The CEO behind a $13m horse race accused the Sydney Opera House of being 'elitist' over advertising it on the sails

Don Arnold/Getty ImagesThe Sydney Opera House on the eve of the Wallabies losing (again) to the New Zealand All Blacks in the 2015 RWC Final.
  • A major row has broken out over new Sydney horse race The Everest, with the CEO of Racing NSW claiming his industry is being “discrimated against”
  • The Everest is being held on October 13 and organisers want to broadcast the barrier drawer on the Opera House sails.
  • Radio shock jock Alan Jones threatened to call the Premier and have the Opera House boss sacked if she didn’t back down and give Racing NSW what they wanted.

The CEO behind the world’s richest turf race, the $13 million Everest, to be run at Randwick next weekend, has accused the Sydney Opera House of being ‘elitist’ about promoting the event.

The 12 horse, 1200m sprint, which costs $600,000 to enter via an “expression of interest” (with a minimum three-year commitment), was first held last year and is held on the second Saturday in October annually.

With the barrier draw due to be held next Tuesday, The Daily Telegraph reports that Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landys was originally keen to hold the event on the side of Sydney Harbour Bridge, but that idea was rejected by government officials.

The Telegraph says the government then offered the Opera House sails as “an olive branch” and while the building’s management agreed to a 60-minute projection, the details of what would be shown on the global icon was subject to protracted negotiations, leading V’landys to declare that “the Opera House belongs to the taxpayers of NSW and not just to a minority of elites”.

NSW Sports Minster Stuart Ayers has reportedly been central to negotiations on the issue, but V’landys expressed his frustrations, telling The Tele that the minister “has seen first-hand the bureaucracy that is encountered in trying to promote Sydney”.

While Racing NSW wanted The Everest logo, the 12 horse names, their colours and barrier draw projected onto the sails, the proposal contravened the Opera House policy on what can and cannot be projected onto the building and was rejected.

Opera House CEO Louise Herron said they agreed to putting the colours on the sails.

V’landys said the World Heritage-listed site “should be used to showcase Sydney so the taxpayers of NSW get a return on this magnificent asset”.

But the idea of using the sails to promote a horse race has infuriated many, although NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley has come out in support of the idea, along with federal MP Anthony Albanese, who told ABC Sydney that people should “chill out a bit” and it was okay to use the Opera House as a “billboard”.

“We need to take every opportunity there is to promote Sydney as Australia’s global city,” Albanese told ABC Sydney.

Herron faced 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones this morning, who said he’d be calling NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to have her sacked if she did change her position.

“We own the Opera House. Do you get that message? You don’t. You manage it,” Jones said

“Who the hell do you think … who do you think you are?”

V’landys joined in on the phone interview with the two sites bickering over the proposal and Herron saying the Racing NSW boss was being “misleading” in his comments.

V’landys asked about the Wallabies logo being on the sails in an apparent contradiction to the policy.

“We were directed to do that,” Herron replied.

“Why is racing being discriminated against?” V’landys responded.

The Opera House CEO said they won’t put text or videos of horses running, their numbers or names, or the Everest logo on the building.

The race logo prominently features the name of a betting agency.

Jones said she should be handing in her resignation.

The whole extraordinary exchange is below.

Two years ago, Jones as among a number of residents living adjacent to the venue going by the name Sydney Opera House Concerned Citizens Group, who lobbied the premier and UNESCO with a paper titled ‘The Trashing of the Opera House’ complaining about noisy events on the forecourt disturbing them and threatening the site’s World Heritage listing.

Business Insider contacted the Opera House earlier today to establish whether the deal would be a commercial arrangement with Racing NSW and seeking further comment from Herron on the issue but has not yet received a response.

Last year’s inaugural The Everest attracted a crowd of 33,000 to Randwick racecourse, while betting turnover was more than 60% above budget, leading to a $3 million increase in the prize pool this year.

The winning horse scores $6 million for its connections. Second place earns $2.1 million, with $1.2 million for third, $820,000 for fourth and fifth place breaking even on the $600,000 entry fee. Horses at the back half of the field still take home $300,000, which leaves their connections taking a $300,000 haircut on entering the race.

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