year one gets a pass. If The Everest cannot attract some top-tier talent from around the globe in subsequent years, it is hard to see how the race is anything more than an exhibition race for Australia’s wealthiest owners.