Senior Australian racing officials are maintaining that Racing Victoria’s recent raft of prize money changes is merely a bid to counter NSW’ dominance of the Australian industry, rather than enhancing the local spring carnival..
The $15.5 million lift in prize money for next season, appears to have been largely skewed to take on some of Sydney’s most important races that are already threatening to affect Victoria’s spring and autumn carnivals.
In the past year Racing NSW has led the way, breaking new ground with innovations such as the multimillion-dollar Everest sprint race that will be run against the Caulfield Guineas meeting in October.
It’s believed the Caulfield Guineas has been lifted by $1 million to $2 million in a knee-jerk reaction, as the three-year-old classic will clash with Sydney’s group 1 event the Spring Champion Stakes, also a three-year-old race.
And the Caulfield Stakes, which has rarely had a field of more than seven runners, has been injected with funding that will now see the weight for age race worth $1 million, which many believe is a short-term move to tempt Winx to start in the race instead of staying in Sydney for the Craven Stakes.
The Australian Guineas in the autumn, which had its prize money slashed just four years ago, has now received an injection of funds boosting the group 1 event to $1 million.
The Australian Guineas clashes with the Randwick Guineas, which is also a group 1 three-year-old event.
Already clubs such as Moonee Valley have been overlooked for the bulk of the funding, with the Melbourne Racing Club the winner after the distribution of prize money.
Acting RVL CEO Giles Thompson has sought to shoot down suggestions that the Victorian stake money hikes have been a panicked reaction to the NSW racing industry’s aggressive marketing and programming initiatives, which threaten to steal the thunder from the spring carnival.
Thompson says RV is not engaged in an arms race or making a knee-jerk response. Victorian racing, he says, is “going well at the moment and it’s appropriate we invest in it”.
Increases in prize money announced at the weekend – the $15.5 million lift to a total of $214 million for season 2017-18 – are about rewarding Victorian owners and trainers for keeping the faith in the local industry, Thompson says.
“It’s irrelevant what’s happening in other states, it’s what happening in this state that is important … at the moment we can afford to increase prize money levels in a sustainable way.
“If people want to read other things into it that’s up to them but that’s certainly not the motive behind it,” Thompson told RSN Radio’s The Verdict program on Monday morning.
He said the prize money lifts were targeted to underpin major spring races, improve stakes to encourage the development of stayers and three-year-olds, and reward owners for winning country maiden races.
“We in Victoria have spent the last five years investing in staying racing and we want to make a statement that if you have got a staying horse then Victoria is the place to race it.
“The other area we are investing in is three-year-old races. If you have a three-year-old or a stayer then Victoria is the place to bring it.
“We are very lucky to have the spring racing carnival. We have been looking at ways to bolster the spring carnival, and these feature races seem to be the area.”