Racing’s “turf wars” have escalated with the announcement of the inaugural $7.5 million Golden Eagle next year.
The Victoria Racing Club in particular has gone on the attack since it was revealed the Golden Eagle, to be run over 1500m at Rosehill Gardens, would clash with Flemington’s Derby Day meeting.
VRC chair Amanda Elliott and chief executive Neil Wilson were critical of Sydney racing officials for not adopting a more “collaborative approach on a national basis” before announcing the Golden Eagle.
This is fair comment but only a week earlier, Racing Victoria introduced a new $5 million All-Star Mile for Flemington next autumn that is positioned in the middle of the Golden Slipper Festival without any consultation with Sydney racing officials.
And where is the national approach to racing when the only Group 1 2400m handicap outside of the Caulfield Cup in spring, The Metropolitan at Randwick, is not given automatic exemption to the winner into the Cups?
Or why wasn’t a national approach taken by Victorian officials instead of using their power of veto to quash moves to give The Everest Group 1 status even though the Randwick sprint is the richest turf race in the world and clearly the nation’s highest-rated sprint?
The Golden Eagle’s clash with Derby Day is not ideal but a study of the racing calendar shows the Sydney and Melbourne carnivals overlap anyway, particularly during spring.
The first Group 1 race in Sydney for spring is the Winx (formerly Warwick) Stakes over 1400m at weight-for-age in late August.
In Melbourne, the Memsie Stakes, also a Group 1 1400m weight-for-age race, is run a week after the Winx Stakes.
These races and others through the spring draw from the same pool of weight-for-age horses, showing the two carnivals can and do coexist.
But the Golden Eagle is restricted to four-year-olds so it will have only minimal impact on the Derby Day meeting, mainly to the Kennedy Mile and Empire Rose Stakes.
As VRC officials declared, the Golden Eagle will “not alter the momentum of the VRC’s Melbourne Cup Week or in any way challenge its unequivocal number one status”.
So, what is the problem?
Racing NSW has an obligation to do what is in the best interests of the NSW racing industry and the success of The Everest the past two years has shown that there is an appetite for top-quality racing in Sydney during spring once the NRL season ends.
Importantly, punters and participants benefit by having more top-quality racing and the greater media exposure and awareness this brings to the sport.
The Racing NSW-ATC Golden Eagle initiative has been given some unexpected support from two leading Melbourne racing identities.
Mike Symons, the former chairman of the Melbourne Racing Club, wrote on social media: “Racing in NSW is now delivering the combined benefits of tax parity, sustained wagering revenue growth, government funding and support and a relatively skinny operating cost model. Good luck to them as the upside is for all participants Australia wide. Competition is healthy.’’
Moonee Valley Racing Club chief executive Michael Browell also took to social media to applaud the Racing NSW-ATC Golden Eagle announcement, which is supported by two new $1 million races in Sydney during spring.
“These initiatives and this level of prizemoney will continue to generate investment in the Australian racing industry. I wish them every success in launching these races,’’ Browell said.
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