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The Roar



Group 1 racing returns to Sandown for first time in 25 years: Spring racing talking points

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Roar Guru
22nd September, 2021

With three Group 1s across the country this weekend, the spring carnival hits a new level and there’s plenty to discuss on both sides of the Murray.

Golden Group 1
The Golden Rose signals the first proper Group 1 of the season. Apart from Behemoth who was somewhat set for the Memsie Stakes, the other Group 1s so far this season have been taken out by gallopers with loftier aims later in the spring. The Golden Rose is a target race and has attracted another strong field of three-year-olds where Anamoe will look to cement his position as the country’s best three-year-old.

We are going to have to wait a while though before we know the true depth of the current crop with none locked in for an Everest slot (yet) or a Cox Plate run. Profiteer is set to become the first horse to take on the older horses in a Group 1 (though not the A-graders on Friday night which will provide some insight into the where the three-year-olds rank .

Return to prominence for Sandown
Group 1 racing is not only returning to Rosehill, but also Sandown (for the first time in 25 years). It is a shame that the raceday will be overshadowed, to an extent, by the build up to the AFL grand final and that it comes at the cost of losing the Zipping Classic meeting, once a strong community and family-oriented event.

It is also disappointing that very little money has been on facilities for spectators and participants since its inception in the 1960s. There has been plenty of speculation surrounding the future of Sandown and the current MRC board’s desire to continually pump money into Caulfield only strengthens this. Hopefully the Underwood Stakes shift is a sign that racing at Sandown is here to stay and not merely a red herring.

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Middle distance rethink
While it will be exciting to see Zaaki step up in distance on Saturday, it is extremely disappointing that only four other horses accepted for the Underwood Stakes. Next week’s Turnbull Stakes will attract a larger field, but I daresay the Might and Power Stakes (formerly the Caulfield Stakes) will struggle to surpass five runners.

Gone are the days that horses run in the Memsie, Craiglee, Feehan, Underwood, Turnbull and Caulfield Stakes in the lead up to the key spring features given the influx of northern hemisphere bloodlines and trainers’ desires for more spaced preparations.

However, the pattern should allow for the superstars to line up against each other more often and it’s not like this is a new issue. Northerly and Sunline only clashed once outside of Cox Plates (2001 Feehan Stakes) and it’s almost a foregone conclusion that Zaaki and Verry Elleegant won’t clash until October 23.

Share the Group 1 love
While all four Melbourne metropolitan tracks now host Group 1s, it is a different story in Sydney. The Warwick Stakes, Chipping Norton Stakes, Canterbury Stakes are all now run at Randwick, highlighting the shift of high-class racing away from Warwick Farm and Canterbury (even the Liverpool City Cup is run at Randwick).

I definitely think there needs to be more of an attempt to run stakes races at these tracks and provide each with at least one marquee raceday. I definitely think there’s potential for a decent night meeting at Canterbury to complement the Manikato Stakes meeting, which both spectators and punters would support.

Horse power at Mount Panorama
We would normally be a few weeks away from the Bathurst 1000, but this Sunday the town hosts its showcase racing meeting. Once again, the Bathurst Cup will be overshadowed by the Mount Panorama, an $80,000 sprint with a potential place in the Kosciuszko up for grabs. Based on the nominations, it looks to have attracted a strong field and vindicates the club’s decision to introduce the concept.