Magic minute all it takes to scale Ever­est

The luvvies did noth­ing in 2013 when the Syd­ney Opera House be­came a Sam­sung ad

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - BREN­DAN CORMICK

In just over a minute — which will doubt­less feel like an adrenalinecharged eter­nity — trainer David Hayes will have the an­swer for which he has waited a year, and his horse Vega Magic will meet his des­tiny.

Hayes, who has won the Golden Slip­per, the Cox Plate and the Caulfield, Mel­bourne and Ja­pan cups, will know whether he can add the The Ever­est, the rich­est race on turf, to his impressive list.

And Vega Magic and his crit­ics will have their an­swers to two vi­tal ques­tions. Was last year just one of those things that can hap­pen in rac­ing? And can Vega Magic per­form on a wet track?

Last year, the 1200m race was won by Redzel in 1min 8.36sec. But it can be ar­gued that jockey Craig Wil­liams, who was rid­ing Vega Magic, blew it, go­ing back at the start from a wide bar­rier draw when he should have pressed for­ward to race out­side the leader and even­tual win­ner Redzel.

Hayes, who has trained Vega Magic in part­ner­ship with his son Ben and nephew Tom Dabernig, has had the $13 mil­lion Ever­est, with its $6m first prize, as a longterm goal. “I couldn’t be hap­pier with the horse; he hasn’t put a foot wrong this cam­paign,” Hayes said.

A year is a long time in rac­ing, es­pe­cially when you sit out al­most all that time be­cause of a sta­ble mishap. Vega Magic re­ceived a lac­er­a­tion, re­quir­ing dozens of sta­ples and sidelin­ing him over the late spring and the sum­mer.

Scep­ti­cal pun­ters want to desert Vega Magic on a heavy track but not Hayes. Sent off the favourite in The Good­wood when re­sum­ing in Ade­laide in May, Vega Magic was deemed to have failed on a soft track, fin­ish­ing eighth to Ever­est ri­val Santa Ana Lane.

“He has won his only other two starts on soft tracks and I think it was more to do with the break be­tween runs that he was beaten in The Good­wood,” an op­ti­mistic Hayes said, while look­ing to the sky, which has dropped about 20mm of rain in the past 24 hours.

The horse has also cap­tured the at­ten­tion of James Har­ron, whose blood­stock syn­di­ca­tion and man­age­ment com­pany part­nered con­nec­tions of Redzel last year, the big­gest pay­day for his clien­tele so far.

Har­ron and his as­so­ci­ates shared in $5.8m and the eu­pho­ria gen­er­ated by a fledg­ling race des-tined to be­come a fix­ture of thee spring.

Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Yuesh­engg Zhang’s Yu­long In­vest­mentss moved early to se­cure Redzel for this year’s Ever­est, and Har­ron reached agree­ment with West Aus­tralian brothers Wally and Ge­orge Daly, who are the reg­is­tered own­ers of Vega Magic.

Har­ron be­lieves you can­not tackle The Ever­est, for which in­vestors ac­quire a slot for $600,000 in a field of 12 horses, on a whim or as an af­ter­thought.

Rather, it has to be ap­proached as a grand fi­nal.

I guess the word can­vas is a bit more artsy and maybe that’s why it didn’t rile Syd­ney trendies

If you want to see what hypocrisy looks like, look no fur­ther than the fury over the Syd­ney Opera House be­ing used to ad­ver­tise a horse race. Lis­ten­ing to the hun­dreds of peo­ple who de­scended on the Opera House to reg­is­ter their rage about the ad, you’d think this pre­vi­ously had been an en­tirely neu­tral build­ing, never pol­luted by any­thing so vul­gar as pro­pa­ganda or com­mer­cial­ism.

It is out­ra­geous to re­duce this place of art and mu­sic and se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion to a bill­board for the gee-gees and gam­bling, peo­ple cried. This iconic place must “never again” be used as a “bill­board”, said Bill Shorten. On the more rad­i­cal sec­tions of the Left, there was much tut-tut­ting over this crass dis­play of “cor­po­rate” mes­sages on “our house”.

The im­pres­sion we’re left with is that hith­erto the Opera House had been a morally pris­tine place, never de­faced by mes­sag­ing, and now we ur­gently must get the build­ing back to that pure, church­like state. If this were true, there might be some merit to the heated re­sponse to the Ever­est race promo. But it isn’t true. At all.

The Opera House has been used as a bill­board many times. Yet the kind of peo­ple los­ing the plot over the Ever­est pro­mo­tion said did­dly-squat about those ear­lier treat­ments of it as a po­lit­i­cal or cor­po­rate soap­box.

Why didn’t these protesters kick up a storm when Sam­sung took over the sails of the Opera House to launch its Galaxy S4 smart­phone in 2013? Its web­site boasted about “us­ing (the Opera House) as a can­vas”. It pro­jected all sorts of colour­ful images on to the build­ing.

Was that not a cor­po­rate takeover? Is it more ac­cept­able when big busi­nesses say they’re us­ing the Opera House as a “can­vas” rather than as a “bill­board”?

I guess the word can­vas is a bit more artsy and maybe that’s why it didn’t rile Syd­ney trendies.

Then there are the po­lit­i­cal mes­sages. The Opera House is fre­quently plas­tered with these.

