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NEWLOOK SUMMER CARNIVAL IN LEAD-UP TO MAGIC MILLIONS

RACING Queensland has formulated a new look Thoroughbred Summer Carnival for 2016/17 building on the success of the Magic Millions raceday.

While the carnival will still largely be built around the success and profile of Australia’s richest raceday, the $10 million Magic Millions on Saturday 14 January 2017, Racing Queensland has created four major lead-up racedays at Doomben on 3 December and 17 December, Eagle Farm on New Year’s Eve, and the Gold Coast on 7 January.

Chairman Steve Wilson said six of the eight races at the 31 December meeting would be Black Type Races (the carnival features 16 Black Type races in total).

Mr Wilson said in total, $13 million would be offered in stakes over the entire carnival (an increase of $380,000) which formally started on 19 November 2016 at Eagle Farm and concluded on 28 January 2017 at the Sunshine Coast Turf Club meeting.

“We believe there will continue to be significant interest in the carnival from owners, trainers and punters at a time of year when there are few other Black Type Races on offer around Australia in other racing jurisdictions,” he said.

“The new Board has a lot of energy and is committed to delivering outstanding outcomes for the State of Queensland and the carnival changes we have announced today is just the start.

“The Queensland Summer Racing Carnival is just one exciting new initiative that forms part of the Board’s bold new vision for the racing industry in this state.”

Magic Millions proprietor Gerry Harvey said he was excited to be part of Racing Queensland’s long-term vision for the Queensland Summer Carnival.

“Racing Queensland’s commitment to grow the summer period of racing is clearly evidenced by these program enhancements and increases to prize money for Black Type Races which will benefit Australian thoroughbred industry participants as a whole,” he said.

Magic Millions Managing Director Vin Cox said he was looking forward to the increased participation and depth the new Summer Carnival program would entice.

“The changes to programming provide a pathway for not only 2yos and 3yos, but sprinters, milers, stayers and fillies and mares,” he said.

“There are now opportunities across the board to race in Queensland over summer, earn Black Type and compete on a $10 million race day.”

Other highlights of the new look Queensland Summer Racing Carnival include:

·         $250,000 Bernborough Handicap over 1600m at Eagle Farm on New Year’s Eve.  The elevation of this race’s prizemoney by $100,000 provides the perfect platform for horses out of the G2 Villiers in Sydney to target the Bernborough.  A purse of this size is extraordinary for a race with Listed status.

·         The introduction of four Country Cup Qualifiers leading into the Magic Millions Country Cup on 14 January.  Each qualifier will be run for a purse of $30,000 with a $20,000 bonus if the winner is Magic Millions registered.  The qualifiers will be run at Townsville on 17 December, Sunshine Coast on 18 December, Warwick on 26 December and Rockhampton on 31 December.

·         Movement of the final day of the high profile Jockey Origin Series from Brisbane Racing Club to Gold Coast Turf Club on 7 January to showcase the best riders from Australasia a week out from the Magic Millions Raceday.  It will be the main Metropolitan Queensland race meeting on the day.

 

RED CARPET FOR PETER FOSTER WHILE PHIL PURSER GETS EJECTED

MERV MITCHELL, a long-time fan of the JUSTRACING website and its publisher PHIL PURSERraises an interesting comparison:

‘AS inquiries into the ownership of star mare Azkadellia become murkier and murkier the question being asked by many followers of racing in Queensland not surprisingly remains unanswered.

How did international conman Peter Foster, at the centre of the allegations scam, manage to secure an entry pass to the owners’ enclosure at Eagle Farm on Stradbroke Day when Azkadellia was favorite for the rich Group 1?

Foster is an extremely well known identity and The Sunday Mail reported his attendance on Stradbroke Day and linked him to Azkadellia. He was also photographed in the birdcage leading up to the big race.

