Giga Kick (R) won the Everest at Royal Randwick in Sydney
Sydney (AFP) - Outsider Giga Kick, ridden by veteran Craig Williams, stunned star sprinter and red-hot favourite Nature Strip to win the world’s richest turf race, The Everest, in Sydney on Saturday.
The Clayton Douglas-trained gelding surged past Chris Waller’s wonder horse in the final 100 metres at Royal Randwick to collect a whopping Aus$6.2 million (US$4.6 million) for barely a one-minute dash.
Private Eye, winner of the Epsom Handicap last year and with Brenton Avdulla in the saddle, came second.
Nature Strip was initially called third but Mazu took the placing in a photo finish, leaving the shortest priced favourite in the race’s history fourth with Jacquinot fifth.
In a shock hours before the race, second favourite Lost And Running -– who finished fourth last year – was scratched with a fetlock injury.
For Giga Kick’s 27-year-old trainer Clayton Douglas it was a dream come true.
“I had a lot of confidence in this fella, it’s a really good horse, a superstar,” he said of the unbeaten three-year-old.
“He’s such a professional, he’s electric, the new kid on the block.”
Raced over 1,200 metres (3⁄4 mile or six furlongs), it brought together 12 of the world’s best sprinters under weight-for-age conditions.
Despite being drawn in an outside barrier, Nature Strip was an overwhelming favourite.
After winning in 2021, he went to Britain this year and proved to be one of the world’s best sprinters, romping to victory in the Group One King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Eduardo – who came in third last year – flew out of the blocks at Royal Randwick and led at the half-way mark from Nature Strip, who then swept into the lead and looked destined to win again as they entered the final straight.
But Giga Kick had other ideas and an electric surge of pace saw him storm to victory.
“I believed in this horse,” said jockey Williams. “I’m just so lucky to be a part of the ride. It’s such a thrill.”
Crowds last year were capped at 10,000 – about a fifth of its full capacity – due to Covid in 2021 but it was business as usual on Saturday with the venue packed.
- Innovative concept -
While the Everest – the showcase event of the Sydney Spring Racing Carnival – is the richest turf race in the world, with a total of Aus$15 million at stake, it lags the Saudi Cup dirt race in the money stakes.
But it is still a massive payday, with the established Melbourne Cup, Kentucky Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe paling in comparison.
Since its inception, it has progressively boosted prize money from its initial Aus$10 million with even the horse that came last, Ingratiating, walking away with Aus$450,000.
Under an innovative concept, buyers purchase a Aus$600,000 slot in the race and commit for three years, then do a deal with owners and jockeys to secure the top horses.
The idea was modelled on the Pegasus World Cup in the United States, run over 1,800m.
But it has been controversial, with Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club scheduling it in Sydney to clash with the Caulfield Cup in Melbourne, one of Australia’s oldest and most esteemed events.
The handicap over 2400m was won Saturday by another Chris Waller-trained horse, Durston, ridden by Michael Dee.