Yes Yes Yes crossing the line in 2019 Everest. Photo: Liam Gilleland

Sydney breaks its shackles as The Everest peaks

Sydney’s racegoers are feeling on top of the world with The Everest about to be the first major sporting event to host spectators since the end of the city’s 13 week lockdown.

The race was in danger of being pushed back, or worse, going ahead without a crowd for the first time in its five-year history. Now it’s being dubbed “the race that stops hibernation”.

When New South Wales reached its 70 per cent double dose vaccination target, it unlocked the rules allowing 5000 spectators at racecourses and outdoor events. The world’s richest turf race was then given the green light to double its restricted capacity.

Randwick Racecourse prepared to host 10,000 spectators. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)

Members initially entered a ballot to attend race day, as tickets were limited. After the increase in capacity, this allowed the general public to purchase tickets.

Now, Royal Randwick is set to host 10,000 spectators, while NSW is on the doorstep of 80 per cent vaccination freedoms.

If you are not pumped already, this is what racegoers can expect.

The Field

The 2021 Everest Field. (Graphic: Liam Gilleland)

Each winner increases in value after the race; past winners are now worth as much as $50 million.

The race consists of 12 slot holders who each pay $600,000 a year in a three-year slot holder contract. The slot owner has up to four days prior to the race to choose which thoroughbred will represent them in the 1200-metre sprint.

Slot owners can also sell their slot or do a deal with the owner of another horse to share the prizemoney. 

The 2021 Everest slot holders. (Graphic: Liam Gilleland)

Not only is it always an impressive field, but the prizemoney is off the scale.

Sydney’s Everest, worth $15 million in total, is the fourth richest horse race in the world, and the richest in Australia ahead of:

2. The Melbourne Cup – $8 million (Melbourne)

3. The Golden Eagle – $7.5 million (Sydney)

4. The Caufield Cup – $5 million (Melbourne)

5. The Cox Plate – $5 million (Melbourne)

The Everest prizemoney. (Graphic: Liam Gilleland)

Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landys said he wants the race to be worth $20 million in the future.

A guaranteed $450,000 is very appealing just for turning up, not to mention the winning trophy. It’s worth $625,000 and features 7777 diamonds; weighing in at 14 kilograms.

In the last two runnings of the race, the first three across the line have come from the back half of the field to claim the major and minor placings.

The track is proving hard to predict after raining all week, but it is set to stop on Saturday and when there is no rain on race day at Randwick, it can easily turn into a fair track.

The 2021 Everest is the most open field ever; a mix of third-timers, heavyweight horses, an Everest winner and a first-time runner in Sydney – you can make a case for any horse.

Runner by Runner Preview

#1. Nature Strip: Lining up for his third Everest race after being placed fourth and seventh over the last two years. He is very genuine in a high stakes race but when up against the top 12 sprinters in the country, he’ll needs to lift on Saturday. Starring partner Eduardo has got the better of him recently. Will want to hope he jumps well and does not burn any gas from Barrier 10, to lead. Handles dry and wet ground. Just like last year, you would be kidding yourself not to have him in the top four. Third time lucky?

#2. Classique Legend: Thrashed this race last year before an unsuccessful career move to Hong Kong. Back in the hands of trainer, Les Bridge and will be first up on the weekend for his first race in the country in over a year. His past two trails have been incredible, way too good and are enough to sell the punter. Handles a soft track rather than dry. If you are after an auspicious stat; in the four-race history of The Everest, jockey Kerrin McEvoy has won three of them, can he make it four out of five? 

#3 Eduardo:. What a difference a year makes. This time last year he was just finding his rhythm, now he is absolutely flying. Won four out of his last five starts, he is second-up on Saturday which should not deter punters, but I think his soft track form will be what matters most – six starts, five wins and a third. Trainer Joseph Pride knows how to set his horses for their grand final. Will jump from Barrier Seven, and hopefully get to the lead easier this time than last year. Do not panic if he is about second or third in, halfway down the straight, he is an unbelievable chaser and showed that last start knocking off Nature Strip. Have him in your numbers. 

#4. Gytrash: The South Australian ticks every box and if races were always won on form, you would throw the house on him. Twenty-five career starts and has only missed a place twice – not to mention his impressive soft track, distance, second-up and Randwick form. Very good run last start where he finished third behind Eduardo and Nature Strip in The Shorts four weeks back. Was about to storm them both before being blocked for a run. Many argued if he got the gap, he wins. Was in this race last year and finished third from well back. Draws the fence in Barrier One and is a real danger – definite top four chance.

#5. Trekking: Always shows his best in big races. Just could not find a run last start at the tough Moonee Valley straight in the Moir, finding clear running late and finishing third behind Wild Ruler and The Inferno. Had nothing on Nature Strip in The Concorde before that. Lining up for his third Everest where he finished fourth last year in a photo with Gytrash. He is Godolphin’s slot horse and was chosen late on Monday, suggesting he was not front of mind. But in Trekking we trust. Can pull off an impressive run on Saturday but he would have to be at career-best with an already impressive CV. One for the multiples and can surprise. 

