By Ray Hickson
It’s a year since slot holder James Harron teamed with Peter and Paul Snowden, Triple Crown and the colourful Redzel owners to take out the inaugural The TAB Everest.
In this Q & A, Harron reflects on that experience as he looks forward to running the horse Redzel beat last year - Vega Magic - in the 2018 edition, worth $13 million, with the David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig stable.
James also has some interesting comments about what The Everest means for both the racing and breeding industries.
Why did you decide to buy a slot when the idea was floated?
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.
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.
How much was not wanting to miss out on an opportunity a part of the decision?
We got in there as quickly as we could to secure a slot, so not wanting to miss out was obviously a big part, and I'm sure that there are a few people rueing the missed chance now given the subsequent increase in prize money.
Notwithstanding winning the race, has the experience been what you expected so far?
It has been a great experience. While you always hope that a race such as this will really capture the imagination of the public the proof is always in the execution and the whole team at Racing NSW and the ATC deserve a lot of credit for turning a vision into a fantastic reality.
The excitement, interest and hype around the race is tremendous on a global scale and something for Australia to be very proud of.
What did last year teach you about how to approach it in 2018? How have you done things differently this year?
I feel that we approached the race in a very similar way to last year, particularly in terms of our desire to have a top-class horse in proven form.
Obviously, a number of slot holders acted a lot more quickly this year compared to last year, which does affect strategy in terms of the pool of horses left, but overall we've tried to keep close to our model from last year.
Given your association with the Snowden stable it must have been special to win The Everest with Redzel. How hard a decision was it not to stick with him?
It was of course fantastic to win the first edition of the race with the Snowden stable. In terms of Redzel, there was a clear desire from his ownership to get a slot locked away a lot earlier.
We are keen to see that horses have returned in good order, so when they made the ring around for a slot it was too early for us to commit and obviously in the meantime they came to an agreement with Yulong for their slot.
Of course, we wish them the very best of luck this year.
What made Vega Magic an appealing choice this year and what did you take out of his run in the Memsie?
He's a proven performer at Group 1 level and a very reliable sprinter, particularly at 1200m - his arguably unlucky second in last year's Everest was hard not to notice.
I thought that there was huge credit in his performance in the Memsie, and it's no secret that a strongly-run 1400m probably sees him out as we saw with him getting caught in the final 50m.
In terms of an Everest preparation race I thought it was very good.
Naturally one day you’d like to run one of your own syndications in your colours in The Everest?
For sure the dream would have to be a horse from the JHB (James Harron Bloodstock) colt group in the slot, but we'd certainly never be running one for the sake of it.
As an owner and a breeder what would an Everest win mean for a colt/stallion prospect? We’ve already seen it extend the racing career of one of last season’s top colts in Trapeze Artist.
I think an Everest win would be viewed over and above a Group 1 for a stallion prospect.
The nature of the race means that any colt winning it had defeated the best field of sprinters the world can muster and nobody will need the addition of Group 1 label to see that.
It's no secret that Australia produces the best sprinters in the world, as evidenced by the exceptional record at Royal Ascot, and as such the profile of an Everest winner at stud would be exemplary on a global scale.
What do you think The Everest will evolve into for Sydney and for horse racing? Have we created something special?
In the first year it was amazing how many people from outside the industry wanted to talk about the Everest and this year it seems even stronger.
I think that everybody who attended in 2017 had an outstanding day at the races and that word of mouth alone should mean that the event will only get bigger and better every year.
The race has also created a buzz which has benefitted the whole of Australian racing - the interest in the sprint races throughout the country in the lead up to the race has been unprecedented and this reinvigoration can only be a huge benefit going forward.
* This article appears in the October 2018 Racing NSW Magazine