John Singleton and Gerry Harvey shoot for an Everest win with Libertini

John Singleton and Gerry Harvey are always challenging the “accepted wisdom”, whether that be with government, business or their thoroughbred racing interests.

Both men don’t just blindly follow convention. It’s what has made them so successful and fuelled a friendship spanning nearly 60 years.

Two of Sydney’s most famous and recognisable identities have remained the best of mates through decades of change, their counsel sought by Prime Ministers and Premiers, captains of industry and sporting administrators.

But for all their wealth and fame, Singleton and Harvey still share a lifelong obsession for racetrack success which could reach its zenith if their mare Libertini can win the $15 million The TAB Everest (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

Best mates John Singleton and Gerry Harvey share in the ownership of top The Everest contender Libertini. Picture: Chris PavlichSource:News Corp Australia

“Gerry is the brother I never had,’’ Singleton said. “There is no better bloke than Gerry, there is not a bad bone in his body. I get the same thrill and excitement when Gerry wins a race whether I’m in the horse or not.’’

Harvey admires Singleton’s “can-do” attitude probably because it compliments his own. They are polar opposites yet uncannily alike all at once.

“I can spend a day in meetings and nothing will happen, I guarantee you,’’ Harvey said.

“But I spend a day with ‘Singo’ and there is a very good chance we will get something done. It’s one of the reasons he is my best mate.’’

Harvey bred and owns Libertini. He offered Singleton a 50 per cent share in the brilliant sprinter – for nothing.

“It’s what mates do,’’ Harvey said. “Over the years, when you go way back, we have been racing horses together for 50 years.

“He’s had his horses, I’ve had mine, and we have raced some together like in the early years with Gypsy Kingdom and Best Western.’’

Harvey and Singleton were thinking about starting Libertini in The Everest last year but her form began to wane closer to the big race.

Libertini wasn’t ready to tackle a high pressure Everest then – but she is now. A year on and this is Libertini’s time, according to Harvey.

Libertini showed her potential for The Everest by upstaging top chances Classique Legend and Nature Strip in the Premiere Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“I did something I don’t think anyone else would have done with Libertini,’’ Harvey said.

“They thought something was wrong with her last year but no one could tell me what was wrong. She had run third in the Coolmore (Stud Stakes) and couldn’t have done that if she had something terribly wrong with her.

“So, when most people would have given her four to six weeks in the spelling paddock I decided to give her three months.

“Very rarely do they give horses such a long break unless they are injured but I didn’t have an injured horse. So, she had seven months between starts and it worked.’’

Libertini resumed after her long spell in the Group 2 Premiere Stakes earlier this month and was absolutely outstanding defeating the likes of Classique Legend and Nature Strip, recording a stunning 1m7.6s for the Randwick 1200m. If she can run similar time on Saturday, then the mare is the horse to beat in The Everest.

After the Premiere, there was even the suggestion that Libertini’s coat was not quite right which indicated the mare had improvement to come going into The Everest. As is Harvey’s want, he questioned the theory.

“When Libertini won like she did, I didn’t expect that,’’ Harvey said.

“All the talk was her coat hasn’t come through yet, they were saying she has improvement. When they run 1m7.6s does it improve? Can it improve?

Libertini still had room for improvement after her win in the Premiere Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“What rule is there that says a horse has to be right in the coat? There are plenty of horses that are not quite right in the coat that perform exceptionally well.

“The thing I’ve found over the years in the racing industry is this ‘accepted wisdom’ — there is a lot of it.’’

Harvey, 81, first experienced the sport’s “accepted wisdom” when he sat on the board of the old Sydney Turf Club back in the 1970s.

“In those days, people went on boards as a retirement thing,’’ Harvey said. “They were nice people but got nothing done. You need to have people with promotional and business ability.’’

Which brings us back to The Everest at Royal Randwick on Saturday. This is a race that baulks at the accepted wisdom in racing and is probably the reason it works so well.

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The Everest was first run in 2017 and has already established itself as the nation’s premier sprint and one of the world’s most talked-about races, which Harvey says is due in no small part to the vision of Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys.

