Can you be an animal activist and still support horse racing? In short, yes.
Peter V’landys could have claimed Saturday’s The Everest as the highlight of his career, until this spring.
Now he’s got the trifecta – The Golden Eagle in opposition to Melbourne’s second biggest race day, as well as his suggestion that the Melbourne Cup and the southern spring carnival be put back on the calendar.
That’s unmatched as a destructive contribution to Australian racing.
The Racing NSW boss might have noticed 2009’s Shocking was the last Australian-bred winner of the Cup and it’s doubtful whether we’ll see another one.
That’s truly shocking. Prince of Penzance in 2015 was the last Australasian-bred winner but wasn’t 100-1 for nothing, although a couple of good judges backed it.
V’landys might have noticed the winner of Saturday’s Group 1 Ladbrokes Stakes – formerly the Caulfield Stakes – Cape of Good Hope couldn’t place in Group company overseas.
Another British import, Master of Wine, won a staying race in Sydney on Saturday.
He might have noticed Cox Plate favourite Avilius is already a multiple Group 1 winner here but its best run overseas was a Group 2 second place behind Cracksman. Here Avilius exceeds and excels.
Now Winx has retired, Australia struggles to get a Group performer that can run a metre past 1600m. It’s left to aged performers like Black Heart Bart and Happy Clapper to defend national honour.
And even the aged import Hartnell and his undistinguished fellow English arrival Best of Days have won Group 1 1600m events.
So it goes on. The once-2600m Metropolitan, now 2400m, was once the time-honoured Monday second leg of the Sydney spring double. It was a race for tough, often great stayers. Now it’s tacked on to Epsom Day.
The now 2400m and once time-honoured Brisbane Cup is a last-race afterthought on Stradbroke day. The Perth Cup is now 2400m. The Gold Coast Magic Millions staged as an 1800m Stayers’ Cup.
Races past 1600m are full of overseas handicappers. The reason? Australia doesn’t breed stayers anymore. It’s cheaper to buy imports.
The Golden Slipper for two-year-olds is now a grand final. A colt wins and its stud career is assured. Winners Vancouver and Capitalist didn’t win as early spring three-year-olds before being packed off to stud. Rinse and repeat.
No more Slipper winners who train on, like Sky High, Fine And Dandy, Baguette and Manikato, at a time when Australia could produce top-class sprinters, milers and stayers.
Now the Slipper winner is out of mind as soon as the race is over.
The Everest is the culmination of this sprinter-sprinting sire mania.
A Slipper future winner, if a colt, might stagger on to the Everest but his stud value is already established. That would be a risk. Better to breed a Everest contender.
Dual winner of the first two Everests, Redzel, is a good-class Group 1 sprinter but any long-term racing enthusiast wouldn’t give him a start in a 20-horse Newmarket field gathered from the best sprinters of the last 60 years, nor in any best-of sprint anywhere else.
Not that any of the Hooray Harrys and Harriettes attracted to Everest Day would know or care, nor that sprinters aren’t similarly prized overseas and are unlikely visitors to Randwick.
Which leads to V’landys’ delayed Melbourne Spring carnival suggestion, which might attract more overseas 1600m-plus horses attracted by the easy prize money on offer.
Apart from such a programming’s effect on the Perth summer carnival, in the words of George Hanlon – the late, great trainer of cup stayers (sprinters and milers) – “horses are only human”.
They need spells. A delayed Melbourne spring would mean a delayed Melbourne autumn carnival, but with lesser effect on Sydney.
What will V’landys’ next suggestion be? The Melbourne autumn to be held after Sydney, and bugger the Adelaide carnival?
V’landys is causing damage. Critics might say his coming role as rugby league’s ARLC chairman, the source of endless headaches, will be fitting punishment and it won’t matter how much damage he may cause.
You can poison rugby league but you can’t destroy it. Administrators have been trying forever.
That’s what makes it the greatest game of all.