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The story so far - The 2018 TAB Everest


The second running of The TAB Everest is almost here. Ever since the early deals were done on prospective runners in this year’s edition, there have been twists and turns that will no doubt continue until the barriers open at 4.15pm at Royal Randwick this Saturday.

With more time to prepare and be across the sprinting form this time around, the keen slot holders made their moves early. And early being right on the back of the 2018 Championships in April.

Recently Crowned Australian 3yo of the Year for season 2017/2018, Trapeze Artist was the early favourite and on everyone’s radar. And like the first TAB Everest, Aquis Farm quickly struck a deal with the Viera family to see the outstanding son of Snitzel run for them in the $13million sprint.

Around the same time, and hardly surprisingly, the defending Everest champion Redzel had found himself a slot. Over the past few years, Yulong Investments have steadily become serious and welcome players in the sport (think Catch Me’s awesome Gimcrack Stakes debut). Triple Crown bosses Michael and Chris Ward clearly liked what was presented to their syndicate, so Peter and Paul Snowden began preparing their star for back to back Everest’s.

On Everest day 2017 a new race named the Sydney Stakes (1200m) was run, a $500,000 ‘consolation’ which brought together a great field. Winning that race was emerging mare In Her Time, she had won the Gr 2 Premiere Stakes at her previous start. The sectional guru’s will tell you she would have been in the finish of the main event 40 minutes later, and in a winning time of 1:08.26 they might well have been right. Redzel stopped the clock at 1:08.36 in winning the Everest. She went on to win the The Galaxy at Gr 1 level in the autumn, and that was all representatives of Tabcorp needed to see to lock her in for the 2018 Everest.

Australian Bloodstock entire Brave Smash had run a mighty race for 3rd in the inaugural Everest, and his form since then had been hard to fault with a Gr 1 Futurity victory and Gr 1 Newmarket Handicap 2nd placing to his credit. Rather than looking in house, Chris Waller Racing were happy to go with a proven performer, and quickly moved on the former Japanese sprinter.

May is the time to be in Adelaide with a good horse, and high-class sprinting filly Shoals had one target and one target only for the carnival, the Gr 1 Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m) for Fillies & Mares. Drawing a wide barrier and under the expert guidance of Tim Clark, the Jonathan Munz & Arrowfield Pastoral P/L-owned Shoals came from well off the speed to mow her rivals down. It was an awesome win and slot holders The Star realized they had found their horse for the richest turf sprint on the planet.

Damion Flower (Jadeskye Racing) is a racing man through and through, and the concept of The Everest was always going to appeal. After all, he raced top sprinter and now champion sire Snitzel, that horse providing last year’s winner and possibly this year’s (Redzel again & Trapeze Artist).

The Brisbane Winter Carnival is as competitive as anywhere and Tulloch Lodge anad Newhaven Park's gun sprinting mare English turned in arguably a career best performance by scoring in ahot renewal of the Gr 1 Doomben 10,000 (1200m).

If ever there was a horse that could be accused of flying under the radar, its Santa Ana Lane. Now a winner of $2.5million, it’s no mean feat to go from winning a Wagga Wagga Town Plate to winning a Gr 1 Sir Rupert Clarke/Goodwood Handicap/Stradbroke Handicap in a 13-month period. And that’s just what he did, with slot holders and Australia’s longest operating thoroughbred auction house William Inglis & Son zeroing in on the now 6yo son of Lope de Vega. An $80,000 Inglis Melbourne Premier graduate, he fit the brief, and gave Anthony & Sam Freedman two Everest runners. Raced by some of the Paris Lane connections of years ago, they are no strangers to winning big races.

Coolmore Stud, whether it be on the racetrack, in the sale ring, or on the farm, have always been huge supporters and investors of the industry in Australasia. And if we were wondering where their 2018 Everest runner might come from, that question was answered emphatically as an exceptional 3yo named U S Navy Flag sailed out of Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stables and up the famous Newmarket straight to an easy win in the Gr 1 July Cup (1200m). The 3-time Gr 1 winner pleased the team after the race and soon went into quarantine. International superstar Ryan Moore was announced as his rider, and the stars were aligning for the Irish juggernaut.

The new racing season rolled around, and while a number of top sprinter’s had secured their Everest berth, a host were waiting in the wings to step out and show their credentials.

The talk about Menari out of Rosehill Gardens was deafening. By all reports, the Gerald Ryan trained colt had developed into a serious specimen and was doing some ridiculous things on the track in the mornings. Every slot holder looking for a horse had contacted owner Mr George Altomonte to do that deal, and eventually it was Max Whitby who announced Menari was his horse.

