SOMETIMES NOT-SO-GREAT HORSES WIN MILLIONS AND GREAT ORSES RUN FOR LOOSE CHANGE
RACING doesn't have performance related pay. Sometimes great horses run for loose change and sometimes not-so-great horses win millions. Take Saturday's Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick, now the richest 1m2f turf race in world.
SAM WALKER reports in the RACING POST that there was nothing wrong with the quality of the line-up and certainly nothing wrong with the winner. It was exactly the sort of field you'd expect for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and It's A Dundeel ranks right up with other recent winners of the race.
But the difference was that this year the prize-money shot up eightfold to an eye-popping AUS$4million (£2.2m), making it more valuable than Ascot's Champion Stakes. And did the increased purse see an increase in quality? Or a more cosmopolitan field? Sadly not.
It was much the same race as last year, run by much the same group of horses. Indeed, the fourth from last year finished fourth again and last year's runner-up this time came home in front.
Never once in their combined 39 starts did all-time legends Black Caviar and Frankel run for the amount of money that It's A Dundeel secured when winning on Saturday, which begs the question: why?
Why boost the prize-money for already sufficiently funded Group 1 races? And why throw the biggest increase to an event over 2000m (1m2f) - a distance Australian-breds hardly excel at?
When the announcement was made back in November it seemed the primary reason behind the boost in funding was as a facelift for Sydney, which had lost out to Melbourne in recent years in the battle to be Australia's premier racing centre.
The Randwick investment was also an attempt to create a focal point for the end of the Aussie season, with a number of championship-style events brought together at one venue, like America's Breeders' Cup and British Champion's Day.
As for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, which is now the meeting's richest race, the vastly increased prize-money appeared to be a bid to internationalise the meeting, with NSW racing chief John Messara defending the move by saying: "2000m is a world-accepted distance".
One of the problems with trying to internationalise an event like this, however, is that prize-money alone is not an incentive for the world's best horses to risk travelling around the planet.
This is because at the upper echelons of racing horses don't actually run for prize-money, they run for acclaim.
The best horses run with two main objectives, based on increasing stud returns. Their objectives are: to beat the best horses in the world and to win the most prestigious races in the world - and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes offers neither of these.
Another reason a horse may be tried overseas is to highlight their stallion credentials to a different audience, but given that there is no market for 1m2f sires in Australia this adds little to the appeal of the Queen Elizabeth.
The very best European middle-distance horses rarely leave the continent. When they have more often than not the reason is to prove themselves at the Breeders' Cup, which falls under the third objective: opening the stallion up to a new market.
In Japan the very best only normally ship out for the Arc De Triomphe (objectives one and two: competition/prestige) and in America the best only used to leave home for the world's richest race, the Dubai World Cup (when it was run on dirt), which fell under objective two: prestige.
Let's be clear, there is nothing wrong with the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and there is clearly no issue at all with the concept of an end-of-season southern hemisphere championship.
The Championships are well supported, well financed and well positioned to become a strong player in the domestic calendar, just as Champion's Day has in Britain.
The only issue is that while the authorities have got the right idea about wanting to attract internationals to a fixture of this size and scope, they have given precedence to the wrong race.
There seems very little point in giving so much extra funding to the Queen Elizabeth Stakes when exactly the same field would turn up for a fraction of the cost.
Instead the event that should top the bill is a feature sprint. For too long there has been no outstanding championship race for sprinters in Australia and The Championships provides the opportunity to create one and do it right.
An Aussie sprinting championship could attract the best sprinters from Hong Kong, South Africa and Japan (all countries who have been known to travel their sprinters) and if it paid prize-money down to, say, tenth (like the Melbourne Cup) it might even attract the leading Europeans and Americans.
The attraction of the race is obvious. It has all three objectives covered.
Being in Australia means the best sprinters in the world would be there; being the headline event at The Championships means it would eventually adopt the required prestige; and if a horse happened to run well Aussie breeders would sit up and take note, cheque books in hand.
If Sydney didn't fancy it, Melbourne could be just as well placed to take up hosting duties for a world super sprint. Indeed, the VRC Classic, run on the final day of the Melbourne Cup meeting, would be an ideal candidate.
The race is already part of the Global Sprint Challenge and the straight track and decent ground in early November would be attractive to northern hemisphere trainers already geared up to travel for the Melbourne Cup.
Australia is the best country to host a globally accepted world sprint championships. In the past the local authorities have tended to concentrate on longer distance races in an attempt to fit in with the rest of the world, but they have to ask themselves the three main questions.
Prestige, competition and market? Over 1m2f Australia can not compete with Europe and Japan. Over sprint distances, however, the nation has all three in abundance.