#6. Masked Crusader: Very impressive win last start two weeks back when he flopped out the gates before being blocked for a run in the straight and finding a gap at the 150-metre mark; flying home in typical grey flash style. Ticks every box on form. Tommy Berry having a stellar year in the saddle and can get Masked Crusader the win this weekend. Barrier a little wide than expected, but if he jumps with them he runs a place for sure. He is a real chance.

#7. Wild Ruler: Sparked the rivals last start to win the Moir at The Valley. Ticks the track and distance boxes but a dry track will suit best. Two-time Everest winning trainers Peter and Paul Snowden prepped their 2017 and 2018 Everest winner Redzel to run third-up and that is exactly what Wild Ruler will be on Saturday. Having a good prep so far. This is a big step up, barrier 11 does not help and is one of the outsiders. 

#8. The Inferno: Charged from the back in the Moir last start to run second and was enough for James Harron to lock him in for his slot. Outstanding win before that. Will be his first time in Sydney, but a promising sprinter with perfect soft and fourth-up form. Regan Bayliss is in the saddle and will hopefully go back from Barrier 12 and charge late in true fashion. $26 looks overs. He is a chance. A good chance. 

#9. Embracer: Snapped up the final slot this year. Will be his seventh run this prep and has been running well after a freshen. Only missing a place once from 11 starts on a good track, which is preferred for him on Saturday. He is the outsider in this year’s Everest and had a taste of Everest runners last start in; Masked Crusader and finishing third ahead of Lost And Running. Due for a win this prep, but is The Everest the race he can win? 

#10. Lost And Running: Not having the best preparation after two starts. Would like to see at least a placing this prep even though he was just pipped for third last start by Embracer, but one race at a time. Will handle the dry or soft ground, would be a little more confident if it is going to be a good track. Hughey’s in form, barrier helps. How does he bounce back from Masked Crusader topping him last start? Hard to see that happening. 

#11. Libertini: One of two horses who will be first-up from a spell in this race, along with Classique Legend, who she beat in the Premiere last year. Libertini has all the right reasons to win this race. Has terrific form on a dry track and that will want to be the case on Saturday; eight starts, seven placings – missing the place once being last year’s Everest where she was caught three and four wide the whole race from the outside gate. Barrier Eight helps this time. Was disappointing last start in the TJ in April, being first up should suit on Saturday. If it is a good track, take her seriously. 

#12. Home Affairs: Showed great acceleration to get to the front last start. If he can run that same race again on Saturday he will be up there. The only jockey other than McEvoy to win this race, Glen Boss, is on board. Home Affairs is the only three-year-old in the race, showing shades of another colt – 2019 Everest winner, Yes Yes Yes; same age, same sex, same colour, same weight, same jockey, same trainer, same saddlecloth number – it has happened before, I cannot see why a three-year-old would not pull it off again. Would like to see him in the top order from the good gate, expecting him to sit fourth or fifth in the running, and hopefully, some clear ground coming into the straight. I am highlighting him as the real danger in this race. 

It is an intriguing field this year, and I would hate to leave the preview with this cliche, but anyone can win!

Liam’s Tips

I have Home Affairs on top, I think the Boss/Waller combo can do it again this year. Home Affairs ran brilliantly last start, jumped from 9 and got straight to the lead easily. He will be in Gate 6 on Saturday which is even better.

If it is a soft track I want him to be in the top four in the running. If it is dry it would depend on the way the track is playing, probably ideally in third or fourth for the colt, but the race’s history shows he will need clear running coming into the straight and needs to be let go at the 300. The weight is too good to resist, 53.5kg. He has only missed the placings once in his five-start career, which was in the Slipper, but the spell while turning three looks to have improved him. Kept up with Nature Strip in a recent track gallop, proving he is up to it on Saturday as Nature Strip is set to lead. Hopefully, we are cheering ‘”go Bossy go” down the Randwick straight as Home Affairs lets loose.

Masked Crusader is marked as second, his run last start was way too good not to have him in my numbers. Proved he can win from last, and whilst being held up. Would have liked a barrier around two to six. He is a master at the distance, handles the wet or dry ground.

My third pick is Eduardo. Backed him last year but has since found his real racing style. Absolutely flying at the moment. To win he would have to get to the first two spots in the running easily from barrier seven. If he is stride-for-stride in front at the 100-metres, do not throw away your ticket, he loves a battle.

Gytrash narrowly jumps into my fourth spot. Like I mentioned in the preview; if races were won on the form you would throw the house on him. Unlucky last start. Can roll the field if he is close enough, look for him late.

The Inferno gets a mention this year. Looks powerful and over the odds at $26. The only query is Sydney first time.

Racing fans know there is nothing like Everest day – it is set to be an unmissable race as always, and Sydney’s time to shine and celebrate.

The 10-race card begins at 12:30 and The Everest (race 7) jumps at 16:15 (AEDST).

Liam Gilleland @GillelandLiam

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