It was only a month out from last year's inaugural running of The Everest that James Harron Bloodstock secured Redzel (Snitzel) as its runner. Redzel was the fourth horse locked in and it proved to be an excellent choice as Peter and Paul Snowden's sprinter claimed the richest-ever prize in Australian racing.
Contrast that to this year's $13 million race, and when Harron decided to lock in Vega Magic (Lope De Vega) as his runner on July 29, it was the tenth slot filled, despite the fact it was over 10 weeks out from the race.
"I was actually very surprised how early people acted this year, especially when you look at the dates that the first three home last year were secured - Redzel (Sep 12), Vega Magic (Sep 29) and Brave Smash (Sep 17)." Harron said.
"With that in mind my expectation was that people would be a little more gun-shy this year but the opposite proved to be the case."
"My expectation was that people would be a little more gun-shy this year but the opposite proved to be the case." - James Harron
G1 TJ Smith S winner Trapeze Artist (Snitzel) was the first locked away for 2018 way back in April, In Her Time (Time Thief) was confirmed as TAB's runner days later, while Redzel (for Yu Long), was secured by early May. Six more horses would follow suit in the next two months.
Harron insists his hand wasn't forced by the rush of slots being filled and in many ways, the process mirrored that of last year, albeit the timeline was six weeks earlier.
Last year, he waited until Redzel returned to the track before making his move and the same was true for Vega Magic, who dominated the G3 Bletchingly S. at Caulfield.
"Vega Magic returned in the Bletchingly with a stellar performance, one which backs up the elite level of his form," James Harron.
"Our major focus was always going to be on securing a horse that had proven its wellbeing this preparation as with sprinters, current form is especially important," Harron said.
"Vega Magic returned in the Bletchingly with a stellar performance, one which backs up the elite level of his form, while of course he was also a strong second in The Everest last year as favourite and after a very wide run."
WATCH: Vega Magic takes out the G3. Bletchingly S. at Caulfield on 28th July
"Almost as soon as he crossed the line at Caulfield we put everything in motion in terms of talking to the owners and also liaising with my own owners who have put up the capital for the slot so we could get things locked up as soon as possible."
Harron said the deal with owners Wally and George Daly proved relatively straight forward.
"It was actually very similar to last year, the process is simply to agree a deal in principle and then articulate that into a simple agreement so that everyone knows where they stand," he said.
Heading for the Summit
Harron's initial involvement as a slot holder was about wanting to be part of something which he knew would make a significant change in the thoroughbred industry.
With the support of loyal owners, he was able to buy into the concept from the get-go, knowing those behind The Everest would ensure it was a success.
"The final key piece of the puzzle was the track record of Peter V'Landys in getting things done." - James Harron
"When The Everest was announced I thought it was a very exciting concept, and one which is tailor-made for the sprinting division in Australia which always has great depth to it," he said.
"I'm fortunate to be surrounded by some great owners, who have come together to purchase the slot and having discussed with them they gave me great confidence to go forward with the slot."
"The final key piece of the puzzle was the track record of Peter V'Landys in getting things done - he's done great things for Sydney racing, and having a spearhead like that as the driving force behind The Everest, alongside the fantastic team at the Australian Turf Club, it really was an easy decision in the end."
WATCH: Redzel wins The Everest for slot holder James Harron
Harron's faith in the concept has been vindicated, with the media coverage around the $13 million race compared to that of the Melbourne Cup. Newgate Farm's Henry Field reported The Everest was at the centre of most of his conversations at the recent sales at Saratoga in New York.
The whole process is perfect for generating publicity at a time of year where racing is usually battling for media attention. It has also helped build anticipation for the race.
"It is tremendous for Sydney racing on the domestic stage, but also for Australian racing internationally."
"it is a fantastic concept with a great team behind it, but as always the proof of the pudding is in the eating and you cannot argue with the huge publicity and headlines that The Everest is generating, Harron said.
"It is tremendous for Sydney racing on the domestic stage, but also for Australian racing internationally. Some of the knock on effects have also been pleasantly surprising, for example the early sprint races this carnival have been exceptional!"
Back to Back?
As for his chances of making it a perfect two for two as a slot holder, Harron is confident his team have the right horse. But despite the investment, the preparations of the six-year-old will be firmly left to those who know best.
"David Hayes and his team at Lindsay Park have a proven record of getting horses to their target races in tip-top order, as they demonstrated with Vega Magic in The Everest last year," he said,
"The owners Wally and George Daly are kind enough to keep us up to speed with how the horse is progressing, but we will certainly be leaving it to them - they have plenty on the line too."
Where To Now for The Everest Runners
(slot holder in brackets)
Redzel (Yulong Investments): G3 Concorde S (1000m) - Randwick - September 1
Trapeze Artist (Aquis): 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, September 3, then the G2 The Shorts, Randwick, September 15
Shoals (The Star): Likely to be the G2 McEwen S, Moonee Valley, September 8
Santa Ana Lane (Inglis): 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
Invincible Star (GPI Racing): G3 Concorde S (1000m) - Randwick - September 1