The autumn carnival comes to a close on Saturday with the bumper Sydney Cup meeting featuring four Group One races.
The carnival began with the announcement of the merger of Sydney’s two race clubs under the banner of the Australian Turf Club.
Multi-million dollar renovations to Randwick and Rosehill racecourses will be carried out over the next couple of years with the club committed to expanding facilities.
Crowds have been healthy this year with more than 18,000 fronting up in appalling weather for last week’s Doncaster meeting and hopefully more for the final day at Randwick which hosts the Sydney Cup, Champagne Stakes, Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the All-Aged Stakes.
SYDNEY CUP (3200m handicap): One of only two 3200-metre Group One races left on the Australian calendar along with the iconic Melbourne Cup.
This year’s field is dominated by horses imported from Europe for their stamina as owners and trainers try to boost the stocks of stayers in a country known for its sprinters.
There are a couple of antipodeans well in the market with C’est La Guerre and Once Were Wild to represent the Australian breeding industry.
Leviathan owner Lloyd Williams races former New Zealander C’est La Guerre as well as Mourayan and Muir who he bought from Ireland’s Coolmore.
Once Were Wild is owned by another big player in John Singleton and will be out to give him some consolation after More Joyous was comprehensively beaten as favourite in last week’s Doncaster.
The mare’s trainer Gai Waterhouse also has Older Than Time in the Cup. Surprisingly Waterhouse has not trained a Group One winner over the Randwick part of the carnival and the Cup will be her last chance.
QUEEN ELIZABETH STAKES (2000m weight-for-age): Trainer Anthony Cummings is looking for back-to-back wins in the Queen Elizabeth with veteran Zavite to represent his stable.
Zavite pulled off a major upset at 100-1 in the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill over the same distance, prompting Cummings to abort the longer Sydney Cup in favour of the Queen Elizabeth.
Another surprise packet is My Kingdom Of Fife, a European import trained by Chris Waller and perhaps the omen bet in the race named after his former owner.
At his first Australian start in the Doncaster Prelude, My Kingdom Of Fife started at 150-1 and walked away with the prize.
Once the rain came in time for last week’s Doncaster, Sacred Choice was heavily backed and duly won the race. She comes back to the field if the track is dry with her trainer Joe Pride sweating on a start for dual Group One winner Vision And Power who is the emergency.
Retrieve is aiming to become the first three-year-old to win the race since Intergaze spoiled Octagonal’s farewell in 1997.
CHAMPAGNE STAKES (1600m two-year-olds): The final leg of the triple crown for two-year-olds which has only been achieved by five horses.
Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation has taken out the first two legs – the Golden Slipper with Sepoy and the AJC Sires’ Produce with Helmet who is the favourite to add the Champagne to his record.
Among his main opposition is the Kris Lees-trained Uate who ran second in the Sires’ Produce. He is named for winger Akuila Uate who plays for Lees’ beloved NRL team, the Newcastle Knights. The trainer is hoping his namesake can show the same sort of speed.
Salade represents master trainer Bart Cummings who is looking for his first Group One winner this autumn. Cummings pulled the pin on a Sires’ start when the rain came last weekend.
ALL-AGED STAKES: (1400m weight-for-age): The final Group One race on the program and betting suggests Hay List can extend his winning record to 1400 metres this preparation.
He won over the distance in his former home of Perth but trainer John McNair has kept him to shorter distances since he has been in the east. Hay List comes into the race off a gutsy second to Black Caviar in the TJ Smith Stakes. Although well beaten by the champion mare, he streeted the rest of the field by five lengths.
Six of those who finished behind Hay List in the TJ Smith are among his challengers.
As a prelude to the race, there will be a tribute to last year’s winner Hot Danish who was euthanased last weekend after failing to respond to treatment for an infection.
Although it took her until she was six to win her first Group One, the mare had a loyal following with Sydney racegoers who greeted her 2010 All-Aged success with jubilation not seen on track for many years.