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Time ticking for international runner for The Everest

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Is Canterbury set to become Sydney racing’s white elephant again if a worldwide search for an international runner for The Everest runner turns up nothing?

There are sure to be a few nervous souls walking the corridors of power in NSW with the desperately needed overseas runner to give the inaugural running of The Everest some significant worldwide appeal still not confirmed.

Plays of the Week

Stars in their element, stunning finishes and a title by a nose, these are the plays of the week.

The Australian Turf Club’s James Ross, as smart an operator as most, jetted out of Australia this week as the search cranks up for a northern hemisphere short course specialist to take on Chautauqua and co.

July Cup runner-up and multiple group 1 winner Limato might be as good a hope as any.

The ATC will decide on its runner possibly later this month, certainly no later than the first week in September.

Which brings us to Canterbury. It has been set aside for quarantine purposes and off the racing grid for almost five weeks after it hosts the official two-year-old trials on September 18. It won’t be used for racing again until October 27, the official start to the night racing season and Cox Plate eve.

Warwick Farm and Rosehill will shoulder the midweek burden for five weeks, but what if the spring can’t conjure up an international to lodge in quarantine for The Everest?

Local trainers are already sceptical at the announcement of a $3 million synthetic training track to mirror European conditions – and hence sweeten the deal for The Everest.

And if there’s no one there to use it, especially after Godolphin’s Sydney Cup winner Polarisation and stablemate Penglai Pavilion flew solo for The Championships this year with no international runner the year before?

Don’t be surprised to see if there’s a tinker to the race schedule – or at the very least some much needed maintenance – involving Canterbury, which will host course proper gallops for Sydney trainers in the lead-up to San Domenico Stakes day.

“If there’s an opportunity to utilise Canterbury if it’s not required for quarantine we will definitely look at maximising its use and potential,” the ATC’s James Heddo said.

Looking for a runner

On The Everest, Chris Waller may have the most successful group 1 stable in Australia but he is still prepared to swallow his pride to find an outside runner for the world’s richest race on turf.

He might have only Omei Sword as a candidate. Outside of that, his top-level sprinting stock looks a tad thin meaning the three-year slot he has bought might need to be used on another sprinter in 2017.

Asked whether Omei Sword was the only possibility from within the stable to run under his banner, Waller said: “I’d say so. We’ll see what happens and see what the competition is like.

“We would look at potential people who would want to trade it. We’re just keeping all bases open. There’s a couple of nice horses we’ve had a look at [from other stables].”

You’d imagine there would be more than a few keen eyes on a Warwick Farm trial on Monday, where The Everest hopeful Spieth will be seen for the first time in public this campaign.

Given at least half a dozen slot-holders are yet to nail down their runner, one wonders how long it will take before the five-year-old entire is officially snapped up.

Prize money boost

The prize money increases for five country feature races during the week was applauded in most quarters, but is it good news for everyone?

Participants should be elated races such as the Goulburn Cup, Wellington Boot and Wagga Town Plate will now be worth $150,000. The mind boggles how much money can be won racing horses in the bush these days, the lifeblood of the industry.

But let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment. As a punter, I’m a little wary about the prize money increases. All of these meetings will now carry a $150,000 race, elevating them to be classified as “premium” race meetings under Racing NSW’s race fields fee policy.

As its boss Peter V’landys has strongly argued, he has every right to set his product fee to what he sees fit to do the best he can for his participants. Fair point.

But there will now be an extra clip on the ticket for all wagers at those country feature meetings. And will the bookmakers pass that cost on to price-sensitive punters? Don’t bet against it.

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