It's A Dundeel posted an RPR of 119 on the weekend. After his success there was talk of Royal Ascot, but a peak RPR of 119 leaves him plenty to find in the Queen Anne Stakes or the Prince Of Wales's.
The performance of the week came from Game On Dude (122) who finished second under a big weight in the Charles Town Classic.
The Dude often finds it hard to win when taken on for the lead and he was predictably below his best after having to settle just off the pace for the first half of the race.
Nevertheless he still came out best at the weights after finishing a length and a half behind Imperative (121).
TOP OF THE CLASS: Game On Dude 122 Bob Baffert (US) (Charles Town Classic, Charles Town, 1m1f, 20 April)
|Name (country trained)||Race||Rating|
|1||Just A Way (Jpn)||Dubai Duty Free||130T|
|2||Game On Dude (US)||Santa Anita Handicap||127D|
|3||Lankan Rupee (Aus)||Newmarket Handicap||125T|
|Will Take Charge (US)||Santa Anita Handicap||125D|
|5||California Chrome (US)||Santa Anita Derby||124D|
|6||African Story (UAE)||Dubai World Cup||123A|
|Gold Ship (Jap)||Hanshin Daishoten||123T|
|Military Attack (HK)||Hong Kong Gold Cup||123T|
|Mucho Macho Man (US)||Sunshine Millions Classic||123D|
|Name (country trained)||Race||Rating|
|1||JUst A Way (Jpn)||Dubai Duty Free||130|
|2||Lankan Rupee (Aus)||Newmarket Handicap||125|
|3||Gold Ship (Jpn)||Hanshin Daishoten||123|
|Military Attack (HK)||Hong Kong Gold Cup||123|
|6||Kizuna (Jpn)||Osaka Hai||122|
|7||Wise Dan (US)||Maker's 46 Mile||121|
|8||Akeed Mofeed (HK)||Centenary Vase||120|
|Amber Sky (HK)||Centenary Sprint||120|
|Copano Richard (Jpn)||Hankyu Hai||120|
|Logotype (Jpn)||Nakayama Kinen||120|
|Gold-Fun (HK)||Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup||
RACING VICTORIA REJECTS PREMIER'S PLEA ON ROB WATERHOUSE & WINS PLENTY OF FRIENDS
RACING Victoria will stand by its decision not to allow flamboyant bookmaker Rob Waterhouse to work the rails at Warrnambool's May carnival next week, despite calls from the Premier, Denis Napthine, to re-think the ruling.
LAURA BANKS reports in THE AGE that in an 11th-hour plea, Warrnambool Racing Club and Napthine urged RVL and the Victorian Bookmakers Association to overturn their decision, saying the colourful bookie would attract additional punters through the gates and to the betting ring.
But RVL chief executive Bernard Saundry said while the organisation was open to discussions with WRC and the VBA about upgrading the bookmaking status of the 2015 carnival to that of metropolitan meetings, it would not change the status of this year’s carnival.
''Such a decision requires appropriate consultation with all parties and is not something that we could consider on the eve of this year’s carnival,'' Saundry said.
''Racing Victoria has an agreed policy with the Victorian Bookmakers Association, which affords priority to those bookmakers who have stood at the racecourse in the previous 12 months.''
He said RVL was not prepared to parachute one bookmaker in at the expense of those who have worked at country meetings throughout the season.
''Since being granted his own Victorian licence last November, Mr Waterhouse has stood at three Victorian meetings, all in metropolitan Melbourne,'' Saundry said.
''There are nine other licensed bookmakers that have applied for - and missed out on - a stand at next week’s Warrnambool carnival because demand was greater than the stands available.
''Mr Waterhouse has been treated no differently to them in reaching this decision.''
Waterhouse, the husband of trainer Gai Waterhouse, told Fairfax Media he had applied for other meetings but without success.
He said he and his wife would attend this year’s carnival despite the decision but may not return to Warrnambool again.
''The decision is no fault of the Warrnambool Racing Club, they have bent over backwards to help us. Gai has commitments at Warrnambool for this year’s carnival and she will fulfil them,'' Waterhouse said.
''I’ve just felt it’s very disappointing that I will not be allowed to work on the rails at the carnival because of the ruling from Racing Victoria.
''I would say if the ruling is not changed by next year, this will be the last Warrnambool May carnival that we will be attending. It’s disappointing because we just loved last year’s carnival, it’s the best country carnival in Australia.''
It is believed Waterhouse held more than $80,000 in bets on one day at last year’s carnival. The bets included $30,000 on-course and more than $50,000 in phone bets from across Australia while he worked on his son Tom’s stand.
