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The Roar



The Everest and Zaaki are everything that's wrong with Australian racing

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18th October, 2022

The Everest completed the first half of the symbolic destruction of Australian racing when it was run at Randwick last Saturday.

The second half will be completed when Zaaki runs in the Cox Plate this Saturday, regardless of where he finishes.

Zaaki is an aged gelding who was a Group 3-standard nag in Britain and once finished second in a Group 2 at Ascot.

Since being in Australia, Zaaki has performed like a world-beater, such has been the standard of opposition.

It has been Verry Elleegant’s lonely task to defend national racing against imports for seasons. The aging mare has run in everything bar the Bathurst 1000, and it’s no surprise she’s now finishing down the track in France and Britain. The humane thing would be to retire her.

Save for Prince of Penzance’s improbable and romantic 2015 Melbourne Cup win, the last Australasian-bred horse to win the Cup before Verry Elleegant last year was Shocking in 2009.

Imports Durston and Gold Trip quinellaed last Saturday’s Caulfield Cup. Durston got a run after being an emergency and top-weight Gold Trip had one win to his name among its multiple overseas group placings.

Overseas imports and visitors are increasingly winning the cups, Cox Plates and weight-for-ages races because they have no Group 1-standard opposition.


Trainer James Cummings can hail his charge Anamone, this Saturday’s Cox Plate favourite, as phenomenon because the horse has won Group 1 races at two, three and four.

That’s what top-liners were once expected to do.

Cummings only had to look at his late grandfather Bart, who trained plenty of them, but then Bart said the colonial-bred was once the toughest horse in the world, and it’s the decline of the breeding industry that is at the heart of Australian racing’s decline.

That leads to the Golden Slipper and the Everest, also known as the Subterranean, which together symbolise that decline.

There was a time was when Slipper winners were expected to train on – at least they were until 2000. At the extreme, early winners Skyline and Sky High won derbies.

Now successful sire Pierro was the last winner, in 2012, to be of Group 1 standard as a three-year-old.
Vancouver and Capitalist, winners in 2015 and 2016, had two and one starts respectively as early three-year-olds without winning before being packed off to stud.

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(Photo by Violeta Pencheva via Unsplash)


Rinse and repeat. The Slipper can be a colt’s grand final. Win and a lucrative stud career awaits, even if there are more wins down the track.

This leads to the 1200m Subterranean, New South Wales racing supremo Peter V’Landys’s $15 million innovation which brought 46,000 and all the Hooray Harrys and Harriettes to Randwick last Saturday.

There is talk of a $20 million Subterranean, and the 1500m $10 million Golden Eagle for four-year-olds is just ahead.

All this prize money dwarfs that for the cups, Cox Plate and coming Flemington carnival.

V’Landys’s dream of rivalling and surpassing the Melbourne spring carnival looks like a goer.

Amidst the drones and Opera House projections, a Friday edition of a metropolitan newspaper could have endless pages on the Subterranean and not a Caulfield Cup story.

The Cup result story scored eight paragraphs down the bottom of a page on Sunday, while the Subterranean had pages.


Young journalists must think Australian racing began in 2000, because one said Australian racing had always been judged by its sprinters.

This will come as a shock to those who thought greatness was judged against a Carbine, Wakeful, Poseidon, Phar Lap, Peter Pan, Ajax, Bernborough, Comic Court, Rising Fast, Tulloch, Galilee, Kingston Town et cetera.

It might come as a shock that a journalist could say the 2019-20 vintage was a golden generation of three-year-olds. Well, Bivouac won a Newmarket, but who were the other big-race winners that season? What did they do later?

He might look back to when three-year-old crops won Group 1 races over all distances for endless decades, and there were great sprinters among them.

But then that was before the breeding industry became a giant Ponzi scheme and V’Landys could attack the natural carnival’s progression over decades by throwing millions around like confetti.

This year’s time-honoured Group 1 Flight Stakes was worth $750,000. There were two $1 million Group 2 races on the same day. The time-honoured 1600m Epsom could be worth $1.5 million, and the Metropolitan, once 2600m and now 2400m and $750,000, were formerly the Sydney spring highlights and double.

Now there’s a $2 million 1200m consolation on the Subterranean day, and the 1200m Kosciuszko and 1600m Big Dance are worth $2 million.


Perhaps there’ll be a breeding freak like Gunsynd that will replace a Winx or Verry Elleegant that can defend Australian racing against comparative second-raters like a Zaaki.

At least another Nature Strip should come along and win at Royal Ascot, which will mean little on the world stage.

V’Landys was responsible for one of the great administrative performances when he shepherded the NRL through the 2020 season amidst COVID.

That was a Group 1 performance. par excellence. The Subterranean isn’t even listed in comparison.