SYDNEY (AFP) - Redzel beat Vega Magic in a thrilling inaugural Everest race in Sydney on Saturday, the world's richest on turf that organisers hope will one day rival the prestigious Melbourne Cup.
With Kerrin McEvoy in the saddle, the five-year-old gelding hit the lead with 100 metres to go at Royal Randwick to collect A$5.8 million (S$6.19 million) in winnings.
The Craig Williams-ridden Vega Magic was second with Brave Smash third and the world's top-rated sprinter and favourite, seven-year-old Chautauqua, fourth.
"So privileged to be riding this horse. He's so patient this fella," said an elated McEvoy. "It's still early in his career and he's paying the dividends now."
"It couldn't have worked out any better in the run, we had a dream run outside of the leader. I am over the moon," he said.
The race over 1,200 metres (3/4 mile or six furlongs) brought together the 12 best sprinters in Australia, angling for a slice of a whopping A$10 million in prize money.
The winnings eclipsed that offered in Australia's iconic Melbourne Cup, where tens of thousands of punters gather in November to watch world champion thoroughbreds race for A$6.2 million.
The Dubai World Cup and newly-introduced Pegasus World Cup in the United States carry more prize money, but they are raced on dirt.
Despite the lure of so much cash, the race failed to attract any overseas entrants, controversially clashing with Melbourne's Caulfield carnival, which a host of internationals opted for instead.
But it was still a cracking field with the runners boosting countless titles.
Houtzen came out of the gates quickest and was the early leader but Redzel, who was always sitting on his outside in the high-tempo race, sprinted to the lead with 100m to go to hold off a charging Vega Magic.
Under the innovative concept, buyers were invited to purchase a A$600,000 slot in the race and do a deal with owners and jockeys to secure the top horses.
Those who splashed the cash were required to commit for three years, ensuring the race's future, but were able to sell, lease or joint venture their slots prior to the entry date.
Among those invested were private enterprises like Sydney's Star Casino and betting operator Tabcorp.
Racing identities such as Max Whitby and Damion Flower also bought in, as did several cashed-up stud farms.
Syndicate Triple Crown, with 17 owners including a police officer, a doctor and a concreter, was the slot holder for Redzel, which was trained by Peter and Paul Snowden.
"I can't talk. It's a massive thing for the stable. Just so, so relieved," said Paul Snowden, as tears welled in his eyes. "I had to remind myself how old Redzel was this morning. He is only five and is at the peak of his career. He has got another couple of years in him at top level and it's all before him."
The idea for The Everest came from Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys, who modelled it on the Pegasus World Cup, run over 1,800m.
He said he had never seen such excitement around racing in Sydney.
"Board members of both Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club should be congratulated for embracing the concept and driving it with great enthusiasm," he said.
But the timing, clashing with top racing in Melbourne, sparked criticism, reportedly irking racing powerbrokers in the state of Victoria.