Australian Turf Club Chairman John Messara admits that The Championshipsis unlikely to draw top-class internationally-trained horses next year but is confident that the 2015 version of the meeting will feature a number of the best gallopers from right away the world.
The concept for The Championships, that includes eight Group 1 races over two days during the 2014 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, was released just over a fortnight ago and the scheduling of a number of events has been questioned.
The $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) is now set to be the focal point of Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival and the ATC hopes that race will turn into a truly international event, like the Melbourne Cup, and draw some of the best horses from Europe, Asia and the United States.
A number of racing experts have claimed that the ATC’s hope of drawing horses like Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Treve and American Horse of the Year Wise Dane is a pipe dream but Messara told Sky Racing HQ that, based on his conservations with trainers from around the world, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes will be an international draw card.
“In the Queen Elizabeth you are going to have a scintillating field of the best weight-for-age horses in the country and, over time, some of the best in the world,” Messara said.
“Next year will be difficult because we made the announcement so late.
“It took so much time to finalise the negotiations that we announced it probably a month or two too late to get a good spattering of overseas horses.
“I think in 2015 you will see some top horses here; just what some of the conversations I have had with some of the top trainers from all around the world.
“They are all saying that they have programs for their horses early next year but, boy oh boy, will they be there the following year.”
Another criticism leveled at The Championships is that it has left races like the $3 million Group 1 Golden Slipper (1200m) and the Group 1 The BMW (2400m) out in the cold because they have not been included as Championship events.
There have even been calls for The BMW to be converted into a handicap event like the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) but Messara believes that The BMW will remain a key lead-up event to the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
“The BMW is one of the best entry points, historically, into the Queen Elizabeth and you are going to get some exceptionally good horses running in The BMW now,” Messara said.
“If you made it a handicap event you might frighten some of those horses away from using it as a lead-up event.
“The Australian Pattern Committee, that recommends to the Australian Racing Board Group races and Listed races, is loath to make any more handicaps Group 1’s.
“The feeling is that Group 1’s should really be weight-for-age races.”
The inaugural edition of The Championships will be held over two consecutive weekends at Royal Randwick on Saturday April 12 and Saturday April 19.