Yet it has been Racing Victoria and not Racing Queensland stewards who seem to have been proactive in investigating the Azkadellia ownership which perhaps will be attributed to the fact that she is trained in Victoria by Ciaron Maher.

Sadly, officials of the Brisbane Racing Club were more proactive on Stradbroke Day in their determination to have Phil Purser, the owner of the justracing website removed from the enclosure. It doesn’t pay to be an objective critic of the major club – or so it seems.

Whilst one could argue some from the BRC must have been made aware that Foster was there – unless some of them were living under a rock – one particular official was reportedly hellbent on having Purser turfed.

The hard-hitting writer, who subsequently retired after pioneering racing websites in this country, had the proper media accreditation to be there. What happened to him that day was a disgrace.

It is even more shameful considering he never got the apology he deserved and in the light of the fact that the red carpet was being rolled out to this international conman like every other owner of a horse that raced in the Stradbroke.

Integrity in racing certainly weaves a strange path in Queensland. Little wonder there is no confidence in the product on or off the track. Hopefully things will change with this new control body broom being put through the joint.’  


REPORTS FROM THE RQ BUNKER SUGGEST THAT DECLAN HAS RESIGNED

THE racing rumour mill is in overdrive today with reports that another ‘tall timber’ has - or is - about to depart the Deagon bunker.

Those close to the action have confirmed that Racing Queensland Head of Operations Declan Martschinke is no longer with the control body.

Martschinke had what could be described as, an at times, volatile career with RQ during which some would argue that he polarized sections of the industry and managed to get offside with several stakeholders.

His departure is rumoured to have followed a meeting with new CEO Dr Elliot Forbes who has required his high flying administrators to provide feedback on the new structure planned to haul RQ out of the quicksand.

Rumours suggest that others could follow the Martshinke departure.  

 

ABORIGINAL SACRED BEACH LAND ROADBLOCK TO WEIR CUP CAMPAIGN

THE Melbourne Cup campaigns of Prince Of Penzance and Signoff have been dealt a blow with their access now denied to a beach that has been vital to their training.

MATT STEWART reports for the HERALD SUNthat hundreds of Warrnambool-trained racehorses, including champion trainer Darren Weir’s 100-plus team, were evicted from Levys Beach via a council notice on Tuesday.

The council cited concerns from Aboriginal Victoria regarding culturally important sites but trainers and the local race club claim the eviction came without notice.

The towering sand dunes of Levys Beach have attracted increasing numbers of racehorses since Prince Of Penzance’s shock Melbourne Cup win last November.

Warrnambool mayor Kylie Gaston said horse traffic at Levys Beach — and beaches nearby — had increased “300 per cent’’ since Prince Of Penzance’s victory.

Prince Of Penzance, like star stablemates Signoff, Tosen Stardom, Palentino and Lucky Hussler, is based almost permanently at Warrnambool where workouts up the testing dunes are regarded by Weir as keys to their superior stamina and fitness.

Signoff is the $17 third favourite for the Melbourne Cup on November 1, with Prince Of Penzance at $21. They are two of only three Australian-trained horses among the favourites for the $6 million race.

Almost 30 trainers are also affected by the ban in a town with a racehorse population of over 450.

Weir was loathe to comment but is believed to be furious about the ban, just weeks out from the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

“I’ll just have to train them differently,’’ he said.

Local trainer Paddy Ryan said the edge Warrnambool trainers once had was now “redundant’’ and Weir’s Warrnambool foreman Jarrod McLean said the beach block would affect the Cups campaigns of Tosen Stardom, Prince Of Penzance and Signoff.

“We’ll have to come up with an alternative strategy but those sand dunes are vital to those horses — that’s where they get their edge,’’ McLean said.

“I had Prince Of Penzance down there in those vital days before last year’s Melbourne Cup and had hoped it would be part of his campaign again.

“Signoff is a gross horse who needs those dunes to get fit. It will really affect him.’’

