Trainer of the moment Chris Waller has challenged racing administrators to reclaim Sydney’s biggest day of the spring or face an increasing drain of the city’s best racing talent to Melbourne.
Waller believes Epsom Handicap day at Randwick, the pinnacle of Sydney’s spring carnival and a meeting he dominated on Saturday, could be better promoted and financed to prevent the early flood of horses south.
Five of the nine races at Randwick did not have enough starters to offer a third dividend while neither the Epsom nor Metropolitan attracted capacity fields.
Horses such as Melbourne Cup favourite The Offer, top mare Dear Demi and emerging gallopers Cluster, Chautauqua and Entirely Platinum all missed Sydney’s best spring races in favour of early Melbourne campaigns.
Waller, who scratched Hawkspur from Sydney to run in Saturday’s Turnbull Stakes at Flemington, has called on administrators to increase Epsom Handicap day prize money across the board.
“Prize money could go up a little bit. Make a horse like Hawkspur not run in Melbourne,” Waller said.
“Cluster and Bull Point went to Melbourne. What can we try to do to keep these sort of horses here for the Epsom next year?
“Prize money would soon sort that out. That last digit on the end makes a massive difference to owners.”
The Golden Rose is the only $1 million race of the Sydney spring while the Epsom is worth $500,000.
The Metropolitan is worth $400,000, $100,000 less than the Turnbull which also carries a ballot exemption for the Caulfield Cup.
And it is Sydney’s staying feature, in which Waller produced the Junoob-Opinion quinella on Saturday, that he fears is most in danger.
“The Metropolitan will only end up like the Sydney Cup. It’s falling off the radar,” he said.
“We’ve got to be proactive and get onto that.
“Maybe the administrators need to get behind the carnival and promote what we have here. During the Melbourne carnival you will see it (Sydney form) stand up.”
The Australian Turf Club’s general manager of racing, Matt Rudolph, agreed Sydney’s biggest day of the spring would benefit from prize money increases.
He said Racing NSW used the first round of money from the race fields legislation to increase country and provincial purses and The Championships was next in line.
But the ATC is mindful of keeping Epsom day prestigious and bumping up prize money is critical to its plans.
“It’s on the radar for consideration,” Rudolph said.
“We’re well aware the Epsom and Metropolitan are races where, in a perfect world, you’d increase prize money.
“We particularly want to keep a race like the Epsom relevant to the Doncaster in terms of prize money. We’d love to see the Doncaster winner come back to run in the Epsom and defend their mile title just as horses like Super Impose did.”