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.
Australian horses spectacularly underperformed across The Championships. Very few New Zealand were sent over, yet those that did gave Australia an utter shellacking across the carnival, claiming big victories.
Kiwis claimed the two richest races of The Championships. It’s A Dundeel took out the $4million Queen Elizabeth Stakes, while Sacred Falls won the $3million Doncaster Mile. Their three horses in the Queen Elizabeth even managed to run first, second and fourth in the field of 12, of which just five were Aussie-bred horses. Of the local contingent, Royal Descent ran fifth, Toydini sixth, Dear Demi eighth, Hawkspur tenth and Boban eleventh.
Adding salt to the Australian wounds, the Kiwis also raided the $1million Australian Oaks with Rising Romance, while another of theirs, Lucia Valentina, ran third.
If we widen our scope beyond The Championships weekends, they also claimed Group 1s with Silent Achiever in the Ranvet Stakes and BMW, as well as the Storm Queen Stakes with Lucia Valentina.
The issue of Australian staying stocks has been written to death, but the Queen Elizabeth Stakes is no staying test, yet the locals simply weren’t up to weight-for-age standard – a stern blow to local breeders. In their search for speed, they have literally lost all elements of stamina, with milers now also a dying breed.
We have come to accept that local horse cannot run 3200m, but 2000m? Please!
It’s A Dundeel was magnificent in victory but the horse that ran second, Sacred Falls, was a handicapper taking a big step up in class and coming off a seven-day break. The third horse over the line was a dour, one-paced miler who held on only through daring riding tactics.
Middle distance racing, 1600m – 2400m, should be the pinnacle of our sport. It is why most of the richest races in world fall in this range. These are the distances which should be congested with outstanding horses fighting desperately for a start in the rich races.
But not in Australia, no, no, no.
The field of just 12 acceptors in the Queen Elizabeth was embarrassing for a race that could have 14 entrants worth a whopping $4million.
Under weight-for-age conditions and a very manageable distance, three-year-olds entered in the race would always be fancied. It’s why they always run so well in the Cox Plate. Yet with no three-year-old game enough to take on the older horses, it is a poor reflection of the crop coming through and ultimately our weight-for-age stocks.