Changing the Caulfield Cup Won’t Work

Opinion Piece: Changing the Caulfield Cup

Jameka Caulfield Cup Winner 2016
Jameka Caulfield Cup Winner 2016

By now you have read about the proposed changes to the Caulfield Cup announced by the Melbourne Racing Club last week.

They hope to convert the Group One 2400m Caulfield Cup from handicap to weight-for-age conditions.

The main reason given by the MRC was to attract high-calibre International 2400m horses who are not entering the race due to the harsh handicaps they would receive. Also, it is worth noting that under the new initiative, Caulfield Cup winners would be exempt from a re-handicap for the Melbourne Cup to further entice international competition.

Everyone in the industry is correctly asking, why?

Let’s get straight to the point. The main stumbling block for international horses coming to Australia is not found in weights and measures.

It is not found in race conditions or weather. It is the quarantine laws in this country mixed with simple geography.

Hong Kong and Japanese superstars have stayed at home for quarantine reasons alone. It’s too long to be out of the cycle. Those jurisdictions have great race scheduling and prize money anyway.

There is no reason to leave, perhaps sacrificing an entire preparation for a faraway trip to Melbourne.

As pointed out already by many people, The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is run in early October, a couple of weeks before the Caulfield Cup. The Breeders’ Cup in early November.

Here’s a question for you to think about. If you trained a weight-for-age stayer in England/Ireland, where would you go?

Across the pond for a short trip to the most prestigious staying race in the world with AUD $7million in prize money, or to the furthest point on planet earth for a similar race with less prestige and less prize money? It’s a no-brainer.

Having spent most of my life in Ireland in racing, I can also attest to very few people caring about the Caulfield Cup or the Melbourne Cup.

Out of sight, out of mind and all that. Maybe the MRC need to be seen to be doing something as “The Everest” looms ever closer, but this is a tragic step.

The standard of equine talent in future Caulfield Cups will no doubt surge, but the excitement levels will drop. Perhaps the betting turnover too. The spillover for the Melbourne Cup, however, can be seen as a positive as the standard of the race that stops a nation will no doubt improve should these new proposals be put in place.

But from a general punting perspective, watching the same horses going around with the same weights seems a bit boring.

It’s a scary future ahead, with vast amounts of dollar for the empires such as Darley and Godolphin to inhale. More and more races are now being created and amended to suit those in the top echelons of the sport.

Weight-for-age equine stars winning comfortably in races perfectly fitting their demands. Is this what racing requires? Are we sick of Winx yet? Are the MRC getting on their knees for the aristocrats of racing… or hoping the change can launch the Caulfield Cup to unprecedented distinction to improve sponsorship deals and bring in some more green?

Australian racing has an unhealthy obsession with International recognition.

It yearns to be acknowledged by its counterparts. There is an air of desperation from racing here like an ageing socialite at an exclusive dinner party.

Australian racing is fantastic for the most part and who cares if those Internationals don’t see it. The bottom line is, no matter how many things are changed, Australia will always be a mammoth commitment for trainers/owners of International horses due to its location, and altering a stalwart of Australian racing is not going to change that.