Napthine said his role as racing minister was to champion the best interests of racing in Victoria and believed ''colourful'' bookmaker Waterhouse was a draw-card.
''I am aware that what we need in racing is to do everything we can to attract people to the track and attract them to the betting ring,'' he said.
''It would be a win-win for all bookmakers rather than [punters] having a bet on their phones or staying home and having a bet with corporate bookmakers that aren’t even at the track.''
Saundry said while RVL welcomed both Waterhouse’s and Napthine’s interest in the Warrnambool carnival it did not believe that Waterhouse’s presence in the main bookmaking ring would have a profound effect on the success of the three-day event.
“So we’re not of the opinion that the club is at a disadvantage with this decision,” he said.
WRC chief executive John Green said he was disheartened with the decision.
''It’s just disappointing, the club tries to act within the objective of Racing Victoria to provide racing facilities of the highest excellence and we believe Mr Waterhouse does that in a bookmaker sense,'' Green said.
Green said he would continue talks with RVL in the hope of having the guidelines changed for the 2015 carnival.
''The carnival attracts in excess of 27,000 people over three days of country racing, which is well over the capacity of most metro meetings,''
He said the Warrnambool carnival was Australia’s premier regional racing carnival and there was a ''good case'' for it to be upgraded to metropolitan status.
JOHN MESSARA HAD A VICTORY ON TWO FRONTS – BUT NOT EVERYONE IS CHEERING
by TERRY BUTTS of the NQ REGISTER
THE chairman of the Australian Racing Board, John Messara had plenty to celebrate over Easter.
Not only did his recent purchase It’s A Dundeel win the multi-million dollar Queen Elizabeth Stakes but the High Court decided in his favour in the costly Thoroughbred Artificial Insemination case.
There were plenty of punters cheering home It’s A Dundeel – but many – the rank and file of racing - were hoping for a different result in the AI case that must have cost Bruce McHugh much more than the outrageously extravagant QE Stakes prizemoney of $4 million.
Seriously, it would have been the same spectacle and attracted the same crowd had it been a $1 million race and the balance could have been better spent on prisemoney in other NSW centres, where trainers are closing up and walking away from the game.
But that’s another story.
MULTI MILIONAIRE BREEDERS WIN OUT IN CONTROVERSIAL AI DECISION
IT was a long and lengthy AI hearing but the judge gave the nod to the multi-millionaire breeders. A list of course that includes Messara, the Arabs and UK bloodstock conglomerates that already have far too much say in the Australian racing industry. An industry that quite frankly has its back to the wall.
Some might say an industry sadly suffering the effects of elitism - a plague our forefathers would never have tolerated.
The High Court decision again clears the way for the 40-odd star stallions to fly in or out of Australia as they did last year, servicing 4,400 mares.
Another 3,700 mares were flown in or out of the country at mammoth cost. But of course only for those few who could afford it.
That unnecessary extravagance wouldn’t happen, according to the reformists like Bruce McHugh, if artificial insemination was allowed.
High profile vet and principal of world renowned Goulburn Valley Equine Centre, Dr Gus McKinnon, is a strong proponent of AI.
“I’m not boo-hooing natural service, but from a purely veterinary point of view, artificial insemination has a lot of advantages. And it's not just injury of people or horses - it's reducing disease transmission’’, he told an ABC reporter last year.
Another interesting point raised by the reporter, Greg Hoy, in the ABC feature on AI last year, is the fact that while it is perfectly permissible for other horse breeds, AI remains banned for thoroughbreds in this country thereby ‘protecting a lucrative industry’.
“After three years' hard racing, Black Caviar won a total of $5 million in prize money, but last year alone her father, the grand stallion Belle Esprit, earned $7 million for services rendered”, he pointed out.
Stallions typically service between 100 and 150 mares a year.
Hoy also said amongst the fierce opponents of AI are highly prestigious and profitable stallion studs across Australia, including four owned by Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, who stands stallions in six nations.
Dr McKinnon said frozen semen is ‘a wonderful tool’.
“If you were to consider the use of frozen semen in artificial insemination, the stallions won't need to be transported between countries - just as it is with harness racing sires and greyhounds.
QUEENSLAND thoroughbred racing fans will finally get the opportunity to mix and mingle with the 'who's who' of race trainers on Friday May 9 when one of Melbourne's iconic racing events comes to town.
The inaugural 2014 Late Mail Luncheon® has invited an incredible line-up of thoroughbred trainers, celebrities and guests for a 4-hour lunch in the Ballroom of Sofitel Brisbane Central to celebrate this years' racing carnival in Queensland.
