Giga Kick upsets Nature Strip and wins turf’s greatest prize

Underdog Giga Kick, ridden by veteran Craig Williams, stunned star sprinter and hot favorite Nature Strip, wins the richest grass race in the world, The Everest, on Saturday in Sydney.

The Clayton Douglas-trained gelding stormed past Chris Waller’s wonder horse in the final 100 yards at Royal Randwick for a whopping Aus$6.2 million ($4.6 million) in just under a minute.

Private Eye, last year’s Epsom Handicap winner and ridden by Brenton Avdulla, finished second.

Nature Strip was originally named third, but Mazu took the place in a photo finish, leaving the favorite with the shortest prize in the history of the race fourth and Jacquinot fifth.

Hours before the race, second favorite Lost And Running – who finished fourth last year – suffered a ankle injury.

It was a dream come true for Giga Kick’s 27-year-old coach, Clayton Douglas.

“I had a lot of faith in this guy, he’s a really good horse, a superstar,” he said of the unbeaten three-year-old.

“He’s such a pro, he’s electric, the new kid on the block.”

It was run over 1,200 meters (3/4 mile or six furlongs) and brought together 12 of the world’s best sprinters in age-appropriate conditions.

Despite being pulled into an outer barrier, Nature Strip was an overwhelming favorite.

After winning in 2021, he headed to the UK this year and proved to be one of the world’s best sprinters, taking victory in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Eduardo – who finished third last year – flew off the blocks at Royal Randwick and led halfway through Nature Strip, who then swept to the front and looked like he was about to win again as they got down the stretch.

But Giga Kick had other ideas, and an electric tempo boost sent him rushing to victory.

“I believed in that horse,” said Jockey Williams. “I’m just so happy to be a part of the ride. It’s such a thrill.”

Crowds last year were limited to 10,000 – about a fifth of full capacity – due to Covid in 2021, but on Saturday the venue was packed.

– Innovative concept –

While Everest – the Sydney Spring Racing Carnival’s flagship event – is the world’s richest turf race, totaling A$15 million, it lags behind the Saudi Cup Dirt Race in money.

But it’s still a massive payday as the established Melbourne Cup, Kentucky Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe pale in comparison.

Since its inception, it has gradually increased the prize pool from its initial AUD$10 million, with even the last horse, Ingratiating, walking away with AUD$450,000.

In an innovative concept, buyers buy a place in the race for Aus$600,000 and commit for three years, then strike deals with owners and jockeys to secure the best horses.

The idea was modeled after the Pegasus World Cup in the United States, which is run over 1,800 m.

But it was controversial as Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club set it up in Sydney to clash with Melbourne’s Caulfield Cup, one of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious events.

The 2400m handicap was won on Saturday by another Chris Waller-trained horse, Durston, ridden by Michael Dee.

mp/dhc

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