Promotions for The Everest light up the Sydney Opera House in 2018. (Image: AAP/Brendan Esposito)

The front page of The Australian, Tuesday October 15. Two figures, one atop a horse, emerge from the pure black ground in perfect silhouette. Above them, a painterly dawn sky of vivid reds and blues. At a glance you could forgiven for thinking it was for a story about our brave Anzacs, as if perhaps the culture wars around Anzac Day are, like Christmas, entering the public square earlier and earlier each year.

As it turns out, the national broadsheet was dedicating roughly a third of its front page to a feature interview with horse trainer Tony McEvoy, and his contention that “the Melbourne Cup has lost its Australian-ness” and that The Everest is “our big race now”.

It’s just part of a flurry of coverage the race has managed to inexplicably get in the news section of Australia’s papers. The Oz has continued today, putting an Everest story — this time about the projections of the jockey’s silks onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge (“a dazzling light show”) —  on page three.

Meanwhile page three of today’s edition of The Age featured a spirited defence of the Melbourne Cup from various racing luminaries. This includes owner Lloyd Williams who said, in an interview that seems to have been conducted over text message: “Iconic events are created over centuries. Australia has two: the Melbourne Cup and the Ashes. I find the comments amazing. Tradition we need. Don’t destroy it.” (Helpfully, Williams has cited two iconic events that have not been around for centuries). All interview subjects agree, however, that The Everest is a “great contest”.

Today’s Daily Telegraph dedicated a front-page pointer and page six and seven splash to the arrival in Australia of Everest headliner Kelly Rowland, as well as the bridge light show.

This follows the Nine papers having NSW racing CEO Peter V’landys spruiking Everest in yesterday’s opinion pages. He argued Victoria’s decision to block Everest from group one status had backfired, saying it had “contributed to the success of the race with the younger demographic. Young people don’t want to do the same things as their parents. When their parents joined Facebook, they started using Instagram. If a parent is seen wearing a particular brand of clothing, the sales to the younger generation plummet.”

So true. I’ve lost count of the number of TikToks I’ve seen featuring kids straight-up yeeting at the prospect of the world’s richest on-turf horse race.

On Monday, the Tele dedicated a typically breathless front page to the ongoing issues between Racing Victoria and The Everest, after Victoria offered the event group one status in return for The Everest changing the date.

Of course, this is not the first time the papers of Australia have filled their pages with promotions for the event. As V’Landys mentioned in his piece, “last year, I managed to upset certain groups with Racing NSW’s proposal to beam The Everest barrier draw onto the sails of the Opera House”. That controversy resulted in nearly a full working week of front-page stories in both Sydney daily papers, amounting to millions and millions of dollars worth of free publicity.

This time, it didn’t even take a decidedly middle-class protest featuring celebrity guests to get the front pages. Despite the fact there has been no comparable outcry, the coverage of a horse race is still making it into the “news” section. We don’t know how they do it.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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