It’s time to change the distance of the Victorian Derby and Oaks

sheek Roar Guru

By sheek, sheek is a Roar Guru


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    I’m one of those silly blokes who loves racing for the aesthetics – what I want most of all is watching champion horses with champion jockeys race against each other in championship races over varying distances and race conditions.

    Simple? Don’t you believe it!

    Now that the Melbourne spring carnival is done for another year and they appear to have mangled it even more with little tweaks here and there, why doesn’t Raving Victoria (easier to say than VRC, MRC and MVRC) tackle some of the real issues?

    For example, why is the Victorian Derby and Victorian Oaks still run over 2500m?

    Three-year-olds are technically only three months old into their year when they contest the Derby and Oaks, yet they run at the longest distance of all the Australian state classics.

    By comparison, the Australian Derby and Oaks, run at Royal Randwick some five months later in the autumn, are set at 2400m.

    Almost everyone else in Australia is falling over themselves to reduce the length of distance races, but the VRC insists on retaining the 2500m for the Derby and Oaks, for what reason?

    Tradition? I doubt it. I think they are just lacking practical common sense and some imaginative fortitude.

    Even the great Lee Freedman asked this same question years ago. Why not do one of two things – reduce the distance to 2000m, or relocate the blue riband classics to the autumn, when three-year-olds will be older, more mature and stronger.

    (AAP Image/David Crosling)

    But no dammit, they’re going to stick at 2500m in the spring, just because they can!

    I have a solution. A compromise. I’ve seen overhead shots of Flemington and down near the possible 2200m location near the Maribyrnong river is an entrance onto and off the race track.

    It’s difficult to see what’s here exactly, but it might be maintenance buildings. A 2200m shute could be set up with a little tinkering.

    Presto, running the Derby and Oaks in the spring at 2200m is a little less stressful on the young horses. 300m might not seem like much, but it could help the horses enormously.

    While we’re at it, return the Mackinnon Stakes to Derby day as another potential Cup trial, and re-introduce the CB Fisher Plate on Stakes day as the marathon weight-for-age race at 2200m. In the old, old days, this race was run at a mile and a half, equivalent to 2400m.

    With Australia and New Zealand seemingly abandoning the idea to bother with breeding stayers, it’s now left to overseas interests to hold up our great spring distance races, but for how much longer?

    Anyway, if overseas connections are going to bring horses out here for the Melbourne Cup, perhaps for just a few more bucks they might as well bring half a dozen, instead of just one or two horses.

    They can have their one or two Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup entries along with, say, one or two Cox Plate-Mackinnon Stakes-Fisher Plate entries and maybe one each to contest the Derby and Oaks at a more realistic distance.

    And let’s not forget the good mile and sprint races still on offer throughout the Melbourne spring carnival.

    One day the marathon race in Australia might be over 1600m. But for the moment, let’s enjoy and be thankful there’s still plenty of good races over 1600m.

    A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • December 19th 2017 @ 12:14pm
      Haradasun said | December 19th 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

      I agree. Its a taxing trip for the youngsters and a lot of them dont come back, which just creates further disincentive to go to the effort to train stayers.

    • December 19th 2017 @ 1:51pm
      MAX said | December 19th 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

      Reg Moses of Fairways Stud and Star Kingdom fame was influential in having the AJC Derby
      moved to the Autumn and introducing the Australasian Champion Stakes 2000M in the Spring.

      Dulcify won the first Autumn Derby in 1979 from Double Century. I was eternally grateful to the
      wisdom of the stewards as I had emptied on the Colin Hayes trained champion.

      The rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne racing assured that the Southerners would never
      see compromise, conveniently applying the tradition excuse.

      Fabulous Flemington has a problem to construct a traditional 2400M Derby start, though the
      2000M start is the best in Australia and an extension to your suggested 2200M in the Spring
      has merit. The problem of racing dates and programming may still aggravate the situation.
      What’s new?

    • December 19th 2017 @ 3:59pm
      sheek said | December 19th 2017 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

      Thanks Haradasun & Max,

      For your responses.

      I was pleased to read somewhere else, independently of my thinking of it, that it’s very possible to construct a 2200m shute at Flemington. I found this gratifying.

      It would certainly give the VRC more options.

      Not only do I think it’s a reasonable compromise to reduce the distance of the Debt & Oaks back to 2200m if the intention is to keep them in the spring.

      But also, I have this vision of extending the Australian Cup (run in Autumn) to 2200m. It would be a nice conditioner for the HE Tancred Stakes (BMW) at Rosehill over 2400m or Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick over 2000m.

    • December 19th 2017 @ 7:51pm
      peeeko said | December 19th 2017 @ 7:51pm | ! Report

      agree Sheek

    • December 19th 2017 @ 8:26pm
      Mike from tari said | December 19th 2017 @ 8:26pm | ! Report

      It would be interesting to see how many of the Derby & Oaks winners have performed later in their careers going back say around 15 years, & how many carried on to the Sydney Derby & Oaks???????

    • December 19th 2017 @ 8:40pm
      sheek said | December 19th 2017 @ 8:40pm | ! Report


      As Max says above, the Derby & Oaks over 2500m in the spring has tended to wipe a lot of them out.

      It’s a wonder the VRC still persists with the distance.

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