Sign up to the TDN AusNZ daily edition

Receive the latest breeding and racing news, in-depth features, Op-Ed articles by leading industry figures, race results and more!

The Everest and the Art of the Deal - Aquis Farm

6 min read
Less than two months out from the world's richest race on turf and the topic of conversation around the second running of The Everest has been as much about the deals being done as about the horses themselves. Each week, TDN AusNZ's Bren O'Brien will take a look at the interesting stories unfolding around runners and slot holders.

The genius of The Everest concept has been about much more than bringing the world's best sprinters to race for A$13 million. It has been in using the slot holder concept to create a tension which has been leveraged to put the race constantly in the media eye over the past couple of months.

It's a phenomenon that has surprised even those at the heart of the industry.

Trapeze Artist after winning the G1 All Aged S.

While Aquis Farm was the first to confirm their slot would go to triple G1 winner Trapeze Artist (Snitzel) back in April, chief executive Shane McGrath is amazed that so much business has been done so far out from the race.

"Last year (at this time), everybody was wondering what was going to happen and what horses were going to be available," McGrath said.

"This year it's all anyone wants to talk about and it’s unbelievable the amount of attention that this race is commanding. And with due respect, with the prizemoney on offer, it is entitled to."

"I would say it is up there with the Melbourne Cup, in terms of media saturation. To have established that and created that before we have seen the second running, it is truly unbelievable." - Shane McGrath

The upshot of the fact that nine of the 12 slots have already been filled is that the speculation over the remainder has generated a wealth of media coverage during an otherwise quiet time of year.

"I would say it is up there with the Melbourne Cup, in terms of media saturation. To have established that and created that before we have seen the second running, it is truly unbelieve, McGrath said.

The Deal

Of course, more media coverage means higher-profile deals and another opportunity for studs and others across the industry to market themselves.

"We took our studmasters' hat off and put our Everest slot holders' hat on and sat down with Bert." - Shane McGrath

The Everest slot deal this season made perfect sense for Aquis, who coveted Trapeze Artist's services as a stallion. Conversations had already begun with owner Bert Vieira in that regard before Vieira's decision that he wanted to race Trapeze Artist on into his 4yo season.

"You look the phenomenon that is Snitzel and you are going to work as hard as you can to get as many of his best sons you can," McGrath said.

"Once Bert made the decision to race on and that the spring target was going to be The Everest we took our studmasters' hat off and put our Everest slot holders' hat on and sat down with Bert."

"He's an enigmatic and unique character but he loves his racing. It was an enjoyable negotiation, but it got done pretty quickly, and we were fortunate to secure him."

"It was very much geared towards finding the right horse who can win the race. And that's what we felt at the time and there's nothing that has happened between now and then to change their minds."

Shaping the breed

When The Everest concept was born, this was anticipated to be one of the more common scenarios. A stud takes a slot, knowing they can help shape the racing and breeding future of a top-line sprinter, or in an ideal situation, race one of their own horses.

That is of course the case with the other major breeding operation with a slot, Coolmore. The global powerhouse is bringing G1 July Cup winner US Navy Flag for the race.

Last year it was a different story for Aquis Farm. They opted for flying filly Houtzen (I Am Invincible), a deal done to re-affirm Aquis' commitments to its roots.

"In the first year, with Houtzen, it was more about that we started out as a Queensland-based farm and it was about flying the flag for Queensland racing," McGrath said.

Houtzen, a winner of the 2017 Magic Millions 2yo Classic, would finish seventh in the inaugural running of The Everest.

VIDEO: Trapeze Artist wins the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes

Lure to Race On

The impacts across the industry are already being felt. There has been a raft of talented three-year-olds retired to stud in recent years but the lure of a $13 million race early in the four-year-old season has seen Trapeze Artist race on.

McGrath gives full credit to the horse's owner.

"Fair play to Bert Vieira, he could have gone to stud and got any amount of money, but he's a sportsman and he loves that horse. He bred him, he wants to take him through and he's adamant the horse can win The Everest," he said.

"Fair play to Bert Vieira, he could have gone to stud and got any amount of money, but he's a sportsman and he loves that horse." - Shane McGrath

"I think it’s amazing. There's a lot stallion prospects that get whisked away without taking on their four-year-old career and it’s an absolute testament to (Vieira's) sporting nature and hopefully we can see him rewarded."

Where to next for The Everest horses

The Everest Runners (slot holder)

Redzel (Yulong Investments): Trial at Rosehill, August 20, then to G3 Concorde S (1000m) - Randwick - September 1

Trapeze Artist (Aquis): Trial at Warwick Farm, August 24, then to G2 Theo Marks (1300m) - Warwick Farm - September 8

In Her Time (TAB): Trial at Newcastle, September 19, Resumes in G2 Premiere S, Randwick, September 29

Vega Magic (James Harron): G1 Memsie S, Caulfield, September 1

English (Damion Flower): Trial at Rosehill, August 20, then likely to G2 The Shorts, Randwick, September 15

Shoals (The Star): Trial Cranbourne August 21, then possibly G2 McEwen S, Moonee Valley, September 8

Santa Ana Lane (Inglis): Trial Cranbourne August 21, then G3 The Heath 1100 S, Caulfield, September 1

Brave Smash (Chris Waller Racing): TBC, possibly the G2 McEwen S, Moonee Valley, September 8

US Navy Flag (Coolmore): Straight to The Everest, October 13

Slot Holders with runners to be confirmed

Max Whitby

ATC

GPI Racing