Melbourne for the spring and Sydney for autumn was always the way. Both cities would have good early season races in their ‘off season’ before the spotlight shifted to the other. That all changed when Peter V’Landys introduced the prize money injection for the autumn championship followed by The Everest and Golden Eagle in the spring.
Sydney is now the clear head honcho of horse racing in Australia. Yes Melbourne will always have the time honoured Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup, while every Aussie of school age and over knows of the Melbourne Cup. Where Melbourne is losing the war is the top quality horses are choosing to race in Sydney for longer into the spring rather than Melbourne.
One only needs to check out the caliber of horses and their CV of wins to see the point. Last weekend in Sydney was the G1 George Main Stakes with 7 runners, all were multiple stakes winners with 5 being G1 winners for a total of 11 major wins.
In Melbourne the feature of the day was the G1 Rupert Clarke and of 16 runners only 4 had won a single G1 each with Tagaloa stepping up as a 3yo and the other two past it. Behemoth swept to an impressive victory to make it back to back G1's. The bargain buy of a gelding now heads north to contest The Everest and Melbourne racing has lost its form horse of the spring.
NSW has jacked up prize money, rescheduled the calendar and innovated with ‘slots’ for The Everest along with Country Championship finals getting huge prize money. Right now it is paying dividends for Sydney and ultimately it’s good for the sport as there are more quality races for punters to watch, even if it means the Victorian honour roll will not be as prestigious as it used to be.
The elite horses will still eventually head south this spring, it’s just they will fill their purses first.
Hopefully you can fill your wallet this weekend and back some winners. After riding my luck on double figure winners Kolding and Taikomochi, I’m going short this week. Rothfire is too short for me so my best for the weekend is Huat Brion Her in Race 8 Sydney, but be wary of Air to Air who as a back-marker if she learns to run straight could be a knock out hope at big odds.