Instant Classique: Everest king pulls off freak comeback to seal $15m ‘masterstroke’
The five-year-old gelding, trained by Les Bridge, came storming through the pack with 200 metres left to collect a whopping $6.2 million for barely a one-minute run.
On an overcast day in Sydney, Bivouac was second and Gytrash third in front of 11,000 people at Royal Randwick, the maximum allowed under coronavirus measures and the biggest in Australian horse racing since March.
Classique Legend flies home0:28
Normally 40,000 fans would pack the venue, but with strict limits in place racegoers needed to pre-register their attendance, stay in designated areas and have their temperature checked on arrival.
However, they were allowed to get up and cheer, returning much-needed atmosphere to a sport which, like many others, has suffered under Covid-19 restrictions.
Eduardo, steered by The Everest’s first female rider Rachel King, flew out of the blocks and led for much of the way with Nature Strip on its heels, until favourite Classique Legend turned on the gas and they faded.
“I looked up at 600 (metres) and they were well in front, but full credit to my horse, he was able to really power when I asked him,” said McEvoy, who won the first two Everest races in 2017 and 2018 on the now-retired Redzel.
“Thrilled to get the horse over the line. It’s an unbelievable feeling to win another one. Every big win is special... but this is extra special.”
McEvoy added: “Les has pulled a masterstroke off.”
After spending an extended period riding for the Godolphin stable in Europe, McEvoy has become one of Australia’s premier riders, also winning three Melbourne Cups.
It was yet another success for trainer Bridge, who had his first major win in the Golden Slipper Stakes in 1983.
“Some horses just get all the good genes. He’s got a V8 motor,” Bridge said of Classique Legend.
While the Everest, with $15 million at stake, is the richest turf race in the world, it lags behind the Saudi Cup and the Dubai World Cup dirt races 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 in 2017, it has progressively boosted prize money with even the horse that came last, Dollar for Dollar, walking away with $450,000.
Raced over 1200 metres (3/4 mile or six furlongs), it brought together 12 of the world’s best sprinters boasting countless titles under weight-for-age conditions.
Under an innovative concept, buyers are required to purchase a $600,000 slot in the race, then do a deal with owners and jockeys to secure the top horses.
The slot holders include breeding industry giants such as Godolphin and Coolmore, along with smaller concerns like trainer Chris Waller, who prepared champion mare Winx.
The idea came from Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys, who modelled it on the Pegasus World Cup in the United States, run over 1800m.
1. Classique Legend
5. Haut Brion Her
6. Santa Ana Lane
7. Nature Strip
12. Dollar For Dollar