The Australian racing industry post the 2018 Spring, as a collective, cried out to give locally trained gallopers a better chance of getting ballot exemption for the Melbourne Cup. So the VRC made the Andrew Ramsden, a 2800m race in May, a golden ticket to the Melbourne Cup for the winner.
Has it worked? No.
On Saturday, the 2021 edition of the Andrew Ramsden rolled around with ten acceptors, nine of which ran. The field included an eleven start maiden and a mare that is eligible for Benchmark 64 grade. Realm Of Flowers won the race, emphatically, the most dominant winner of the race since the changes were made, which included making the race restricted to 3/4/5YO gallopers, with the aim to encourage the Australian breeding industry to shift towards breeding stayers.
That aim won’t be known for another 12/24 months, but as it stands now, the Andrew Ramsden isn’t the right option in its current format. The age restriction does take away a decent chunk of class of horse flesh that would try and qualify for the first Tuesday in November, with what was dished up on Saturday simply just not good enough. Realm Of Flowers is a nice mare and I think most would agree she is a top ten chance at best. But to make it a proper qualifying race, make it open to all ages and that will increase the quality of the field.
I can understand why the locals kick up a storm. They see well off owners/syndicates empty their pockets to purchase an international that is already qualified for the Cup and don’t have to worry about getting into the race. But that could all change this year given the new rules and regulations brought in place to make sure the internationals that do come here can handle the Australian racing style with the Melbourne Cup being the whipping boy for the anti racing brigade due to the high fatality rate in the great.
So, what is the solution for the locals? Simple. More ballot exemption races. As it stands now, there are five races that give you automatic entry: The Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, Andrew Ramsden, The Bart Cummings and The Hotham on Derby Day. In recent years, the majority of those were won by overseas raiders, so the programming needs to be looked at. There are a number of races that could and should be given ballot exemption.
The first one is The Metropolitan at Randwick. It always attracts a capacity field with good depth and it’s in the sweet spot of being a few weeks from the Melbourne Cup, being an idea launching pad. You then go to the Geelong Cup. It’s been proven to be a winning form reference for the Melbourne Cup over the years and it’s also in an ideal spot as a final lead in for the first Tuesday in November. The race that has grown legs over the past few years is the Bendigo Cup, the Wednesday before the Melbourne Cup. This will likely be an all local race given you’d highly doubt international trained gallopers will go first up into the race then back up six days later.
UK horseman Charlie Fellowes, trainer of Prince Of Arran, said that the new rules would make it virtually near impossible for him to come to Melbourne with his warrior and he isn’t alone in that thought process, so the international numbers in 2021 will more than likely be down on previous years. The locals have got what they wanted. Now they need to show their hand and show the public. along with the industry, that the Melbourne Cup is still the #1 prized possession in Australian racing.