Richest race on turf set to be staged over six furlongs in Australia
Its organisers believe it represents "a game changer", while European officials were relaxed about Wednesday’s announcement in Sydney that Randwick would be staging the inaugural edition of The Everest, a $A10 million (£6m/€7m) race which, at a stroke, eclipses the Japan Cup and Arc as the word’s richest contest on turf.
The Everest is over six furlongs, and its concept whereby owners buy a slot in the race (a three-year commitment for A$600,000 a year), and which can be traded, borrows heavily from the $12m Pegasus World Cup, one of just two contests worth more than the newest kid on the block and itself staged for the first time last weekend.
The race is scheduled for October 14, the Saturday before British Champions Day at Ascot.
Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding said: "It's a game changer for racing in Sydney. It will be known as The Everest and will be the richest 1,200m race in the world and the richest turf race in the world."
Ascot head of international affairs Nick Smith described its advent as part of a wave of “next generation sweepstakes”.
He said: "In terms of Champions Day you face competition from the Breeders’ Cup and the current Spring Carnival programme in Melbourne anyway," said Smith. "Whether or not one horse could be attracted for what will be a very good package is possible, but I don’t think it would cause us any particular concerns."
Smith believes racing authorities around the world should not close their minds to further such innovations.
"This particular model is different to the Pegasus in that you have to buy a slot for three years," added Smith. "For non-domestic owners to make that commitment would be ambitious, though not impossible. But you just have to admire the flexible thinking and the foresight of the people putting it in place.
"It would appear they are allowed to do that within their Pattern and they are maximizing their opportunities."
European Pattern Committee chairman Brian Kavanagh said: "I think we always try to be as flexible as possible within the groundrules of the Pattern. Anything new and newsworthy is always worthy of consideration.
"But I'd be concerned if it was something that rode roughshod over the Australian or Asian Pattern, and as for Ascot, for us the Champions Sprint is a strong race.
The European Pattern groundrules stipulate that no race can have 'indigenous' entry conditions, something of a stumbling block to the concept of buying entry into a race.
"I think you’ll find racing authorities are open to new initiatives but they have to fit within a logical structure Whether something like this could work in Europe remains to be seen."
Smith believes that ultimately the fate of races like the Pegasus and Everest rests with wealthy owners, many of whom are also breeders and therefore attached to the structure of Group races.
"It would require a change of mentality from our horsemen to head for a high value conditions race which would have to be outside the Pattern," said Smith.
"Nobody knows what the future of these races holds, but two major respected organisations have launched them. And there's no doubt the BHA and other authorities have to discuss them.
"Ultimately it's the horsemen that are funding these races, and they are really next generation sweepstakes. That doesn’t make them a bad idea, just different."