By Ray Hickson
Five locked in, seven to go – the field for The Everest is quickly taking shape and after the euphoria of the inaugural running slot holders are playing a fast game.
As prominent racehorse owner and breeder John Messara says: “nobody wants to miss out’’ on having their horse in the starting gates at Royal Randwick on October 13 racing for the lion’s share of $13 million.
Here’s where we stand.
Outstanding colt Trapeze Artist, winner of three Group 1 races including the autumn’s premier weight-for-age sprint the TJ Smith Stakes, was the first secured by Aquis Farm.
TAB moved soon after to ensure the top class mare In Her Time has her chance after winning the consolation, the Sydney Stakes, on Everest Day last year.
Defending champion Redzel wasn’t far behind as Yulong Investments confirmed this season’s best sprinter as their runner.
Chris Waller Racing will form an imposing partnership with Victorian trainer Darren Weir and owners Australian Bloodstock to run last year’s third placegetter Brave Smash while another three-time Group 1 winning three-year-old in Shoals will represent The Star in the 2018 edition.
That leaves James Harron, who raced last year’s winner Redzel in partnership with the owners, Coolmore, the Australian Turf Club, Max Whitby, GPI Racing, Inglis and Damion Flower to confirm their runners.
Flower was the last to lock in his horse for the inaugural Everest and he’s very much enjoying the cat and mouse game that the slot holders are playing.
He said he could easily confirm his runner in the next week or so, following the events at Royal Ascot, but at the same time he’s just as happy to sit tight and see what unfolds.
“I wanted to wait a bit last year, with people starting to secure their horses I’ve got no dramas about waiting again,’’ Flower said.
“I’ve got a bit of interest from overseas and I want to see what happens at Ascot.’’
American trainer Wesley Ward has made no secret of his interest in setting one of his sprinters for The Everest and it seems inevitable that he will head down under at some stage, if not later this year.
Ward has long thought Lady Aurelia, winner of last year’s Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, is an ideal Everest horse and has Bound For Nowhere engaged in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes where he’ll meet Australian sprinter Redkirk Warrior.
“The owners are very keen to run (in The Everest),’’ Ward said of Lady Aurelia.
“A lot will depend on how she runs and comes out of the race. I look forward to hopefully getting the chance to go down to Australia. If she comes back to her best form they want to go.’’
Another international that has been spoken of as an Everest contender is the flying Godolphin galloper Harry Angel, locally Godolphin has star colt Kementari (who has beaten current favourite Trapeze Artist twice this year) considered a leading chance if a slot holder makes a move.
Then there are exciting three-year-olds like Menari, She Will Reign and Pierata, triple Group 1 winner Santa Ana Lane and the hugely popular Happy Clapper all waiting in the wings.
It’s no coincidence that a number of rising four-year-olds and potential stallion prospects are being kept in training to be aimed at The Everest.
John Messara said it’s a direct result of the impact The Everest had on the racing industry in its inaugural year.
“The best filly in the land (Shoals) and the best colt in the land (Trapeze Artist) are both in there because they want a shot at it,’’ he said.
“They’ve both had their careers extended because of the race and that’s a fantastic accolade.’’
Four months remain until The Everest for 2018 but it’s game on already, that’s for sure.