Interstate Love Affair? The Golden Eagle Race
News that a new 8 million dollar race scheduled to be run out of Sydney for next Spring has been announced.
Introducing the Golden Eagle Race…
The race will be held at Rosehill on November 2 in 2019 over 1500m. The race will be for 4yo horses for 7.5 Million dollar prize money.
This race will be in direct competition to VRC Derby Day, though obviously wont compete with the VRC Derby, Lexus/Hotham, or the Empire Rose (mares fillies) or the 3yo Sprint Coolmore Classic.
The only race of a similar rank is the Kennedy Mile.
What we know so far
Comments and feedback from the usual Australian online haunts makes for some interesting reading. I will say, from what I’ve seen so far, a lot of the dialogue appears to be lacking substance and facts, and comes across as very emotional from some people who should know better.
If the initial reports linked by two Sydney newspapers last Sunday are correct, then it appears the window of opportunity for Racing NSW to add this new race will occur around late October, which clashes with WS Cox Plate Day and or the following week being VRC Derby Day.
The reports suggest that Racing NSW have identified a window between the time the football codes finish up at the end of September and before the cricket starts in early December.
Personally, I think that’s a bit of a red herring, and a bit of a stretch to suggest that this new horse race caters for the in betweeners. There is so much going on in Sydney during the weekends, horse racing and Royal Randwick will fly so low on people’s radars as to not even register a blip. Racing NSW needn’t worry; it’s a worldwide trend apparently.
As an observer on the outside looking in, one can see this as an opportunity for Racing NSW to improve their lot, because they are certainly behind the eight ball in a number of areas in a vain hope to gain parity when compared to the October Melbourne Spring carnival.
Racing in NSW – let’s identify the issues
Let’s look at some other areas where Racing NSW needs to reassess its priorities, before they think about adding a new race. I see the issue as a mostly financial one, and these are the reasons why:
There is the continuing trend of small fields throughout Metro Sydney racing. It doesn’t look good. Particularly from a betting perspective if only 6 or 7 horses are running and there are only two payouts on the win and place market. This is not only during weekdays but Metro Saturdays are also noticeable for small fields. Why would interstate punters care about a race card with so few horses in it?
As for crowd attendances, even on Sydney’s biggest race days, they can only muster a race day crowd of around 25-30k. In 2015, Randwick attracted 50k over the 2 days of The Championships, down on the estimated 70k projected by Racing NSW. In 2016, the estimate was still 70k but the numbers were around about half, at 36k over the two days. Not great numbers to be honest. The largest crowd in recent times was the 2017 Everest Day where 33k turned up to watch Redzel win. These numbers pale in comparison to attendance figures elsewhere around the nation. For instance, VRC Derby Day regularly attracts upwards of 80k.
As for the wet weather, you need only go back every year to find a heavy racetrack in Sydney around March and even September. We even saw a race day cancellation with the Doncaster Mile rerun on a Monday. Foreign trainers will steer clear of Sydney’s wet weather for better targets and work on a schedule where it suits them.
For example, the timing of The Championships is not particularly good if they want to attract horses from overseas. March is when all the gun horses from Europe and Japan are going to Dubai where the weather is better and the tracks are firmer. In September all the top Europeans are going over to the USA or planning to come down to Melbourne. There have been two exceptions to the rule within the last 5 years: Japanese mare Hana’s Goal (2014 All Aged Stakes) and Irish sprinter Gordon Lord Byron (2014 George Ryder Stakes).
I won’t spend too much time on this but to say, the Australian Quarantine rules might be the right thing, but they general suck big time for the industry. You’ll never get a genuine champion like Hong Kong’s Beauty Generation racing down under.
The Winx factor has been a commercial success for Racing NSW since 2015, drawing many people through the turnstiles. But as we know, her career is about to conclude and that means her generated revenue stream will soon disappear.
Hong Kong – No $$
We wrote in another recent article about the dwindling revenue from simulcast Sydney horse races to Hong Kong audiences via the Hong Kong Jockey Club, who have put a ban in place. More money drying up.
So it’s clear Racing NSW have some money issues on their hands, and it maybe one reason why stumping up the cash for a new race like this is seen as the solution to their numerous problems.
Group 1 vs Non Group Status
Let’s now get on to non group status races. At present, there are two significant races on the Australian calendar that don’t have group status. They are: The Everest and the Magic Millions held in January. Both have significant prize money but don’t hold group status. With this new race and the All Stars Mile added to the non-group category, what does this all mean?
Any breeder/owner that has a connection to a winning horse in any of these races won’t really care. Money talks at the end of the day. But the vital truth remains. A stallion prospect who is a group one winner will always have more opportunities at stud than a horse that isn’t. No better indication of this will be their stud fee.
I read somewhere this week that the breeding community has a very powerful voice on the Executive of Racing NSW, which could be half the reason why we have a lucrative race at a very lucrative time on the Australian racing calendar.
It all appears to be very nepotistic and self-repeating. Breed and/or own a horse, win a rich race, use the proceeds to buy another, repeat the process, and so on. Very much a rich man’s game if you ask me.
So, with all these points being raised it’s clear that something needs to happen to stimulate and invigorate racing within New South Wales. The fact that the new race is clashing with dates on the Victorian racing calendar won’t be raising the eyebrows north of the border. They are doing what is necessary to advance their product, considering they are (as mentioned earlier) behind the eight ball in many areas.
If truth be told, there was only a very small window where Sydney and Melbourne racing tended to clash anyway, and that was in the second and third week of March, and some weeks in the early Spring. Now Sydney is extending that Spring window a little bit further while Melbourne hasn’t had to do anything yet, but they won’t be taking this intrusive push lying down.
Racing NSW’s CEO Peter V’landys is doing what any typical executive would do to keep the shareholders happy. What he needs to realise is that a single calculated move like this impacts the entire Australian Racing industry like buckshot. He needs to act in the interests of the nation, not just his own patch.
One needs to understand the motives behind the move for such a race. Who is it going to ultimately benefit? Is it just going to be a small select group of rich people? What do Sydney-siders get out of it? Do you they even care, judging by the small attendances mentioned above? What does grassroots racing in New South Wales get out of it?
And what about the punters? Yes, they’ll be arguing among themselves for weeks to come, I’m sure even bitter long-held rivalries north and south of the Murray will rear their heads as they always do.
And who knows, what if the mining rich resources of Western Australia and Queensland decide to chip in with a rich race of their own? That would absolutely set the cat among the pigeons. But I jest, surely..
We might know some of the answers to these questions on Wednesday.
By going down this path there is an inherent danger that the Australian Racing industry will be seen as a rich man’s game only; trampling over the 150 plus years of colonial tradition built on the backs of regular Australians the nation over which has bought the Racing industry to where it is now.
It would be a terrible day if the actions of a vested few brings down the entire house of cards, out of mis-management, ignorance, short-sightedness and greed. The way things are going, someone with a higher authority may need to step in before the industry takes on the look of the wild west.
More to come…