That elation soon turned to despair as the news filtered out that Menari had gone amiss and was to be retired to stud immediately. For Max Whitby, a great racing man, the search was on for a suitable replacement.

In Victoria a horse named Nature Strip had been doing some freakish things, and a grey champion named Chautauqua had a bee in his bonnet when it came to jumping out of the barriers.

James Harron and his owners had played the waiting game this time around. The 2017 TAB Everest winning slot holder had been biding his time, but when Vega Magic resumed with a demolition job in the Gr 3 Bletchingly Stakes at Caulfield, Harron was straight on the phone and the first to agree to the Daly family’s conditions. The horse who ran a slashing 2nd in the 2017 Everest was set on the path to go one place better in 2018.

Back to Chautauqua, an absolute crowd favourite and winner of $8.8million seemed to simply not want any part of being a racehorse anymore. This put slot holder GPI (Greg Ingham) and part owner of the terrific sprinter in a tricky predicament. Hope Team Hawkes could iron out his barrier antics or secure another runner. It couldn’t have been an easy decision, but in many ways the grey was making the call for him, and it was announced that the talented Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott trained mare Invincible Star would occupy the GPI slot.

That selection didn’t deter Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes and the owners of Chautauqua from persevering with the 3-time TJ Smith winner.
One by one the confirmed Everest runners began their campaigns, and Redzel couldn’t have made a bigger statement by comfortably handling the Concorde Stakes field. Everest favourite Trapeze Artist kicked off his prep with a sound 3rd to Home of the Brave in the Gr 2 Theo Marks Stakes on a Heavy 8.

Brave Smash was up and going, after a terrific Victorian return his first Sydney run was a good 3rd to Ball of Muscle in the Gr 2 The Shorts, Invincible Star running a strong 2nd, English a worrying 6th.

The Australian Turf Club had been on the look out for their Everest contender for some time, and after the exciting Nature Strip held off Houtzen and Shoals in the Gr 2 McEwen Stakes (1000m), the horse with the ‘X factor’ and brilliant speed had secured his place in the field.
Meanwhile, U S Navy Flag had quietly arrived at the Canterbury Park Quarantine Facility to begin his The TAB Everest preparations.
The Australian Turf Club’s relationship with the connections of Nature Strip was short lived. His next start was in the Gr 1 Moir Stakes (1000m) and he again showed his blistering speed. But turning for home the white flag was raised, and a super preparation had come to an end as had the Everest dream…for now. The Moir winner Viddora, couldn’t have been more impressive and Brave Smash was sensational in finishing 2nd. The Australian Turf Club needed a horse.

The following day the Gr 2 Premiere Stakes was quite simply an Everest dress rehearsal. At the line Santa Ana Lane had a margin on a fast finishing Shoals, In Her Time super in 3rd, Trapeze Artist and Redzel better for the run in 4th and 5th place, and Invincible Star a disappointing 7th.

The 2018 TAB Everest picture was to drastically change the following Monday. The Kensington track played hosted to a public holiday meeting, at which featured a barrier trial including English. A well held 4th of 4 had rider Tommy Berry and connections concerned, and a vet report later in the day confirmed English to be lame. Not even 24 hours later it was the same diagnosis for Invincible star, and then within another 48 hours it was announced that both mares had been sensationally withdrawn from the 2018 Everest.

The remaining Everest domino’s fell into place fairly quickly from this point. Max Whitby, rumoured to be holding out for Chautauqua, did the deal with Graff’s owner Alan Bell and the hugely promising 3yo became a confirmed starter. GPI also found themselves talking with owners of the Kris Lees stable, and the classy and tough Le Romain became their representative. And Viddora’s explosive Moir Stakes win was too good to ignore, with young gun South Australian Lloyd Kennewell and his owners agreeing to terms with Damion Flower to see her gain a start.

And it wouldn’t be a world class race without global powerhouse Godolphin having a say, the exciting Home of the Brave securing the final slot for the Australian Turf Club. Then on Tuesday Home of the Brave was ruled out of the race and replaced by Osborne Bulls in another amazing twist.  

And amid all this two amazing sprinter’s in Chautauqua & English were retired.

So the scene is set. The horses, slot holders, owners, trainers, jockeys and fans are ready. Or so it seems. If we’ve learned one thing in the lead up to this great contest it’s to expect the unexpected.

You might be a racing desperate or have absolutely no interest in the Everest. But after the week that’s been and whatever lies ahead, one thing is for sure. Everyone knows The Everest is happening at Randwick on Saturday.

Who are you backing?

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The story so far - The 2018 TAB Everest

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