Sydney spring racing sees more money, rejigging, and a St Leger revival

Tristan Rayner Editor

By Tristan Rayner, Tristan Rayner is a Roar Editor


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    Change is on the way. (Source: Wiki Commons)

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    Racing in spring is set for a shake-up, with Racing NSW and the ATC throwing down some intriguing changes, more prize money, and reviving the oldest classic race in Australia.

    The rejigged spring carnival will feature an extra $1.73 million in prize money, and will run for a month of Group 1 racing to the big one on October 14th, Everest day.

    Why? The old narrative was Sydney had the autumn, Melbourne the spring. Sydney’s spring was never poor, but without the big three of the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate, and Caulfield Cup, it couldn’t compete. Something had to be done. The Everest was a big step one. This is a smaller but important step two.

    While the headlines read familiar from Racing NSW – more prize money, more bolstering of Sydney racing – the talk coming from Racing NSW and the ATC appear to have changed for the better.

    In comments afterwards to Fairfax, instead of the us versus them approach, ATC Chief Darren Pearce said part of the shake-up was to improve the flow of racing into the big races in Melbourne’s spring carnival, rather than trying to steer horses away from Victoria.

    Hold onto your hats! Here’s the quote:

    “We have tried to give our spring a better flow into the grand finals in Melbourne, while we have our own grand finals,” ATC chief executive Darren Pearce told Fairfax.

    “We wanted to give the best of both worlds for all horses and look at what is the best way forward for racing.”

    These comments, assuming they’re taken on face value, are a little bit exciting as it’s the first time in too long that either Racing NSW or Racing Victoria or the CEOs of the various race clubs have said something about supporting each other.

    The changes to NSW spring racing
    Part of the 18 in total race changes is building around what’s being called Everest day, giving the supporting races around the $10m invitation race the Everest, on October 14th, 2017.

    Click here to read all about that race.

    Of 18 race changes, not including new races, four races shift a week or later in the year. 14 others shift a week or later into the year, pushing Sydney’s spring deeper into Melbourne’s spring.

    Six races are shifted to October 14th to join The Everest. The Group 3 Craven Plate (2000m) is one of those, seemingly aimed at attracting Winx with prizemoney rising to $500,000. Also joining the day is the Listed City Tatts Lightning (1200m), which will now be a weight-for-age consolation for sprinters that miss out on an Everest slot, also worth $500,000.

    Click here to examine all the details of each change.

    The rejigging also creates some momentum towards pushing big spring racing towards later in the year. It makes sense – warmer weather is great for crowds, and that’s true in both Sydney and Melbourne, where the Cup Carnival crowd can often decide based on temperature if it’s worth donning something suitable for a rainy day.

    There’s also pushback from traditionalists, those that don’t want the whole show to go on forever, and the catch-cry of ‘the first Tuesday in November’ no longer holding true for a certain big race would no doubt confuse many.

    The St Leger is back!
    Of the changes, one of the most eye-catching is the restoration of the (AJC) St Leger, now known as the ATC St Leger, the first classic run in Australia in 1841.

    The old St Leger has been killed off twice. Once in 1959, before a restoration in 1980. It was originally a staying race for three-year-olds and was later opened up to four-year-olds to boost fields. The last renewal was in the 2001 autumn.

    More than 16 years later, it’s back, even if it’s a different race to the old name. 2800m becomes 2600m, and it’s now a very healthy $500,000 set weights and penalties (SWP) race on October 14th.

    The Roar has called for more staying races and it’s fantastic to see a race with such a famous name at a testing staying distance be brought into a busy carnival.

    This race alone will trigger some chatter as to the how this ‘supports’ Victoria’s grand finals, with the race just a week before the Caulfield Cup.

    As a SWP race, winners may not be eligible for a penalty into the Melbourne Cup. Horses out of the Turnbull Stakes, a SWP race, are not handicapped, and neither are WFA races.

    That’s all fine for the top-end of the Melbourne Cup entries list, but for those scrapping to get into the final field of 24, and need a weight penalty to rise up the ranks, this race may not help.

    There’s also the issue of internationals not being out of quarantine in time for this race, which places pressure on the quality of field that might turn up.

    In any case, it’s good news for stayers.

    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

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • July 7th 2017 @ 9:46am
      James Mathers said | July 7th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

      Thanks Tristan, another great article.

      I agree with your comment in relation to the changes not being NSW v Victoria. My compliments to Pearce. I further agree that it’s great to see the St Leger be refreshed and regain some of its former status. Tradition is more important in racing than a lot of people think. To some it is more important than spiraling increases in prize money .

