Without a Fight completed the rare Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double on Tuesday as star jockey Mark Zahra went back-to-back in the big one after…
Here’s a secret that you won’t hear anyone at Racing NSW mention, and certainly not anyone in their marketing arm (otherwise known as Sydney media) – The TJ Smith Stakes last Saturday attracted a better field with $3 million in prize money than The Everest did last year with $15 million on offer.
Firstly, we acknowledge the horses that ran in both races – Giga Kick (1st in the Everest and 2nd in the TJ), Mazu (3rd and 3rd) Nature Strip (4th and 4th), Private Eye (2nd and 12th), and Shades of Rose (8th and 9th).
They all ran quite consistently, with the exception of Private Eye, and the fact that the TJ was on genuine heavy while the Everest was only on a soft track was a great shame. More on that later.
Horses that ran in The Everest but not the TJ Smith, and what they’ve done between then and now: Jacquinot (won the Orr Stakes), Overpass (unplaced in two starts), Kementari (hasn’t won since), Masked Crusader (four starts for no better than 10th), Joyful Fortune (won a Listed race at Flemington), Eduardo (hasn’t won since), Ingratiating (finished 13th in the Hunter).
It looked like the thinnest Everest we’ve had at the time and has proven to be so since.
Now let’s look at the horses that fronted up in the TJ but weren’t in The Everest, and what they’ve done in-between times.
I Wish I Win has announced himself as the new rockstar of the turf, coming from last to round up the TJ field. This was after winning the Golden Eagle, and following up with eye-catching placings in the Lightning and Newmarket.
Mariamia has won the Expressway and Galaxy this year. Lost and Running should have been in The Everest but was scratched in the lead-up. In Secret has won the Coolmore Stud Stakes and the Newmarket. Lofty Strike won the Rubiton and was placed in the Oakleigh Plate and Newmarket. Passive Aggressive won the Challenge Stakes, beating the likes of Giga Kick and Eduardo.
It’s no contest as to which race was stronger. But one of them was worth 20 per cent of the other.
Would The Everest get any less of a field if it was worth $5 million instead of $15 million? Would the Golden Eagle if it was worth $5 million instead of $10 million?
Would racing overall be a better product if that spare $15 million was spent on upgrading the Randwick racetrack? I’m no turf management expert, but it must surely be a start.
It should be embarrassing to all involved how quickly that track deteriorated on Saturday. Most punters would have done their form for a good 4 or soft 5 track, based on the fine weather in the lead-up and what was anticipated on race day.
Weather can be fickle of course, and more rain fell earlier than expected. But to come up a soft five after only 20mm of rain in the previous week, and to be downgraded to a genuine heavy (in what seemed like minutes) after a few showers was a poor reflection on everyone that has been involved at a high level for a long time.
Peter V’landys has done some great things for racing. The Everest and Golden Eagle in spring are two of them. The Championships concept in Autumn is another. V’landys has arguably created the best pure racing in the country and certainly forced Racing Victoria to up the ante themselves.
But he doesn’t care about the end product itself. He doesn’t care about the sport of it. He loves the bold statements, and the accompanying glitz and glamour. It’s all very surface-level. It’s all very Sydney.
Racing NSW arguably has the best product in the country. It may have even set the standard across the world in how to dominate a local market and revolutionise stale thinking. But for too long Randwick and Rosehill either haven’t been able to handle inclement weather or have produced significant track bias that reduced the sport.
Let’s stop the prize money arms race and put the dollars into the place it’s needed most – the playing field.