It’s been a Spring Carnival like no other and one which we won’t see again. Next to no crowds in Melbourne, but fabulous racing throughout, and Sydney showcased that The Everest is here and here to stay for the long term.
Now it’s done and dusted, it is time to learn some lessons. Here are my top ten.
The Everest Needs To Be A Group One: The bickering between the respective racing bodies has to stop. It’s becoming embarrassing and actually pathetic that The Everest doesn’t have Group l status. Yes, the argument is that is an invitation only race…but you’re inviting the best sprinters going around, And the results and say it’s the best sprint race in Australia. In all four years, the rating has been the highest of any sprint race in Australia, and in the last three years, the Darley Classic 1-2-3, eight of the nine placegetters had The Everest as their last run. It’s a no brainer and do hope the racing bodies can sort that out.
The Internationals Are Just Better: Bit like the #NupToTheCup army, there is those once a year yell from the rooftype types that don’t like the internationals coming over for our races. The reason is? They are just better than us. Since 2017, it’s close to 60% ROI on overseas trained gallopers, and it was on show in a big way this Spring. 1-2 in the Cox Plate, 1-2-3 in the Melbourne Cup and even a 1-2 in the Queen Elizabeth. Those from overseas are realising that there is rich pickings to be had when coming to Australia.
Our 2000m+ Stock, Overall, Are Rubbish: The performances of Sir Dragonet and Armory in the Cox Plate, then the first three in the Melbourne Cup, showed that our middle distance/staying stock is rubbish. We have banged on for years about the Australian breeding industry needing long distance type Sires, but those types ie Fiorente and Americain, haven’t filled some of the void as hoped and have pretty much been cast off as commercial sires, with the need for speed still prevalent in Australia. Horses like Preferment and Shocking had to go to NZ as stallions due the lack of interest from Australian stud farms.
Need More Ballot Exemption Races: Again, this is where Racing Victoria and Racing NSW need to work together. Whilst I’m all for internationals coming over here for our races, I do agree with the sentiment that they have a much easier path towards the first Tuesday in November compared to the locals. I think the solution should be more ballot exemption races. As it stands, the Andrew Ramsden, Bart Cummings, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Hotham are the win and you’re in races. There needs to be much more. I think the Sydney Cup is a definite option. 3200m race, a strong 3200m given the track is usually wet and a strong stayer more often than not wins the race. The Tancred is another. The honour roll there is full of champions. In terms of the Spring, the two that stand out for me are the Metropolitan and the Geelong Cup, especially the latter. That has been a good Melbourne Cup form reference over time.
2000m On Wet, Verry Elleegant, 2000m On Dry, Arcadia Queen: The hype horse this Spring was no doubt Russian Camelot. He didn’t disgrace himself, but in terms of the wraps, some saying he would be the next So You Think or that he could go through this Spring undefeated…it was over the top. This Spring showed that 2000m+ on a wet track, Verry Elleegant is the best in Australia. She’s a champion mare and showed it on a number of occasions. Arcadia Queen has raced at 1800m+ four times for three wins, with the defeat coming on testing ground in the Cox Plate and no doubt in my mind had the track been firm, she wins. They are the shining light for Australia, with Russian Camelot on their heels.
Mo’unga Is A Coming Star: I think whatever Chris Waller targets with this guy for the Autumn, he’ll win. He was a baby still this Spring yet was outstanding at Newcastle, then the Dulcify. Went into the Caulfield Guineas with a break between runs and like some can do first time at Caulfield, he got lost, but really warmed up late. Can see him winning the Randwick/Rosehill Guineas…the Derby would be there as well…but I’d love to see him go to the Queen Elizabeth and potentially take on Addeybb, Danon Premium, Verry Elleegant, Arcadia Queen and co…what a race that would be.
Jamie Kah Is The #1 Rider In Melbourne: Once upon a time, Jamie Kah was questioning her move to Victoria and whether or not it was the right one…fast forward to the end of the 2020 Spring, and IMO, she’s the #1 rider in Australia. It was a Spring to remember for her, highlighted by a four timer on Cox Plate Day and a sweet steer aboard Mr Quickie to win the Toorak. She’s got the best S/R of the senior riders in Melbourne and her ROI throughout the Spring was well into the positive. She’s a star and I think can win the Jockey Premiership.
Willie Pike Can Match It With The Best: Unfairly I thought, but there was the criticism that he continually dominated the fishbowl that is racing in Perth without coming East and firing. I thought that was put to bed after his efforts in the Autumn, including an All Star Mile win, but the criticism was still there leading into the Spring. That criticism is no longer. He established himself as one of the best in the country, highlighted by a four timer on Caulfield Guineas Day, including the feature aboard Ole Kirk.
Nature Strip Needs A Wet Track: It wasn’t a bad Spring campaign as such for Nature Strip, but he did go winless after an outstanding Autumn campaign, where he established himself as the best Sprinter in the world. That title now belongs to Classique Legend and I feel that in order for Nature Strip to win at the highest level again, he needs a wet track. He can maintain a high cruising speed on wet ground whereas others can flounder in it. Whereas on firmer footing, they can keep in touch and still travel. Not dropping off him just yet.
Leave The Derby As It Is: I do find the narrative around the Victoria Derby amusing. There are some calling for it to be moved to the Autumn, others want the trip reduced (I can’t recall a 2000m Derby). I say leave it as it is. Was this years edition a strong one? No, in the fair dinkum stakes, as a whole, it was ordinary. But the story around Denis Pagan and Lachie King is what racing needs and go back through the honour roll of the race, there are a lot of horses that went on with it post the Derby to have a great career. The sample size is too small to change it, so give it another two or three years, and if the depth is the same, it’s poor, then the discussion can be had again. But, if you don’t like your horse running the 2500m…don’t run.