      I’m looking forward to great racing in Spring in both Sydney and Melbourne.

      • July 7th 2017 @ 11:20am
        Scuba said | July 7th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

        Yes, sticking a $10 million race on Caulfield Guineas day is definitely not NSW v Victoria.

        • July 7th 2017 @ 12:05pm
          James Mathers said | July 7th 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

          Again that’s a very fair statement. I truly believe The Everest initiative came from RNSW as opposed to the ATC. I suspect some at RNSW are determined to ridicule Victorian racing where possible. Having said that is it fair to say that there has been some creepage from Victoria into Sydney’s Easter Carnival.

          I think there is a lot riding on The Everest as far as NSW egos go. Sadly there is an obscene focus on prize money in New South Wales, prize money which in the long term may be unsustainable particularly having regard to the money that is desperately or urgently required to be spent on infrastructure in New South Wales.

          While on prize money I feel that a clever board at RNSW should be focusing on reducing costs to owners in areas such as stable rents, track fees and barrier trials. Some of the funds that come to the industry should be allocated to reducing costs as opposed to inflating prize money.

          • July 8th 2017 @ 4:55pm
            no one in particular said | July 8th 2017 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

            The Everest came from the ATC. Even the Board of RNSW were caught off guard by it (except V’Landys)

            The funding for NSW has been due to TAB funds now being equal to Vic percentage wise. And a lot of the Everest funding comes from nominations.

            On-course training fees were cut 10% in 2015 by RNSW. They don’t want to cut barrier trial fees as they want horses running, not trialling.

            • July 9th 2017 @ 8:48am
              James Mathers said | July 9th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

              I frankly don’t know who dreamt up The Everest concept. I thought it was announced by RNSW and they have been the major promoter.
              Two slots at $3.4m have been funded by the ATC and RNSW. That’s industry funding .
              I don’t believe RNSW have any control over capping training fees. I have no recollection of the 2015 determination.
              Owners want to se their horses race, not run in barrier trials. I think the fee is $249 plus plus. It should be $nil.

              • July 9th 2017 @ 9:55pm
                no one in particular said | July 9th 2017 @ 9:55pm | ! Report

                ATC and RNSW own slots that they can offsell, be it it an overseas horse, that years Slipper winner, etc

              • July 10th 2017 @ 7:36am
                James Mathers said | July 10th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

                Noted. “Can” is an interesting word.

          • July 19th 2017 @ 5:27pm
            andrew said | July 19th 2017 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

            james. what has been the creepage from victoria at autumn time. i cant think of one single feature race that has changed calendar slot in victoria to be pushed back to later this century.

        • July 7th 2017 @ 12:07pm
          James Mathers said | July 7th 2017 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

          Scuba, you also need to know that one ATC Director has stated that ” The Everest will stop the world”. There you have it!

        • July 7th 2017 @ 3:22pm
          Jeff dustby said | July 7th 2017 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

          No guineas horses would be in the Everest so who cares ?

      • Editor

        July 7th 2017 @ 5:27pm
        Tristan Rayner said | July 7th 2017 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the thoughts and insights, James!

    • July 7th 2017 @ 10:49am
      Swanny said | July 7th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      I’m hoping the st leger can be a grand final for Aussie stayers . Looking forward to it

    • Roar Guru

      July 7th 2017 @ 1:44pm
      Nathan Absalom said | July 7th 2017 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

      The St Leger is really a reincarnation of The Metropolitan between 1995 and 1998, where it was run over 2600m on the public holiday Monday with set weights and penalties.

      To give you an idea of the quality of the race at the time, in 1996 Hula flight beat Nothin’ Leica Dane and Saintly who then went on to win the Cox Plate – Melbourne Cup double. In 1997 Linesman just missed out on winning the Metropolitan before running a cracking fourth in Might and Power’s Melbourne Cup.

      Unfortunately, in 1998 a donkey beat Doriemus who was allotted just 52.5 kg in a 10-horse field and the AJC put it back to a handicap after experimenting for only four years.

      I think that with all the imports around having both a handicap and set weights and penalties staying race in the Sydney spring is a great idea.

      • Editor

        July 7th 2017 @ 5:29pm
        Tristan Rayner said | July 7th 2017 @ 5:29pm | ! Report

        I wasn’t aware of that slice of history in regards to the St Leger – wouldn’t it be nice to see that kind of quality in the race! Thanks Nathan.

    • July 7th 2017 @ 5:59pm
      Johnybulldog said | July 7th 2017 @ 5:59pm | ! Report

      Wow….Cheers Tristan,good times ahead for racing…bring it on!

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