All Stars Mile – 5 Million All Stars?

All Stars Mile – 5 Million All Stars?

On Monday, Racing Victoria announced the creation of a brand-new horse race called the All Stars Mile, to be run on March 16th at Flemington.

This all came as a bit of a shock to everybody in the industry and the news web and chat boards lit up like a Christmas tree in discussion of the pros and cons of the announcement. As you can guess, the feedback has been all over the dartboard; some in favour, others not so. We’ll assess what we think of it all after having a day to digest what everybody else has been saying.

Assumptions
First, we’ll have a throw at the stumps to try and second guess the motives of Racing Victoria. This includes:

– the level of prize money,
– the timing,
– the co-opting of the three major Melbourne race venues to hold it on a rotating basis,
– the ability for the public to vote for 10 of the 14 nominations, and
– the obvious interstate rivalry with New South Wales, in respect of their autumn meetings which kick off a week later.

Here’s what we think
Racing Victoria’s motives are highly suspicious in this case. You cannot tell me that they went into this venture singing the praises of their New South Wales counterparts. No, this is all out ‘interstate warfare’. The equivalent of a pissing contest and don’t let anyone try and tell you otherwise.

It’s all about the dollars, and how best to make a buck with a rich horse race and potentially with the world’s best horse on turf lining up. This could take her away from some of the Sydney Championship races which wouldn’t please Sydney-siders. Racing Victoria and VRC bean counters will be all over this trying to work out an expected profit based on the extra days racing.

Put it this way, Racing Victoria wouldn’t entertain the idea of putting up five million dollars for a race if they didn’t think that they could double or triple their return on the day.

What are the consequences?
Of course no one will know what the consequences will be before and after the race. I’m sure there will be a knock-on effect with the races held in the prior week including the time honoured Australian Cup, and what happens the following week in Sydney with the nominations for both the George Ryder Stakes and the Ranvet Stakes. The ramifications for both Melbourne and Sydney nominations could be manageable at best, disastrous at worst.

Victorian handicapper Greg Carpenter was reported in the media saying there wouldn’t be an effect because horses nominated for the Australian Cup will be specialists at the 2000 to 2400m distance not 1600m/mile. Tell that to Darren Weir, Mick Price, James Cummings or Chris Waller, who have specialist horses that can run a mile or anywhere between. I’m thinking Humidor, Tosen Basil, Trap For Fools, Extra Brut, Amphitrite, Grunt, Hartnell, Youngstar, and Unforgotten. All versatile gallopers.

Carpenter is entitled to his opinion, but that’s all it is: an opinion. The reality is when we see the nominations for all those races earmarked for the middle of March, that’s when we’ll see what the knock-on effect will be.

What about the horses?
I’m not sure who dreamed up the title ‘All Stars’, but I can guarantee you won’t find too many All Stars lining up in this race, other than Winx if she turns up to the dance. It’s a bit of a misnomer really. I reckon they should have called it the ‘Melbourne Invitational’. Maybe the public should be inviting horses like Pakistan Star and Beauty Generation down from Hong Kong? That’ll put the cat among the pigeons for the locals, prematurely rubbing their hands greedily thinking they can get a lion’s share of the prize money.

The reality is though, it’s very difficult to get horses down from Hong Kong to race due to their travel restrictions and our quarantine. As far as Europe is concerned, it’ll be early spring, so lot of the horses will be literally coming out of hibernation. Some of the better ones kept fresh will go off to Dubai and compete in the big classic races at Meydan during the end of March. Destination Australia wouldn’t even register a blip on the radar.

Dollars and sense?
Racing Victoria will try and butter up the doubters by saying all the nomination fees are donated to charity, Whoop-dee-doo. From my perspective this has little to do with the actual business of horse racing. It’s about the business of making money. It’s the bottom line that counts, a line all too familiar to Accountants.

You know the racing industry is in dire straits when an entity can throw up 5 million dollars at a whim, and undermine the legacy built up over decades in races like the Australian Cup, Doncaster, Epsom, WS Cox Plate etc. Some years back, these races lost a lot of their prestige because of low prize money. In recent years the prize money has gone up which is good. However, when a new race comes along like the Everest, or the All Stars Mile, you know that something isn’t quite right. It’s like the industry is run by Accountants and Banking Execs, and not ‘horsey people’, for want of a better phrase.

Group Status or not?
OK, the All Star Mile is not a Group 1, nor Group 2 or even Group 3. It doesn’t have any class status whatsoever. It only has 5 million dollars. So, what do connections do with their budding 3 year old’s? Do they line them up in races like the Randwick Guineas or the Rosehill Guineas for less money, or if they’re good enough, line them up in a non group race like the All Stars just for the money? If they’re geldings it’s probably a no-brainer but if they’re stallions, then not having a Group 1 victory stamped on the CV doesn’t look so good. It really depends on what the owners want to achieve long term.

What about Winx?
Yes, the Winx effect. Chris Waller will give no guarantee that Winx will come to Melbourne. There’s nothing more for her to prove. If Peter Tighe and Debbie Kepitis want to do the right thing, they’ll make sure her racing career ends in her hometown Sydney, with her hometown fans cheering her on. A Melbourne motive would just be for the money, sorry to say. That probably means dollar signs for both Racing Victoria and the VRC.

No rivalry? Yeah right
It’s clear to me there’s no love lost between the two factions of Victoria and New South Wales. And that’s despite all the kind words in the press. If there was, they’d be talking to each other, and we’d know all about it in the press and media soon enough. This is total one-upmanship. What will the next dramatic announcement be, and who will be the winner?

As the Highlander famously said in the 1986 movie line, “there can be only one”.

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