Published in Sydney Morning Herald as:
Everest dream becomes a reality as the slot holders begin the search for sprinters
The $10 million dream of Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club is reality with all 12 Everest slots sold, and a quarter already earmarked with entries.
The slots, worth $1.8 million plus GST for three years, are scattered among a range of businesses from Sydney's premier stable Chris Waller Racing, which took the final slot, to global giant Coolmore Stud, The Star and TAB.
TJ Smith favourite Chautauqua and Magic Millions winner Houtzen have joined She Will Reign as pencilled for a $600,000 slot this year, more than six months out from the race at Randwick on October 15.
"It is still a long way to go until we get there," Chautauqua's co-trainer John Hawkes said. "We have a race on Saturday, which is more important at the moment.
"He is going back to what he does best [sprinting], in a race he has won for the past couple of years on Saturday.
"Everyone wants to give him the flick but he will be there on Saturday and all we want is good speed in it."
Chautauqua hasn't won in five starts since scintillating wins in the TJ Smith and Chairman's Sprint Prize in Hong Kong last year.
Team Hawkes tried to extend him in trip as he has been runner-up in the Canterbury Stakes and third in the George Ryder Stakes, but they have settled on entering him in sprints.
"We tried something a bit different with him and it didn't work, and people just want to get off him," Hawkes said. "He has been a pretty good horse around the 1200 metres at Randwick. I hope people haven't forgotten that."
Greg Ingham, one of Chautauqua owners, purchased a slot, which is being managed by Andrew Williams bloodstock for the next three years.
"If you have a horse like Chautauqua, this is a race you want to be in. He is there for the race this year and then we will look to get the best option for Greg in coming years," Williams said. "We know this year we will have one of the leading chances."
Aquis Farm is also a slot holder and it is understood the Queensland-based operation has offered its slot to Houtzen after Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign signed an agreement to use Yulong Investments' slot.
Inglis have purchased a slot, which is open for tender to horses sold by the sales company closing on April 21.
"We want the best sprinter to come through our sales to represent Inglis," general manager Mark Webster said. "We will look at graduates and weigh up what has the best form to take our place in the race."
Tabcorp chief operating officer for wagering and media, Craig Nugent, confirmed the TAB's involvement.
"We're delighted to have secured a spot in such a new and exciting race. We're working through how we'll use our slot, including looking at ways we can involve our customers and best promote NSW Racing," he said.
Max Whitby is another excited to have a slot and said he already has a short list of four sprinters.
"I will have the best sprinter from Australia running in my slot," he said.
ATC chairman Laurie Macri said the Everest had gone from concept to reality in less than two months since its announcement and will only get bigger.
"It is important that racing finds ways to generate mainstream interest in the sport. The Everest has already generated tremendous interest and adds a new dimension to racing," Macri said. "We now have the richest turf race in the world at Randwick in October."
Meanwhile, Randwick racecourse manager Nevesh Ramdhani is hoping forecasted rain on Thursday is on the lighter end of the predicted scale. The track for the first day of The Championship got back to slow-5 rating but a menacing forecast is a concern.
"We have had a couple of really good drying days and the track is in great condition," Ramdhani said. "I think we will have a perfect racing surface even with a but if rain."
Everest slots: Damion Flower, James Harron, Max Whitby, Greg Ingham with Chautauqua, Yulong Investments with She Will Reign, Aquis with Houtzen, Chris Waller Racing, Coolmore Stud, The Star, TAB, Inglis, ATC.