Bob Hawke was nonplussed. He’d just gotten off a typically eloquent speech in front of a claque of media, and no-one had a question for him.
The nine winners on Day 1 of The Championships were all trained by different trainers, with plenty of bargain buys landing big money.
One of the greatest elements of Australian sport is that everyone is given a go. At the professional level in other sports, salary caps are in place to ensure competition equality. In horse racing these measures do not exist, so fortune tends to favour the wealthy.
But on the opening day of The Championships, that myth was completely busted.
Sydney has long been dominated by several names, whose strength in numbers gives few chances to smaller stables. Chris Waller and Gai Waterhouse are frequently seen in the winner’s enclosure, while Peter Snowdon’s stable of more than 300 horses ensures there is rarely a meeting he does not feature in.
It’s why they sit a clear first, second and third on the Sydney trainers’ premiership, with Waller booting home 109 city winners, Waterhouse training 66.5 and Snowdon with 57. There is then a distant gap to Team Hawkes on 36 and John O’Shea on 28.
Due to their dominance and stature, these three Sydneysiders are sent the best bloodstock in the land. But the richest day of racing in Australia for 2014 was a day of equality.
Bart and James Cummings, John O’ Shea, Robert Smerdon, Gai Waterhouse, Gerald Ryan, David Payne, Mick Price, Chris Waller and David Vandyke all trained a winner on Saturday.
We saw a total of $9.6 million offered in prize money across nine races, and that it doesn’t take a Sheik, Prince or multinational CEO to land the big prize money offered.
It was ironic that The Championships were preceded by the Inglis Easter Yearling sale. The sales saw an average sale price of $252,873, with seven yearlings breaking the $1 million mark, but Saturday’s big cheques were taken home by comparative bargain buys.
Peggy Jean was the poster child for ‘the battlers’ after winning the Group 1 ATC Sires Produce Stakes. With her $600,000 winner’s cheque, it brought her career earnings to $894,525. Not a bad purchase by Triple Crown Syndications, who picked her up for just $46,000. And have we mentioned that she’s a two-year-old?
The richest race of the day was the $3 million Group 1 Doncaster Mile, which offered $1.8 million to the winner.
Making it back-to-back Doncaster Miles, Sacred Falls brought his career winnings to $3,627,737 – impressive considering he was purchased for $160,000.
Of course, no discussion about money-spinners is complete without mentioning Buffering, once again gallant in defeat when third in the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes.
Buffering was purchased at the 2009 Magic Millions QTIS Sales for an astonishing $22,000. Taking home a cheque for $250,000 on Saturday, Buffering’s career earnings now sit at $4,383,400.
You don’t need to be a billionaire or be trained by the best to win the big riches at The Championships. You just need to have a go.