Sandy McGregor, who part-owns both Prince of Penzance and Signoff, said the loss of the dunes, and threats to access to other Warrnambool beaches, would thwart our ability to fend off international Cups challenges.

“It’s a major step backwards,’’ he said.

The trainers fear minority groups with sensitive agendas could threaten the long-term future of beach training for horses in and around Warrnambool.

Nearby Killarney Beach, used by Weir and others, has attracted the interest of conservation groups because of threats to the hooded plover population and Lady Bay, close to the city, has reached a tipping point between horse and human beach goers.

Warrnambool Racing Club chief executive Peter Downs said the club and trainers would seek clarification from the council in the next week regarding the specific location of Aboriginal sites at Levys Beach.

“We are hoping that will lead to a way out of this,’’ he said. “The beach is 30km long. I’m sure we can work through it.’’

Mayor Gaston said racehorses would not be evicted from Warrnambool’s beaches, adding the council was working with the trainers and Racing Victoria.

“The horse population has increased dramatically since Prince Of Penzance won the Cup and we have to work out a way where we look after all the beach users, not just the horses,’’ she said.

She said infrastructure plans were underway for racehorses to use the beach between Levys Beach and Port Fairy.

 

ORDER OF ST GEORGE & PROTECTIONIST HEAD CUP WEIGHTS

ORDER OF ST GEORGE, part-owned by Lloyd Williams, and the 2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist head the weights for this year's Melbourne Cup, both having been set to carry 58 kilograms by Racing Victoria handicapper Greg Carpenter in this year's Cup.

MICHAEL LYNCH reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Carpenter on Tuesday unveiled the weight allocations for all 123 of the "world championship for stayers" candidates, with European or former European-trained gallopers dominating the order of entry.

Last year's history-making winner, Prince Of Penzance, has been raised 3.5 kilograms from the weight he carried last year (53 kg) when Michelle Payne rode into history to become the first female jockey to win the Cup, aboard the Darren Weir-trained galloper.

The Prince will have to shoulder 56.5 kg if he is to become the first horse since the legendary Makybe Diva to go back to back in Australia's greatest race.

Whether he does so with Payne on his back remains to be seen: the jockey returned to race riding on Sunday at Sale after a long injury-enforced absence and has made it clear she would love to be back on board for the big race, but no decision has been made by the gelding's owners. It is understood there is only a slim chance Payne would get the ride.

Prince Of Penzance shares the same weight allocation as Chris Waller's Preferment, the Victoria Derby winner of 2014 and the Australian Cup winner earlier this year. Waller is a phenomenon in Sydney, but so far the Kiwi mentor has yet to saddle up a Cup winner, although Preferment has the sort of credentials to be in the firing lne.

Order Of St George's participation in the Melbourne Cup has been the subject of much debate, with Williams suggesting he would not be travelling if it was felt he received too much weight.

The colt was a shock loser in the Irish St Leger on Sunday night, starting as a long odds on favourite but failing to run down the former hurdler Wicklow Brave, from the Willie Mullins stable.

The latter has long been earmarked as a Cup candidate by Mullins, who came close to winning the race last year with Max Dynamite, and Carpenter has slotted the Irish stayer in on the 55 kg mark.

Williams, who has won four Melbourne Cups and leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit of success in Australia's greatest race, also has some other lively candidates in the shape of The United States, an ex-Aidan O'Brien-trained stayer, and Bondi Beach, who is still in the care of the Coolmore maestro.

The United States, a Group 1 winner in Sydney during The Championships, was unplaced in last year's Cup but looks to have improved considerably. He has been asked to shoulder 55.5 kg while Bondi Beach, who was also down the track (as a northern hemisphere three-year-old in last year's event) has half a kilogram less.

American entry Da Big Hoss is no confirmed runner, but if he does front up at Flemington the US's best stayer will have to carry 55 kg as will the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Exosphere and Godolphin's highest weighted entry Hartnell. The latter won over 3200 metres as a three-year-old in England, but has been campaigned with great success over shorter distances since moving to John O'Shea's Sydney stable.

