Welcome to day four of The Roar‘s Group 1 Australian racing calendar restructure.
On Monday, Justin and I discussed what we believe are the flaws were in the current set-up.
There has been much discussion and debate already, and some fantastic ideas generated. Today, we look at the changes we believe are required to the racing calendar in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, focussing on the Group 1s, but also some other feature races in those jurisdictions.
After the Melbourne spring, concluding with Cup week at Flemington and the Sandown meeting, the racing carnival moves to Perth.
Western Australia has a long history of providing great horses to race in the eastern states, but are their Group 1 races worthy of the status?
Railway Stakes: Group 1
Winterbottom Stakes: Downgrade to Group 2
Almost 130 years old, the Railway is the most prestigious race in Western Australia – a mile handicap that attracts interstate visitors looking for an easier Group 1, but rarely do the home gallopers give it up.
We believe this race should keep its Group 1 status, and in our calendar with the Emirates now being run at weight-for-age, this handicap should attract a deeper field of east coast horses that are still fit and ready to race on.
The Winterbottom was only converted to a Group 1 five years ago, but it has provided some thrilling finishes and the list of winners since the turn of the century does stack up well. But we believe the depth of this race doesn’t stand up to be counted as an elite race.
Kingston Town Classic: Downgrade to Group 2
The Kingston Town is getting downgraded to a Group 2, where it would be a fine weight-for-age race for that status, but not worthy of the top level.
Moriarty, winner of this race in 2014, is a good example here – three to four lengths off being a Group 1 horse in Melbourne and Sydney. Playing God, which won the Kingston Town twice in 2010-11, was competitive enough when he came to Melbourne, but was also four to five lengths off the pace. Should he be known as a dual Group 1 winner? We say no.
Perth Cup: Group 2, change back to 3200m
The staying ranks in Australia are getting stronger again due to the influx of imports, and like many, Justin and I love a 3200-metre city Cup. It’s time to bring these back.
The Queensland and South Australian carnivals currently overlap with the Sydney autumn, kicking off their lower black type races while Sydney is still going strong. It is a challenge to set up a calendar that benefits both of them, and some minor clashes are unavoidable, particularly working backwards from the Stradbroke on Queen’s Birthday weekend, which is a good finishing point.
The Adelaide carnival is particularly fractured, with their two highest profile races held more than two months apart.
The Goodwood: Group 1, revert back to a handicap, as it was for over 110 years
Adelaide Cup: Group 2
Australasian Oaks/South Australian Oaks: Combine races to become 2500m Group 2
The Goodwood is synonymous with Adelaide racing, and will sit in our calendar as the fourth sprint (1200m or less) Group 1 of the second half of the season (along with the Lightning, Newmarket, TJ Smith), to match the four in the first half (Moir, Oakleigh Plate, Manikato, VRC Classic).
We see this race as almost a second tier Newmarket. Handicap horses can race in this off a freshen from the Newmarket or Galaxy, and it is also only three weeks after the TJ Smith.
Horses going to Queensland can also use it as a kick-off point – three weeks to get to Brisbane for the BTC Cup, then two weeks into the Doomben 10,000 and two weeks again into the Stradbroke.
The Goodwood will also be a target for three-year-old colts desperate for a Group 1, which will add another dynamic to the race.
We have the Adelaide Cup two weeks after the Sydney Cup, for any stayers that want to race on for a crack at another quality race. Currently a Group 2 held in early or mid-March, the Adelaide Cup doesn’t attract a field worthy of even that status.
We believe in two Group 1 Oaks – one in the Melbourne spring, one in the Sydney autumn. Holding this version of the Oaks on this day is for similar reasons to the Adelaide Cup; two weeks after the Australian Oaks gives those fillies a chance at another race while still fit and in form.
Hollindale Stakes: Group 2
A complementary race to the Morphettville card on the same day, which is attracting sprinters, stayers and three-year-old fillies, the Hollindale is for the second tier weight-for-age horses. This race can get horses from the Doncaster, Queen Elizabeth or even the new Chipping Norton (1400m WFA) the week before.
SA Derby: Downgrade to Group 2
Queen of the South: Group 2
Similar to the Oaks described above, we believe in two Group 1 Derbies in Australia – one in the Melbourne spring, one in the Sydney autumn.
Robert Sangster Stakes: Downgrade to Group 2
This works for mares that have run in the Goodwood two weeks before. It is also three weeks into the Tattersall’s Tiara in Queensland, which can then lead into the Stradbroke if they are good enough.
Doomben Cup: Group 1
This is the grand final for the weight-for-age horses tackling the Brisbane carnival, two weeks after the Hollindale. This should ensure that a number of very good horses come up after contesting the autumn, given that they only need to have two more runs for another crack at a Group 1.
