Racing Victoria‘s Everest ‘blackmail’ exposed
RACING Victoria demanded the date of the world's richest turf race The Everest in Sydney be moved and in return Group 1 status would have been bestowed on the event.
NSW Racing chairman Russell Balding told his counterparts south of the border the bargain would be refused because the date the Victorians demanded was unsuitable.
The $14 million Everest, to run at Royal Randwick this Saturday, has the strongest field of any sprint race in the world this year.
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"The Everest is not a Group 1 because of racing politics. It has got to a point where this is just madness, it has to stop, this is ridiculous," Balding said on Sunday.
Victorian racing administrators had been prepared to elevate The Everest to the world elite race level of Group 1 but only if Racing NSW agreed to shift the race date away from the Caulfield Cup on Saturday.
But Balding refused to back down, arguing The Everest needed two weeks of "free air" after the NRL grand final for promotion.
This led to an impasse with Victorian officials who then used their power of veto to block what was a consensus from every other racing jurisdiction to promote The Everest to Group 1 level.
"If the Victorians had their way, The Everest would have been run (last Saturday) and it would have been given Group 1 status,'' Balding said.
"They didn't want The Everest clashing with the Caulfield Cup (on October 19) but I told them we need at least two weeks free air after the NRL grand final and would not move from the October 19 race date.
"Every other state and racing jurisdiction supported giving The Everest Group 1 status except Victoria who then used their power of veto to block it.
"When someone asks me, 'why isn't The Everest a Group 1' I tell them it is because the Victorians won't allow it. What the Victorians have done is unfairly impact on the connections of these horses in The Everest."
Of the 12 horses to run, 10 have 22 Group 1 wins between them and the remaining two have won at Group 2 level. The combined prizemoney earned by The Everest runners is a staggering $42.19 million.
Revelations Victorian race administrators tried to force a date change for The Everest came after Racing NSW CEO Peter V'landys ruffled feathers last week by suggesting the Melbourne Cup date could be changed to the end of November.
Balding said the irony is the Melbourne Racing Club has this spring become an integral part of The Everest promotion, investing in a slot and providing the winner of the Schillaci Stakes at Caulfield last Saturday with a start in The Everest.
"It shows that Melbourne and Sydney can leverage off each other because the Caulfield Cup and The Everest are two great races,'' he said. "This shows how we can celebrate the strength of Australian racing.''
Winx co-owner, Peter Tighe, said The Everest deserved Group 1 status, regardless of the day it was run.
"You can't blackmail someone to change the date of a race," he said. "I am in a slot there with Chris Waller and the team, and we would love it to have Group 1 status.
"Group 1 status adds prestige, value for breeding and recognition if you are racing horses."
Co-owner of two-time Everest winner Redzel, Michael Ward said the race was already better than Group 1 status and the credibility of the rating system was wounded by the snub.
"It has been the highest-rated sprint race in the world for the last two years," he said. "The only benefit of giving it Group 1 recognition would be to avoid the system losing credibility."
Racehorse owner Gerry Harvey said Group 1 status wasn't needed.
"It doesn't really matter because it is above Group 1," he said.
"The good thing about all this is that it is more promotion for The Everest.
"Let the fight go on."
Balding said if the racing industry was serious about having an improved national pattern then all races should be reviewed.
"This includes debating whether the Melbourne Cup should be shifted but that won't happen as we all know,'' he said.
"The pattern is inconsistent, it is subjective."