The Australian Turf Club has been forced to switch Saturday’s Group 2 $175,000 Villiers Stakes (1550m) to the recently reopened Kensington track after the Randwick course proper has failed to respond to renovations in time.
Recent heavy rain and cool weather has hindered the resurfacing process forcing the Summer’s feature Mile to be run on the $1.6 million state-of-the-art Kensington track, restricting the field size to fourteen runners and will be run over 1550m.
All sections of the racing industry have applauded the new Kensington track and chief steward Ray Murrihy said the club will lose nothing by making the switch.
“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 Australian Turf Club also released the following statement after the Randwick course proper was inspected on Saturday by Murrihy, ATC General Manager-Racecourse Management Lindsay Murphy and jockeys Hugh Bowman, Glyn Schofield and Blake Shinn.
“Following the inspection it has been decided that insufficient grass growth at this stage following the recent renovation, that the race meeting on Saturday 14th December 2013 will now be held on the Kensington Track and not the Randwick Course Proper,” the statement read.
The Villiers Stakes has attracted seventeen entries including last start Doomben winner Absalon and Midsummer Sun from the Sam Kavanagh stable as well as Western Symbol from the Gai Waterhouse stable.
Sydney’s leading trainer Chris Waller has entered Coup At Tee and Said Com while Peter Snowden has nominated Imperil and Limes.
Rosehill based Kavanagh took Absalon to Brisbane to side step the smart White Sage and Terravista and the five year old ran out a comfortable winner in the Listed $80,000 Tattersall’s Recognition Stakes (1600m) at Doomben on November 30 on a heavy track.
“There are a few options with him,” Kavanagh said.
“There is another Stakes race next weekend up in Brisbane but I am going to nominate him for the Villiers Stakes.
“I just thought that the Festival Stakes was a very hot race and obviously Terravista and White Sage are very promising horses.
“They have both gone to the paddock and they didn’t look like they went that hard in front the other day and our bloke is an on-pace rolling type of horse and he might get the right run in the Villiers.
“He is a strong on-pace miler, he can certainly handle a good on-pace tempo and he will be there at the end.
“What we will do is accept for both the Villiers Stakes and the Queensland Handicap and see where he is drawn best, have a look at the races and make our decision next Wednesday.
“If he can draw a gate in the Villiers we would be tempted to have a go.”
Absalon is one of thirteen entered for the Listed $80,000 Brisbane Handicap (1600m) at Doomben on Saturday with the Brisbane Turf Club extending nominations until 9am Queensland time on Tuesday.
Kavanagh has also nominated Midsummer Sun who raced fairly over the Melbourne Spring Carnival with a second in the Listed $150,000 Visit Victoria Plate (1800m) at Flemington on November 5 followed by a fourth to Sertorius in the Group 2 $350,000 Deadly Design Zipping Classic (2400m) at Caulfield on November 16.
While Western Symbol will be facing the starter for the first time in over twelve months after finishing third to Crafty Irna in the Listed $100,000 City Tattersalls Club Cup (2400m) at Randwick on October 20, 2012.