Canterbury’s $3m training track surprises everyone, especially the locals

Tristan Rayner Editor

By , Tristan Rayner is a Roar Editor

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    Canterbury Racecourse. (Image: J Bar/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

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    Canterbury gets a $3 million synthetic track no one asked for, Caravaggio was beaten, and one or two at Newcastle catch the eye.

    First to Canterbury where the Australian Turf Club announced a fast-tracking of a Polytrack training surface, a 1300m stretch designed to mirror European conditions and training tracks.

    It all came a little bit out of the blue, and the $3 million is easily the most spent by the ATC in decades at Canterbury.

    The thing is, no one trains at Canterbury currently. While some comments were made that the surface could be used once or twice a month for better horses from local trainers, there’s really no hiding that the investment is to attract internationals, where Canterbury is to be used for quarantine.

    It’s a $2307 per metre incentive for internationals, and appears fast-tracked to at least sweeten the deal for Irish sprinter Caravaggio for the Everest race.

    The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt Caravaggio was unbeaten until the weekend, where he finished a fairly meek fourth in the Group 1 July Cup. Godolphin’s Harry Angel turned the tables to win that race, holding off Caravaggio who came from the back on the tough Newmarket course to be around two lengths off the winner.

    The tagline of unbeaten certainly had a nice ring to it and a win was supposed to book him a ticket to Australia, but it’s still on the cards according to Coolmore.

    All of this comes in the same week club chairman Laurie Macri confirmed to Fairfax that the ATC was willing to rezone the racecourse, with at least half an eye looking selling it off completely.

    Macri justified both the new surface and the re-zoning through the following comments:

    “The plan is to make the most of our racing asset and the club remains committed to racing at Canterbury, but also we have a chance to future-proof our investment by rezoning,” Mr Macri said.

    “We are a race club, but Canterbury is an asset, which we want to make the most of.”

    Spending $3m on a Polytrack for some international horses while also considering how much money could be made from putting up 18-storey apartments on that same track seems to be slightly at odds. Hopefully I’ve misunderstood exactly what’s happening.

    The problem is the ATC haven’t been on the front foot with this announcement. Four-time Golden Slipper-winning trainer, Clarry Conners, who is based at Warwick Farm, gave the ATC a blast for how neglected Warwick Farm continues to be in the meantime, with the line “it’s going to be used for five weeks by two horses.”

    The push for internationals continues by the ATC and the reasoning you have to come up with by yourself. Few would doubt that having the best in the world come down under would be a good thing, but when investments are made in that area in front of the locals, you’d expect the decisions to come under scrutiny.

    If the ATC want to become the international racing capital of the world, they need to express that as their plan and get all stakeholders on board.

    Newcastle race might hold a key for the spring
    A winter maiden is a funny race to find a horse to follow – but a race at Newcastle caught the eye on Saturday.

    A two-year old Maiden Handicap (1200m) saw a big go on Peter and Paul Snowden’s first-starter, Smartedge. The son of Smart Missle caught the eye in trials back in March before being put away again.

    After jumping fairly, Smartedge overraced badly mid-race before settling and looking the winner coming down the outside with 250m to go, but Chris Waller’s D’Argento came very late to grab the race on the line.

    D’Argento, a first starter for sire So You Think, also powered through a check in the first part of the race, not seen by the racecaller.

    These races don’t always mean much but both horses have pedigree and will look to contest decent three-year-old races in the spring to come.

    Catch the full replay of that race here.

    Tristan Rayner
    Tristan Rayner

    Tristan is a writer, consultant, racing enthusiast and former Editor of The Roar who has turned the Melbourne Cup into a year-round study via racingtalk.com.au.