Why the climax to The Championships at Royal Randwick was an unequivocal success

Saturday’s climax of The Championships was an unequivocal success. Randwick was turned out in fine style and the class of racing is a high-water mark for Sydney racing in my view. The ATC must be delighted with the turnout of nearly 24,000 patrons.

My private ratings have Saturday’s $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes significantly superior to the W.S. Cox Plate last spring, which is a great testament to this reinvigorated race.
What a pleasure it was to see the rising 10-year-old, foreign raider Red Cadeaux, perform so well again in running second in the Queen Elizabeth. Always the bridesmaid, three-times second in the Melbourne Cup, a horse “for all seasons”. Ed Dunlop is a skilful trainer.

The Sydney Cup had its prizemoney boosted from $1 million to $1.6 million, which made a real difference to the candidature and is a good move for the staying breed.

Last week’s Country Championships Final and this week’s Provincial Championships Final are a welcome addition to the program and were both very much enjoyed by those in the betting ring.

But the real star was the track. With 11.2 millilitres of rain on Friday night on top of the 40-plus mls during the week, I feared it would be “heavy” and “untidy”, with jockeys hesitant to lead, wanting to take their horses wide in the search for better going.
I was pleasantly surprised. The times were better than I anticipated and more consistent with a “slow” track. The course was, to my eye, totally fair without “fast lanes”. Soft-track horses had an advantage, but even so, a “firm-going” horse like Amanpour was able to lead all the way in her group 1 victory.

The grass seemed shorter to me; the rail was six metres out. No doubt these things helped.

Gust blows strong

I have not mentioned many horses in the column but back in February I drew attention to Saturday’s $17 Oaks winner, Gust Of Power’s maiden win in Scone. I implored readers to look at the video

It is worth a look again. Gust Of Power was a five-day back-up horse. Curiously, backing-up horses (within seven days), even in Melbourne Cups has become unpopular, but punters know, they still go very well. I note Saturday’s 40/1 Sydney Cup winner Grand Marshal was the only “back-up”. Go the back-ups.

Positioning system a winner

The punters in the betting ring love the new “Longines Positioning System” that was on the on-course monitor for some races at Randwick on Saturday. It will be a game-changer. Viewers could see the position in running of each horse and sectional time for every 200 metres of the race, in real time and in a clear way. A valuable ATC initiative.

It will also be rolled out at Rosehill, then Warwick Farm and Canterbury.

Shortly it will also be included in the off-course SKY signal and give a boost to betting turnover. Thank you to the sponsor, Longines.

Program rethink

In the UK, the signature race for the day can be race one. First race on the first day at Royal Ascot is the group 1 Queen Anne.

In Australia, the best races in recent times are kept till late in the day, probably because of the television coverage. Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth was race nine and the cup was race eight.

The downside of scheduling them late in the day, if it is a soft track, is that the best races are run on the worst surface. Perhaps the program order needs a rethink back to mid-program, especially in the autumn.

Inglis sale talk

Last week was a “sale” week for me to visit the Inglis Easter Sale at their Newmarket Sale Yard. Disruptive to my normal life but I do enjoy it

It was a great success for nearly everyone. My good wife Gai, dodging “widow maker” branches falling from the old Moreton Bay Fig tree, was delighted to come away with 23 babies “under her wing”.

The average and median were both up on last year. The all-important pass-in rate was about constant, showing buyers and sellers were “ad idem”.

Popular John Muir, proprietor of Milburn Creek in the Southern Highlands, was the star vendor, topping the average, with a Snitzel colt commanding $2.2 million. It was an outstanding type and a great credit to him and his team.

But the big talk around the sale was the impending sale of the Newmarket complex. The Inglis company has had an increase to the planning density allowed on their extraordinary holdings in this prime residential location and so 700 homes could be built on the 4.5 hectares (11 acres), which is expected to fetch north of $250m. It is obvious that it makes business sense to relocate.

However, everyone will miss Newmarket. Hopefully, if it is sold, there will be a lease-back arrangement for a year or two.

It is anticipated they will go to Warwick Farm, where they have an option over some ATC land. I think it would be a huge mistake as I suspect few “city types” will make the trek, “in traffic”, to the Farm. The Easter Sale could run the risk of becoming a “wholesale” sale, missing out on the crème de la crème – with the better horseflesh tempted to the Magic Millions.

Further if they move to Warwick Farm, I’d be amazed if Gerry Harvey, of Magic Millions, didn’t seize the opportunity and hold a sale in Sydney in direct competition. He does have extensive retail interests at the former Sydney Showground at Moore Park. A good spot where there used to be sales in my memory.

I think the ATC should try to convince Inglis to relocate to Randwick instead. It would provide a good rent income to the ATC and be much better for Inglis and their suppliers and their buyers. And when not needed for 50-weeks a year, the trainers would have new, state-of-the-art stables. A “win-win-win” for the racing industry.

Better stand for loved bookie

I hope much-loved bookie Warren “Speed” Woodcock gets a suitable replacement stand at Rosehill. The septuagenarian, confirmed bachelor is an ornament to racing, giving a great service, with charm and biscuits, to his loyal punters.

In a “previous life”, he was an outstanding international tennis player. All main-ring bookies are being relocated into the stand at Rosehill – good idea. But Speed’s new stand is a substandard replacement – he needs a worthy perch.

The Sydney Morning Herald: April 12th 2015

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