There are now 72 Group 1 races on the Australian calendar, which has devalued the achievement of being a ‘Group 1 winner’.
The are more Group 1s in Australia than any other racing jurisdiction in the world with the exception of the United States, where they are classified as Grade 1 races and their system is different to elsehwere.
Because of our Group 1 race saturation, too many horses that are not up to the highest standard are walking away with racing’s top prizes. It also lessens the standard of an Australian Group 1 winner compared to that of an English or Hong Kong horse.
Here are five races which should be considered for downgrading.
The race has only been run as a Group 1 once, but it is one times too many. Positioned near the start of the spring carnival, it is run over 1200m under weight-for-age conditions at Moonee Valley.
But it is the third 1200m weight-for-age race at the Valley on the calendar and is identical to the Manikato Stakes a month later.
The Moir is a good race which was won by a decent horse in Samaready last year, but having three Group 1 weight-for-age races at the Valley is pointless. This race should get the axe before the William Reid – another low quality Group 1 – simply because the William Reid is run in autumn.
ATC Sires Produce Stakes
Asking a two-year-old to back up after the Golden Slipper is nasty. There is a seven-day break between the Golden Slipper and the ATC Sires Produce Stakes. Limited to two-year-olds and run at set weights over 1400m, this race was incorporated into The Championships and worth $1 million this year.
But connections with a long-term view of their horses cannot ask their juveniles to back up from the Slipper, often on gruelling wet ground.
The race is a leg of the triple crown but the triple crown should be Blue Diamond-Golden Slipper-Champagne Stakes. Give the two-year-olds a break after the Slipper and boost the Champagne purse.
Vinery Stud Stakes
It’s too easy for fillies to rack up Group 1s in this country. Also known as the Storm Queen Stakes, the Vinery Stud is the lead-up race to the Australian Oaks. Run over 2000m, it would probably attract the exact same field if it were a Group 2 race.
Fillies who want to prove themselves should be taking on the boys in the Rosehill Guineas over 2000m. They get weight relief to make up for the gender gap, so it’s a near-level playing field.
Keep in mind that fillies still have Group 1s available after the Australian Oaks if they head to Adelaide for the Australasian Oaks or Queensland for the Queensland Oaks.
The Vinery Stud doesn’t need Group 1 status.
Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes
Handicap racing is all good and well, but the field for the Rupert Clarke Stakes is only ever ordinary. Run at Caulfield over 1400m, many handicappers will begin their preparation in the race. They will most likely push on to the Toorak Handicap and the Emirates Stakes.
The Rupert Clarke is a very ordinary race and others on the support card tend to create much more intrigue.
The race is normally run the day after the AFL grand final so that the Melbourne Racing Club does not need to compete with the AFL, but few would notice if the race was downgraded.
It’s the last Group 1 race of the Australian season and it’s probably the worst. Run at the end of the Brisbane carnival, fillies and mares must endure a long winter to enter in this race.
Run at Eagle Farm over 1400m under weight-for-age conditions, it’s embarrassing that a few of the winners can claim Group 1s.
The race was upgraded to Group 1 status in 2007. Some winners include Nova Star, Absolut Glam, Russeting and Pear Tart. That quartet can proudly claim four Group 1s between them – all the Tattersall’s Tiara.