“Individuals make things happen,’’ Harvey said. “When you meet people that change the world, they don’t believe in accepted wisdom.

“Everyone else says it should be done this way but these people like V’landys are always questioning the accepted wisdom and wondering if it is right.

“The racing industry should have a statue for V’landys. He has done more for racing than probably anyone in our lifetime.’’

John Singleton and Gerry Harvey have been friends for almost 60 years.Source:News Limited

Singleton, 78, wasn’t a fan of The Everest when it was first introduced in 2017 – but he blames himself. “I didn’t understand it, mate,’’ he said.

But Singleton is a convert now, describing The Everest as a “great concept” and admitted as much before Libertini’s booming return in the Premiere Stakes.

“We need to thank V’landys for keeping rugby league going, we have to thank him for keeping racing going and thank him for The Everest,’’ Singleton said.

The world’s richest turf race and Libertini have given Singleton and Harvey reason to pause and reflect on their lifelong friendship when interviewed by The Daily Telegraph this week.

Singleton remembers meeting Harvey for the first time all those years ago when they discussed doing business together.

Libertini!! What a win in the Premiere Stakes! Next stop #TABEverest glory? pic.twitter.com/70kmjLjmnE

“I had this flash brochure of my work to show him that said how good I was,’’ Singleton said.

“Gerry was chain smoking, as I was, and as we got talking, he was looking for somewhere to stub out his cigarette. He stubbed it out in my brochure.”

But the two men hit it off and interviewing them is always entertaining – although I can’t vouch for the veracity of some of their stories.

Like the time when Singleton and Harvey were young, single men tagging along with Aussie tennis legend Lew Hoad and rugby league immortal Johnny Raper, frequenting the illegal gambling clubs that were a part of Sydney nightlife in that bygone era.

“The three biggest gamblers in Sydney back then were Gerry, Kerry Packer and me.’’

“But Gerry didn’t want people to realise the ‘king of discounts’ was a lair,” Singleton said. “He was the opposite of what he pretends to be now – so who is the true Gerry Harvey?

“Back in those days he only drove imported American cars and had the steering wheel moved to the right-hand side. He loved to have cash. His pockets were so full of cash they went down to his knees.

“But who do you think got the most girls? Lew Hoad got the gold, Johnny Raper the silver and Gerry and I had this massive battle for bronze.

“In those days we all had long blond hair except Gerry, he was starting to lose his hair. Gerry will hate me for telling you this but he was one of the first in Australia to get a hair transplant.

“Gerry only had one go at it because the back of his head was bleeding and he had a big bandage over it. He never went back for the second treatment.’’

Harvey has heard all of Singleton’ stories – probably too many times to count – and doesn’t bother fact-checking anymore.

Trainer Anthony Cummings has Libertini in peak condition for The Everest. Picture: Dylan RobinsonSource:News Corp Australia

He got the conversation back on track revealing it was him who convinced Singleton to invest in the thoroughbred industry all those years ago.

“I had a retail business and ‘Singo’ had an advertising agency that was doing some work for me – he did the advertising and I sold the fridges,’’ Harvey said. “Then one day I asked him to come out to the Inglis sales with me. I put ‘Singo’ into racing.’’

Singleton’s first foray into racehorse ownership was memorable because it provided him with a stark example of Harvey’s persuasive powers.

“I went to get two pies and two beers,’’ Singleton said. “When I came back Gerry said he had bought a filly for us. It was too late to say no.’’

The days when Singleton and Harvey frequented Sydney Saturday race meetings are over but both men will be trackside for The Everest on Saturday.

“Gerry’s last bet was when he had $50 each-way on Best Western at 6/4 on,” Singleton said. “If Libertini is still $7 for The Everest I will be making sure Gerry has a bet because I will be.

“If the mare can win, it would be fantastic but I would be really happy for Gerry – I guess that’s what happens when you have been mates for 60 years.’’

Originally published asBest mates laughing all the way to The Everest

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