The great­est show on turf

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Saturday Extra -

The world’s big­gest sport­ing events all have some­thing greater at stake than a mere chance at vic­tory. As we will see again this sum­mer, the bat­tle for the Ashes is about far more than a se­ries of cricket Tests. Na­tional pride is on the line — which is why Aus­tralians, and not all of them cricket fans, were sweat­ing over the out­come ear­lier this year of a play­ers’ strike.

A car race is just a car race, but suc­cess in the an­nual Bathurst 1000 can im­me­di­ately turn lit­tle-known driv­ers into house­hold names. It can do the same even for team own­ers. Just ask Betty Kli­menko, who was big news all week af­ter her car fin­ished first last Sun­day.

Few out­side the yacht­ing world paid much at­ten­tion to the Amer­ica’s Cup — un­til 1983, when Aus­tralia’s his­toric win­ning of The Auld Mug be­came a na­tional ob­ses­sion.

All of these events earn their sig­nif­i­cance through the power of tra­di­tion and the weight that tra­di­tion be­stows. Yet all of them be­gan with a first con­test — the con­test that set in train decades of com­pe­ti­tion and spec­ta­tor fas­ci­na­tion.

To­day at Royal Rand­wick a new tra­di­tion be­gins with the in­au­gu­ral run­ning of The Ever­est. In straight­for­ward terms, The Ever­est is a race un­der weight­for-age con­di­tions held over the sprint­ing dis­tance of 1200m. But there is al­ready some­thing far greater than the sum of its parts about this mas­sive event.

In terms of hav­ing more at stake than a mere chance at vic­tory, con­sider this one stand­out fact: The Ever­est is the world’s rich­est race on turf. That alone should guar­an­tee its place in Aus­tralia’s — and the world’s — horse rac­ing pan­theon, yet even with­out the $10 mil­lion in prize­money on of­fer, the qual­ity of the field also se­cures The Ever­est its pres­tige and aura.

Chau­tauqua, held by ac­claim to be the world’s finest sprinter, will com­pete against 11 other horses you’d be priv­i­leged to watch dur­ing a solo train­ing run, much less in the com­pany of sim­i­larly elite thor­ough­breds.

The field in­cludes Golden Slip­per win­ner and in­au­gu­ral The Ever­est favourite She Will Reign, plus Fell Swoop, whose pur­chase price of $45,000 rep­re­sents less than 1 per cent of The Ever­est’s $5.8 mil­lion first prize.

It’s go­ing to be big at Royal Rand­wick to­day. The big­gest ever, in fact. Be there and wit­ness the dawn of a grand new sport­ing tra­di­tion.

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