A maximum of just 400 guests will get up close and personal with champion Group 1 trainers like Rob Heathcote, Tony Gollan or any one of a growing list of trainers joining what is shaping up as the party of the year.
A handful of racing's most popular former winners will also be joining in the celebrations including the legendary Joe Janiak (master trainer of international sprint legend Takeover Target) and Con Karakatsanis (trainer of dual Stradbroke winner Black Piranha).
Greg Eurell (trainer of the baldy faced cult hero and carnival champion Apache Cat) originally planned to attend but with live chances in Adelaide at the same time, is a last minute withdrawal. His seat has already been taken by Sydney's Gerald Ryan who is looking to bring Group 1 winning mare Snitzerland to Brisbane for the 2014 BTC Cup.
Entertainment on the day doesn't get much better than a live performance from Aussie rock star Shannon Noll performing a number of his hits live plus one of Australia's funniest men in stand up comedy Paul Martell.
The Host of the Trainers Panel will be announced shortly but is likely to be one of Brisbane's highest profile racing experts.
For the first time in a decade, Event Director Mark Scaife (not the V8 supercar driver but wishes he was) will take on MC duties and be joined on stage by Co-Host Prue Eales, part-owner of 2009 Melbourne Cup winner 'Shocking.'
Event Director and marketing man Mark Scaife will again play host to around 400 special guests at the 5-star Sofitel Brisbane Central the day before the 2014 BTC Cup. This will be the 10th year Scaife has hosted the event somewhere in Australia and he's keen as mustard to bring the show to Brisbane.
Scaife, who survived a heart attack 3 years ago at age 43 and is more motivated than ever to promote trainers and help attract new participants to thoroughbred racing through his luncheon events, believes racing must promote itself through an entertainment-based marketing strategy.
"The Late Mail Luncheon® and many other events like ours have become successful on the fringe of the industry because we promote thoroughbred racing through entertainment, not just wagering."
Scaife says "We identified last year that the projected flow-on benefits from 'The Championships' in Sydney during the autumn would make this the right time to invest in Queensland and launch our independent racing lunch. It's a small thing but a positive sign that interstate businesses like us are now considering putting their own money into Queensland going forward."
"We should state for the record that our luncheon events celebrate racing carnivals around Australia but we are not an official event or endorsed by anyone other than our sponsor partners and friends" said Scaife.
And it's hard to argue his strategy when you consider the impressive line up already assembled for the event.
Dan Bougoure, Bryan Guy, Matthew Dunn, Liam Birchley, John Thompson, Daniel Meagher, Barry Baldwin, Kelso Wood and Chris Anderson will be amongst the guests on the day.
This extraordinary gathering of trainers will provide guests with analysis, insight and some hot tips for the major races of the carnival which makes this luncheon a must-attend for anyone thinking of having a punt.
But these trainers dubbed the 'rock stars of racing' won't steal the show this year.
Aussie rock heart throb Shannon Noll who has stamped himself as one of Australia's real vocal talents in a career that has already amassed an impressive number of albums and awards, will rock the Ballroom with a live performance of his biggest hits.
Recently moving across to good friend Guy Sebastian's management 6 Degrees, Noll has relocated back to Sydney to concentrate on his new album and fulfilling an ever growing number of live performances across the country.
By sheer popular demand, the event has also secured the side-splitting wit of stand-up comedian Paul Martell. Now a Late Mail Luncheon® regular, Martell has carved out one of the most successful stand up careers in Australia and is rarely out of work.
"But there is a serious side to the business of racing industry luncheon events" says Scaife.
"The real rock stars of the racing industry are the trainers who get up at 3am every day, go to sleep at 8pm every night, work seven days a week and take all the business risks to try and earn a living. We try and provide an event that attracts successful individuals who enjoy good food, good wine and great company which by default ends up helping trainers attract new owners" said Scaife.
"There have been a number of high profile trainers recently who have spoken out about the pressure associated with being a trainer and serious problems like as depression and alcohol abuse. There is no doubt the problem is getting worse. We've known this for a decade. That's why we call our trainers the 'rock stars of racing' and deliver a VIP event we think they deserve. And if nothing else, it gives trainers a chance to invite their beautiful long-suffering wives and partners to a nice lunch" said Scaife.
The lunch is upstaged by its own now infamous Official After Party which will be held in the Cuvee Lounge downstairs at Sofitel Brisbane Central from 3.30pm onwards. Brown-Forman are providing their lead cocktail barman Grant Shearon to mix up some serious cocktails for guests who are invited for the wind-down.
Further announcements of some very special guests attending will be made in the coming days.
For more information, contact Mark Scaife on 0409 473 541
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