Remember, in our calendar there are far less Group 1s available to all types of horses, so if they want to claim elite status, they will have to race on. We believe this will ensure great depth in all Group 1s.
BTC Cup: Downgrade to Group 2
Queensland Guineas: Group 2, to be renamed the Cole Diesel Classic
Dane Ripper Stakes: Downgrade to Group 3
Champagne Stakes: Downgrade to Group 3
The first Saturday where Brisbane gets clean air, with four quality races kicking off a five-week carnival where they are the focus of the all feature racing in the country.
The BTC Cup is still the first really good sprint of the Brisbane carnival, but it has now been downgraded. The Dane Ripper has been brought forward two weeks, to still be a fortnight before the newly scheduled Tattersall’s Tiara. The Champagne Stakes is the first leg of the Brisbane two-year-old Triple Crown.
The Queensland Guineas, which we’ve renamed the Cole Diesel Classic, formerly on Stradbroke Handicap day, has been brought forward to keep in line with the Melbourne spring and Sydney autumn, where the three-year-old mile race precedes the longer races for that age group. We anticipate this race being for both colts and fillies.
Justin and I would rename all races that currently carry the Guineas moniker, with the exception of the Caulfield Guineas, Thousand Guineas and Australian Guineas. Firstly, this would make the Guineas name sacred in this country.
Secondly, it would open up a huge amount of races that can be renamed to honour horses, trainers, jockeys, administrators, callers, journalists, or whoever the raceclubs like.
Do we really need a Port Adelaide Guineas? Why can’t it be named after ‘Gentleman’ Jim Courtney, a champion jockey in South Australia through the 1970s and ’80s, who rode three winners of the race for Colin Hayes.
We’ve chosen Cole Diesel here, the best Queenslander to win the race in the last 30 years, who went on to take out the Toorak Handicap and Caulfield Cup that same year.
Since we are downgrading most of the Brisbane Group 1s to Group 2, it follows on that the races preceding these get downgraded from Group 2 to Group 3.
O’Shea Stakes: Group 2
Doomben Roses: Group 3
The O’Shea Stakes is a post-script to the Doomben Cup for weight-for-age horses in Queensland, similar to the Mackinnon Stakes (which we downgraded to a Group 2) after the Cox Plate while also serving as a preliminary final for the stayers before the Brisbane Cup. The Doomben Roses fulfils this role for the staying fillies before the Oaks.
Doomben 10,000: Downgrade to Group 2
Tattersall’s Tiara: Downgrade to Group 2, move from two weeks after the Stradbroke to two weeks before
Sires Produce: Downgrade to Group 3
Grand Prix: Downgrade to Group 3
The Doomben 10,000 is the last weight-for-age race for the sprinter-miler types, while also serving as the preliminary final for the Stradbroke. The Tattersall’s Tiara now serves a similar purpose for the mares.
The Sires Produce and Grand Prix are also the preliminary finals for their respective target races.
Brisbane Cup: Group 2, change back to 3200m
Queensland Oaks: Downgrade to Group 2
The Brisbane Cup is the grand final for the stayers of the Brisbane Carnival. We’ve converted this Cup back to 3200m as well, and made it the feature of the day. Racing will feel more whole again with 3200m Cups in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
The Oaks is the grand final for the staying fillies, which also have the option of backing up in the Derby next week if they want one more bite of the cherry.
Stradbroke Handicap: Group 1
Queensland Derby: Downgrade to Group 2
JJ Atkins: Downgrade to Group 2
The Straddy, Queensland’s premier race, maintains its status but is now the final Group 1 of the year, enriching its importance further still. It will be even more of a target now, with less Group 1s for the sprinter-milers across the entire racing season.
The Queensland Derby and the JJ Atkins fulfil their roles respectively as grand finals for staying colts and geldings, as well as the two-year-olds.
The above calendar celebrates and appropriately respects the rich history of racing in each state, with the preservation of Group 1 handicaps like the Stradbroke, Goodwood and Railway. Each race is the first one people think of when you ask them about the best Group 1 in these states.
Queensland, as the third most important racing jurisdiction, is allowed a second Group 1 race, giving weight-for-age middle-distance horses a target in the winter if they suffered a delayed start to their autumn, or for the fit horses from Sydney that want to keep going.
We have increased the relevance of the Adelaide Cup and brought the Brisbane and Perth Cups back to its historic two miles. These races are cousins of Australia’s greatest race, the Melbourne Cup, and it would be nice to see them rise again. Tradition is important.
Join us again tomorrow, where we recap the week, and Justin takes aim at other problems that racing currently faces.