Much has been written of late about the battle between key racing states New South Wales and Victoria in the battle of the big races.
This of course isn’t new. This dates back to a prizemoney battle in the 80’s and 90’s between New South Wales premier race the then Toohey’s Golden Slipper and Victoria’s Fosters Melbourne Cup.
Since then the battle lines have been drawn and intensified with the evolution of ‘The Championships’ and more recently ‘The Everest’. Peter V’landys has been aggressive in his push forward for New South Wales. And good on him.
This fierce rivalry means that we are seeing clashes of key race meetings and races right around Australia now. There isn’t a real lot of sense from a national perspective. But the reality is Australian racing is (and I suspect always will be) dictated to by the states, primarily New South Wales and Victoria. As long as TAB revenue flows on a state basis, a true national racing model is largely a dream. The other states can’t really compete. They just have to ‘zig’ when the big boys ‘zag’.
That’s not to say that states like Queensland and Adelaide can’t have successful carnivals. But I feel they need to stop trying to keep up with the Jones’s and start being innovative and look for points of difference. I’m not a fan of a bolstered $1.5m Stradbroke Handicap for that reason. The increase in prizemoney for that race has done zero to improve its status or field strength.
Whilst some lament about what is seemingly an irrational spread of races, prizemoney and race meetings at the top level, I think it’s fantastic. Why, I hear you say? Because I primarily represent the interests of racehorse owners. For them, competition and the dilution of field numbers and strength in our top races is actually a good thing. It gives owners a much better chance of winning at the top level, if they employ some astute planning with their charges.
In this day and age, travelling horses both domestically and internationally is much easier. The range of races our leading horses have access to in Australia and around the globe is phenomenal.
Take later this month in Dubai. Australia will have three representatives to take the rich sprint race on Dubai World Cup night. Music Magnate heads the chances for our trainer Bjorn Baker. There is a heap of options for him and the other Australian sprinters in March through until June. But I think Bjorn has found a great option for Music Magnate who is probably a length or two short of the top sprinters here. But if he wins in Dubai, the overall prizemoney for the Group 1 Alquoz Sprint is around $(AU)1.3m. And that’s the lowest prizemoney on the card. The richest race on the Dubai card is worth around $(AU)13m. Moving forward to June, we see the likelihood of an Aussie onslaught back to Royal Ascot. The absence of these international raiders will help dilute the remaining horses capable of winning big races in both Adelaide and Brisbane.
Coming up to the Winter, we see a mish mash of carnivals and race days. There has already been a mass of race clashes between Sydney and Melbourne during the late Summer, early Autumn. We then see the Adelaide and Brisbane carnivals clash and cannibalise each other. Wedged into them are big money meetings in New South Wales carrying wads of black type at both Hawkesbury and Scone. It’s simply impossible for horses to go to all of them.
Because of this, I predict we are going to see more competition for our best horses between the carnivals and race days in Australia. Whilst it isn’t traditional for clubs or principal racing bodies to offer travel rebates within Australia, I suspect this may well come into vogue. It’s standard practice for the big international meetings like Royal Ascot, Dubai and Hong Kong. It may also be the case that owners may well start to support the clubs who roll the red carpet out better than some others. This too could be a healthy thing to help deliver a better experience for owners on race day.
So, chin up owners. Don’t lament about the state versus state syndrome. Competition for your horses is good thing. You just need to get into one capable of competing at the highest level. That’s the biggest challenge we all face.