French-trained Erupt and impressive UK stayer Big Orange (fifth last year) have been allotted 56 kg.

Waller also can try to win his first Cup with Who Shot Thebarman, the former New Zealand stayer whom he sent out to finish third behind German raider Protectionist in 2014. He has 55 kg.

Protectionist won in slashing style under Ryan Moore two years ago but went off the boil when transferred to Kris Lees' stable in NSW. Now back with the German trainer who saddled him to win the Cup (Andreas Wohler) he has bounced back to form in Europe where he has mainly been contesting longer races again.

Last season's two Derby winners Tarzino (Victoria) and Tavago (Australian Derby in NSW) have both been allocated 54 kg as they bid to achieve something few former Derby winners have done in recent years – win the Cup as four-year-olds. Williams' Efficient was the last Victoria Derby winner to do so when he took out the 2007 Cup.

Weir will fancy his chances of landing a second Cup in succession, if not with Prince Of Penzance then Signoff, who looks well weighted with 53.5 kg or the good staying mare Real Love (who has 51.5 kg).

The gelding ran a good fourth behind Protectionist two years ago with a light weight but has since been sparingly raced because of injury. He looks to have returned to action in good shape and will be strongly fancied by many to improve on his effort from 2014.

Real Love is a good stayer – she won a Perth Cup earlier in her career – and resumed in great style with a second in the group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley early in September to show she is progressing the right way.

The Japanese have some interesting candidates in the shape of the nine-year-old Curren Mirotic, who has not won a race since 2013, and Tosen Stardom, another entry from the Weir stable.

Curren Mirotic would have to defy history to win at his age, but he has shown terrific form in defeat over marathon trips in his native country, hence his allocation of 56.5 kg.

Tosen Stardom made a tremendous debut for Weir in the Dato at the Valley, finding no luck in running before finishing fourth behind Awesome Rock. He travels to Sydney this weekend to take on Winx: should he manage to get close to her, never mind beat her, then his weight of 53.5 would look compelling.

Aidan O'Brien's best Cup effort was with a northern hemisphere three-year-old in Mahler, who ran third with a light weight in 2007 behind Efficient.

This year he has entered another couple of three-year-olds to northern hemisphere time in Idaho and Housesofparliament. The former is a high-class colt who finished third and second behind Harzand in the English and Irish derbies this year before falling on the flat on Saturday when he went round as an odds-on favourite in the English St Leger.

He has 53 kg in the Cup, while Housesofparliament, who ran a close third in the English Leger behind Harbour Law, has only 50kg.

Carpenter spelled out the size of the task confronting the top weights.

"There have been 23 original top weights contest the Melbourne Cup since Comic Court's win in 1950 and none have placed, so Order Of St George and Protectionist would rightfully earn their place among the Cup's true greats if they were to be successful.

"The handicap presents a challenge to both Order Of St George and Protectionist, however they have earned their position at the head of the weights based on their performances over the past 12 months.

"Order Of St George was a dominant winner of last year's Irish St Leger by 11 lengths, and also won the Ascot Gold Cup at Royal Ascot earlier this year with ease. He is at the head of the weights despite being beaten in a shock result in this year's Irish St Leger at The Curragh on Sunday.

"There has not been a more impressive winner of the Melbourne Cup in recent years than Protectionist when he took out the 2014 edition. He has returned to that form in winning his last three starts on-end for Andreas Wohler including the Grosser Preis von Berlin."

Carpenter also put in a strong word for O'Brien's three-year-old Idaho.

"Idaho has been incredibly impressive this season in winning the Great Voltiguer and finishing in the placings in both the Irish and English Derbies," Carpenter said.

"The 53kg I have allocated him as a northern hemisphere three-year-old is the same as 57kg for an older horse, with both being 2.5kg below the weight-for-age benchmark."

 

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