Why the Spring Carnival and the Autumn Carnival should swap cities

Why we should move Easter

Everyone was disappointed at losing Saturday’s Doncaster meeting. The trouble is that autumn in Sydney is a rainy season. Of the past 78 years (records I’m using started in 1937), only 13 have had no rain in the week before Easter. The average is a soaking 34mls (the median is 10mls). Last week, Randwick had 43mls over the corresponding period.

It would be regarded as a stale and stupid April Fool’s joke to propose the VRC move its Melbourne carnival to the autumn and our Doncaster/Sydney Cup to the spring. But the opposite weather patterns of both cities show it is an obvious move. Melbourne is dry in autumn and often wet in spring. We are the reverse.

I well remember Easter 1978 – Randwick had 293mls in the few days before and I, as a young bookie, made the mistake of thinking the top-class mare, Maybe Mahal, had too much weight with 57kg with a 45½ limit in the conditions and lost my money, not for the last time!

Randwick was a great wet-track in those days – 293mls and the going was slow!

Anyway, today’s Randwick meeting is as good as any we have ever seen in Sydney. It is a fascinating card. Great horses, mysterious, as in “very little”, mud form and a problematic track. I believe “down the outside” will be the pattern today. It’ll be a great day’s racing.

The Country Championship

This race, restricted to country-trained horses, is a very popular initiative by Racing NSW. A runner’s connections must think it is all their “Christmases come at once” – $300,000 prizemoney plus a Bobs Bonus (no other race today gets this bonus) and a jaw-dropping $85,000 trophy (although, I suspect they would prefer more cash!).

With the top jockeys on their backs, Voodoo Lad and Tarangower have great chances but will be very well found by punters. I think Artlee and Loved Up also have strong claims and will be value. Both showed a great turn of foot in their qualifiers and are drawn to suit the track. Artlee is bred for the soft and Loved Up does handle the wet.

The PJ Bell

Jim Bell, after whom this race is named, was a long-time chairman of the AJC. It’s a shame this naming tradition has been let lapse and no subsequent chairman has been honoured with a race in his honour.

There is a noteworthy absence of wet form in this fillies’ race. Sultry Feeling is the exception and I like her at the price I expect her to be. Kind Heart will be cricket-score odds but her most recent run was eye-catching in fast time and she is bred for going. Worth a small bet.

The Sires Produce

I worry the Sires’ is a very different race to the Slipper, which was such a high-pressure sprint. This will be an unhurried, test of stamina on the soft going for the two-year-olds.

It is hard to find anything that will want to be near the lead and most runners “need” a fast pace. Might be a bookies’ race with a boilover. If I am forced to pick, out of loyalty, I would choose English, which might just have too much class.

The Derby

VRC Derby winner Preferment is the Derby favourite and has been set for the race. But I prefer New Zealand raider Volkstok’n’barrell, which beat him at Rosehill. The brilliantly named gelding will also love the 2400 metres and is a mud lark.

The Doncaster

This is the 150th running of this race. I look forward to seeing the Doncaster historic exhibition today at Randwick. Good on the ATC for honouring its sesquicentenary.

We may see “Chinese checkers”, to use Ray Murrihy’s words, repeated whereby Chris Waller scratches Moriarty, which would give John O’Shea’s Sweynesse the start, and O’Shea returns the favour by scratching It’s Somewhat, which would allow Kermadec a start. Or will they?

This issue could be avoided. Order of entry is decided on the official ratings. These are like a “ratchet”: quick to rise, reluctant to fall. We’d have better fields if out-of-form horses’ ratings were reduced in line with their form.

Everyone tells me the Japanese horse Real Impact is hopeless in “going”. I would have liked him on dry.

Gai always says: “You need a 2000m horse to win the Donny.” I think, in a tough, pressure race, she might do it with Pornichet, a horse she bought at the sale at Kensington Palace on the eve of Royal Ascot last June. He is looking for at least 2000m, which is the distance he won over last week.

Late closing

Nothing I have written in these columns has evoked more enthusiastic agreement than the piece about the slow closing of the TAB. Every keen punter seems to have anecdotal evidence of it. They cite the “looks like a duck, talks like a duck” argument.

But I accept the words of TAB Wagering COO Craig Nugent, for whom I have nothing but respect. “‘Slow closing’ is just not true,” he says. “The betting close is done in our Melbourne offices, but from the audio [which has no delay], not the vision. There are strong control practices and we are fastidious. We close the 100,000 races a year on which we bet.”

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