Leading figurehead in the racing industry John Messara has taken a swipe at the new format of the Sydney Autumn Carnival, a format he himself was involved in creating.
Messara has withdrawn his support for the month long carnival program, instead calling for things to go back to the way they were before things were tampered with.
“I was among those who supported the proposal to re-frame the Sydney carnival with fixed dates and uncouple it from the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale,” Messara said.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I am putting my hand up now as I do not think it is working.
“Attracting and holding public interest in the carnival over several weeks is proving too difficult.
“It is time to go back to the future, reclaim the Easter dates and restore the historical sequence of race meetings on Easter Saturday, Easter Monday, the Wednesday and the following Saturday.”
He takes much of the reasoning from the major racing carnivals held both here and further abroad.
Events such as the Royal Ascot Carnival in the Uk, the Dubai World Cup and Melbourne Cup week all convince him that a tighter grouping of big races works better for the audience.
“The appeal of Royal Ascot for me lies in its unwavering focus on the horses and the racing with everything else – the pageantry, fashion, socialising and splendid food and drink – secondary to what happens on the track,” Messara said.
“Cup Week at Flemington, like Royal Ascot and Dubai, is a destination meeting – an event that attracts advance bookings and visitors from across the country and around the world.
“The common theme here is that the signature meetings concentrate prestigious racing and supporting events into a brief span of time.
“This helps to make a racing carnival a destination for local and international spectators. It becomes a ‘must’ to attend because the trip is made worthwhile by the rich feast of entertainment and competition over a relatively short period of time.
“I believe that under the restructure the Sydney autumn carnival forfeited its status as a destination meeting.
“It is time now to cut our losses and admit that we made a mistake and re-cast many of the carnival races to create an irresistible menu of Group racing and related entertainment.”
He says the popular Easter yearling sale could be put in the week between Easter Monday and the second Saturday.
This would allow for the creating of evening sessions which would target a new demographic of people.
“I believe this may be the only way for the Sale to re-capture and build on the buzz of days gone by,” Messara said.
“The Easter Sale has lost the festive atmosphere that created a sense of excitement about the sport of racing horses and the business of buying them
“The combination of the Easter holiday atmosphere and a week-long racing carnival, coupled with a premier yearling sale fuels the aspiration that drives our sport, through ownership, betting and attendance.”
Any decisions regarding rescheduling will ultimately fall into the hands of the newly merged Australian Turf Club.