It was lit up in the gay-flag colours last year when par­lia­ment ap­proved same-sex mar­riage.

Last month it turned green to cel­e­brate its achieve­ment of car­bon neu­tral­ity. Us­ing elec­tric­ity to boast about how eco-cor­rect you are — what a strangely con­tradic- tory act of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist virtue-sig­nalling.

The Opera House also has plunged it­self into dark­ness to com­mem­o­rate Earth Hour, that an­nual mis­er­abilist event in which in­sti­tu­tions switch off their lights for one hour to show how much they care about the ter­ri­ble im­pact hu­mans are hav­ing on the planet.

These are all pro­pa­ganda dis­plays. Some peo­ple will say there is noth­ing po­lit­i­cal about sup­port­ing gay mar­riage or be­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally aware — these are just good, de­cent po­si­tions. But in truth, these are con­tested is­sues, be­hind which there lurk se­ri­ous tus­sles over moral val­ues and po­lit­i­cal out­looks. The Syd­ney Opera House is ab­so­lutely turn­ing its sails into po­lit­i­cal bill­boards when it projects those kinds of mes­sages.

It is galling to watch house chief ex­ec­u­tive Louise Her­ron pose as a de­fender of the build­ing from lo­gos and slo­gans when un­der her lead­er­ship it has been used fre­quently to push po­lit­i­cal slo­ga­neer­ing.

One of the con­cerns raised by the protesters against the Ever­est pro­jec­tion is that it de­grades the idea of “the pub­lic”. Such pro­mos in­vade pub­lic spa­ces that be­long to or­di­nary peo­ple and that should not be co-opted by the pow­er­ful and filthy rich.

A writer for Guardian Aus­tralia says the Ever­est pro­jec­tion is part of a broader “right-wing as­sault on the idea of ‘the pub­lic’ ”.

But it isn’t only the Right that uses “peo­ple’s spa­ces” to ad­ver­tise its wares and be­liefs.

It is of course true that some cor­po­rate types view even iconic pub­lic build­ings as lit­tle more than are­nas in which they shout at the rest of us and try to sell us stuff.

But on the other side, among the ap­par­ently more com­mu­ni­ty­minded left­ish types, there is also a ten­dency to view the pub­lic square as just a space for mes­sag­ing.

Only the thing they want to foist on passers-by is not ads for phones or horse races but non­stop “cor­rect” mes­sag­ing; po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tions from on high; di­rec­tives about the right way to think and the vir­tu­ous way to live.

Sure, horse race bosses want to colonise the pub­lic square with ad­verts for their events. But is that re­ally any worse than the new PC set that wants to colonise the pub­lic square with ad­verts for their own po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural virtue and cease­less nag­ging about the right way to live?

Both sides tend to view or­di­nary peo­ple as lit­tle more than re­cep­ta­cles for mes­sages from the cul­tural or cor­po­rate gods. And this is where the ex­tra­or­di­nary dou­ble stan­dards over the use of the Opera House for non-artis­tic pur­poses starts to make sense.

The peo­ple freak­ing out over the Ever­est pro­jec­tion aren’t re­ally op­posed to the use of pub­lic build­ings as “bill­boards”. They’re just mad that the Opera House has be­come a bill­board for what they con­sider to be an im­moral pur­suit: rac­ing and gam­bling.

There’s a strong whiff of snob­bery to all this. To those peo­ple who took to the streets over at the Opera House but didn’t say any­thing about the Sam­sung promo: could it be that you aren’t as an­t­i­cap­i­tal­ist as you think, and re­ally you just con­sider horserac­ing a vul­gar pas­time? Maybe you’re more moral­ist than Marx­ist.

The New Left’s dis­dain for ad­ver­tis­ing, es­pe­cially ad­ver­tis­ing re­lated to gam­bling, reeks of Vic­to­rian-style pa­ter­nal­ism. Their be­lief seems to be that if peo­ple catch a glimpse of a horse race dis­play on the Opera House, they will de­scend into the hell of a gam­bling habit and maybe even gam­bling ad­dic­tion.

As The Guardian colum­nist Owen Jones put it, “ag­gres­sive gam­bling” like that on the Opera House is “bad for our health (and) also the health of so­ci­ety”. Why? Be­cause it ca­joles us into do­ing things that can be “life-ru­in­ing”, such as gam­bling.

In short, peo­ple are ut­terly lack­ing in agency. As if ad­verts in­vade our minds and re­pro­gram us, turn­ing us into the obe­di­ent ro­bots of cor­po­rate bosses. In­deed, Jones sar­cas­ti­cally mocks the “lib­er­tar­ian” be­lief that peo­ple “can make their own de­ci­sions”.

This is what lies at the root of the Left’s fury with the Ever­est ad­ver­tis­ing and with cor­po­rate ad­ver­tis­ing more broadly: they don’t think we can make our own de­ci­sions. They think peo­ple are wit­less saps who suck up ev­ery mes­sage they hear.

And that is why they love it when places like the Opera House are coated in po­lit­i­cally cor­rect mes­sages but hate it when they are dec­o­rated in cor­po­rate pleas: be­cause they see the pub­lic as lit­tle more than a blob to be con­trolled, ide­ally by “us”, the vir­tu­ous elite, rather than by “them”, the greedy cor­po­ra­tions.

JAMES CROUCHER

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