Bren O’Brien



COMMENT | Everest slotholders fishing in a shallow pool

The filling of Everest slots may continue to make headlines, but with the established stars already locked away, are the remaining slotholders fishing in depleted waters?

Part of the ingenuity of the design of The Everest as a slot race was the attention it would garner as each slot was announced in the weeks and months leading up to the race.

And so it proved again on Wednesday, as news leaked that a spot in the 12-horse field had been secured by recent G1 Memsie Stakes winner Snapdancer. It didn’t matter that a slotholder had yet to be confirmed, there was enough of a story for one of Australia’s leading racing journalists to push the $15 million race to prominence some 38 days before the race. 


Snapdancer holds off I'm Thunderstruck in the G1 Memsie Stakes. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)

As the concept has evolved over its five editions, slotholders have seen the value of keeping  their cards close to their chest until late in the piece, hence why we still have five slots left to be filled seven weeks out. But it is not what you’d call a buyers’ market.

The top five from the 2021 edition of The Everest are all off the table. Nature Strip (Chris Waller), Masked Crusader (Werrett/Whitby), Eduardo (Yulong) and Lost And Running (TAB) are spoken for and Classique Legend is assured a run under his Hong Kong-based owner Bon Ho’s slot should he prove he is back to his best.

Assuming the Snapdancer deal goes through, the mare will join the other ‘fresh blood’ for this year, Mazu, the impressive son of Maurice in the race. The Star and Arrowfield signed the Doomben 10,000 winner up for the next two years in May, with owner Triple Crown syndications looking to revisit the success they had with Redzel in the first two editions of the race.

Maurice four-year-old Mazu has already landed an Everest slot. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)

One of the remaining six slotholders, Inglis, Coolmore, Godolphin, James Harron, Kennedy Racing or Aquis, has reportedly secured Snapdancer, leaving five still in search of a partner for the dance.

Godolphin is the exception in that list as it has a host of its own horses which it can wait and see on. Four-year-old Paulele looks the leading light, having placed in three Group 1 races in the autumn. Apart from eight-year-old Kementari, he is the highest-rated sprinter in James Cummings’ stable.

The one from left-field for Godolphin could be three-year-old filly In Secret, while Zapateo and Andermatt look possibilities, but were both well beaten in the G3 Concorde on Saturday.

Coolmore hasn’t had much luck as an Everest slotholder, with its best effort fifth. Last year it put its faith in one of its own, the three-year-old Home Affairs, who would fade to ninth but then come out and win Group 1 races at his next two starts. Their confidence wasn’t misplaced, just maybe a little premature.

With Tom Magnier ruling out international raider Golden Pal, there is no clear Coolmore-owned candidate. It purchased Best of Bordeaux, a three-year-old, as a stallion prospect and he looks most likely should he find form, while recent impressive G3 McNeil Stakes winner Jacquinot is a graduate of the Jerry’s Plains farm and could be in consideration.

Jacquinot impressed first-up in the McNeil Stakes at Caulfield. (Photo by Reg Ryan/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

But history tells us that three-year-olds, especially coming through the Golden Rose, haven’t found favour with slotholders.   

Since Yes Yes Yes came off a second in the Golden Rose to win The Everest in 2019, no horse has come through the Golden Rose to contest the marquee race the same year. Home Affairs is the lone three-year-old to front up in the past two editions.

In fact, three-year-olds in The Everest have proven a rarity, with only six in the age group having contested the five editions of the race, three of them in the first year.

Of the current three-year-olds, Golden Slipper heroine Fireburn is currently favourite for the Golden Rose and her trainer Gary Portelli was happy to pilot She Will Reign in the same direction in 2017, albeit through the Moir Stakes. He also has Sejardan, who could be a possibility, while a horse like the Tony Gollan-trained Nettuno could be another under consideration.

Invariably it has been the older sprinters that have padded out the field and filled late slots over the past few years.

Among the candidates that come to mind are Rothfire, an impressive winner at Moonee Valley last week, although Robert Heathcote has indicated his preference for targeting Group 1 races like the Moir and Manikato in Melbourne.

Rothfire may be set for alternative spring assignments. (Morgan Hancock/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

Danny O’Brien pair Showmanship and Graceful Girl and Bjorn Baker duo Shades Of Rose and Overpass are others in the mix.

What is lacking, beyond Mazu, is an x-factor – the horse which can emerge and challenge the status quo of the eight-year-old Nature Strip and his great rival, Eduardo, who is nine.

By design, The Everest was supposed to invigorate interest in the best sprinters in the world, but the weight-for-age and slot conditions make it easier for repeat shots at the crown, making one edition seem a lot like the last.

Nature Strip and Classique Legend are set to line up for the fourth time in the race, while Eduardo is back for his third attempt. They are star horses, who generate interest on their own terms, but it would benefit the race to have a few more fresh faces.

2020 Everest winner Classique Legend. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

What would also benefit the race, in terms of depth, is more international competition. 

Coolmore has brought horses from Europe before, but those attempts have fallen flat, while Godolphin may be an international operation, but understandably see the great value of prioritising its local product.

The real difference maker of course would be the presence of an elite sprinter from Japan or Hong Kong. The slot concept makes that difficult, as it would require an even greater leap of faith from a slotholder, but it would add considerably to the colour and international status of The Everest.



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