Sydney trainers are up in arms over the Australian Turf Club’s decision to switch the Group 2 $175,000 Villiers Stakes from the Randwick course proper to the recently opened new Kensington track.
The Villiers Stakes field will be reduced from eighteen to fourteen runners with the distance trimmed back from 1600m to 1550m on the Kensington track following the switch after an inspection of the course proper on Saturday revealed the resurfacing work was a bit behind schedule due to recent wet weather and cool temperatures.
But trainers are concerned that field size reduction will rob owners of a chance to run in the Group 2 feature and lose the opportunity to gain prizemoney on the eve of the revamped Sydney Autumn Carnival and ‘The Championships.’
Warwick Farm trainer Joe Pride has Destiny’s Kiss nominated for the Villiers and is disappointed with the decision to reduce the field size and distance.
“I would have liked to see them maintain the same distance and field sizes more than anything. I’ve set my horse for a mile race. While I’m not saying he can’t win, his chances have diminished,” Pride told The Daily Telegraph.
ATC chief executive Darren Pearce was in Hong Kong promoting the ‘The Championships’ and said that he fully supported the decision that was made by Lindsay Murphy, General manager of Racecourses and Colin Tuck, General Manager of Racing and Wagering.
“Lindsay and Col are the two most experienced racing administrators in the country,” Pearce said via text message.
“They have over 80 years between them, and I respect their advice and endorsed their decision.”
Murphy said the renovations were hindered by five days of heavy rain during the resurfacing works and the track would only be eighty-five to ninety per cent right if they were to race on it on Saturday.
“It’s close to being right now, it was just a choice of racing on a track that’s 85 to 90 per right or 100 per cent,” Murphy said.
“And with rain forecast Friday and Saturday, we thought this was our safest option. Those five days of rain have probably worked out to be the difference between with us going ahead (on the course proper) Saturday.”
Racing New South Wales chief steward Ray Murrihy supported the move after he, Murphy and jockeys Hugh Bowman, Glyn Schofield and Blake Shinn examined the course proper last Saturday.
“Kensington is easily the best option, and while we might not have been able to say that about the Kensington not so long ago, everybody in NSW expects it to race better than the course proper next Saturday,” Murrihy told The Sunday Telegraph.
“The club should be congratulated for making the move, and when we return to racing there on New Year’s Day, you’ll see a track that hasn’t been raced on prematurely.
“The field sizes won’t be as big, but we can live with that, with 14 able to run from the 1550m, and 12 from the 1150m.
“The jockeys looked at the track and they said it was `safe’, but not `optimum’, and we relayed that view of the jockeys to the club.”
The Villiers Stakes only attracted seventeen nominations when entries closed today while the Listed $100,000 Razor Sharp Handicap has sixteen nominations with only twelve to run from the 1150m starting point.