The 2017 Sydney Autumn Carnival closed on Saturday, with the exception of the re-running of the Sydney Cup next week, with the All Aged Stakes meeting before a crowd of 13,388 bringing the total attendance over the three days at Randwick to 60,762.
Last year the figures were 14,538 and 62,346 respectively. It is to be hoped that planning for next year allows for clearer and concise Sydney branding as what continues to happen, this time last year this column wrote in a similar manner, is a collision of too many brands and messages across the six weeks of the Carnival.
What is different from last year is that a roadblock of racing thinking has been removed from the Australian Turf Club and there is the kernel of sensible planning for the future.
Perhaps five weeks of Carnival days better reflect a sustainable top flight racing period, programme changes for better lead-up races, careful work with kindred racing jurisdictions to bring others into a Sydney focus, this and other thinking is a welcome addition for planning for the future.
The hoopla over possible racing over the Sydney Harbour Bridge over the past two days, is just that, hoopla. Serious minds need to fix the current losing battle of crowds and attention on what is racing at the highest standard.
The last weeks have seen world class jockeys riding in Sydney, the obvious brilliance of Winx with her breathtaking performances and despite a deluge of rain, tracks that handed up victories that in the main were deserving.
That deluge of rain, 200mm in February, 250mm in March and 75mm so far this month has focussed the spotlight on the lack on an All Weather track in the metropolitan region. The current laying of another grass track on the Kensington circuit at Randwick is a mistake and an opportunity lost. The only remarkable aspect of this is that this lost opportunity is recognised by so many experienced individuals.
Highlights from Saturday included the Cummings family featuring and continuing their fine tradition. Edward enjoyed his first black type success as a co-trainer with father Anthony with their co-owned Top Of My List in the Group 3 JRA Plate (2000m). In typical Anthony style the four-year-old High Chaparral mare has progressed quickly through the ranks and won her black type victory at her eighth start.
Edward watched the race alongside Anthony and as Tim Clark expertly rated the mare to a 3/4L win there was a very satisfactory handshake between son and father.
Brother James was up next with a clever plan that brought Group 1 black type to Whispering Secret behind The Mission’s Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m) win. Another by High Chaparral, the two-year-old filly backed up from her listed Fernhill Handicap win over 1600m last Saturday to claim third and top level black type for her pedigree page.
Another family that bore broad smiles on Saturday were the Perry’s. Paul and son Shannon enjoyed The Mission’s victory under a bold ride by Damien Lane in the Champagne Stakes, not least because they bought the now valuable colt for just $32,500 from the draft of Edenglassie Stud at the 2016 Magic Millions Yearling Sale on the Gold Coast, but he is by Choisir who Paul took to Royal Ascot for international success.
The Mission, out of the Redoute’s Choice mare My Amelia, has earned stakes of $411,925 and will be in the sights of studs for a future career in the breeding barn.
High Chaparral was not finished with stamping his regretfully late mark on the meeting when Tivaci won the Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) for Mike Moroney and Damien Oliver.
There was no fluke about the win with the four-year-old entire destined for Waikato Stud sustaining a long run from last at the top of the straight to overall proven Group 1 winner Le Romain just metres from the line. He will be a welcome addition to the breeding barn with his speed to add to his sires’ Sadler’s Wells stamina credentials.
Finally there was fitting farewell for James Doyle riding the progressive Street Cry filly Raiment to win the Group 3 JHB Carr Stakes (1400m). Doyle will be back in the UK already to ride for Godolphin over the northern summer and he leaves having made a big impression on their stable here, the media and race goers for his ability to command his mounts.
Godolphin needed a rider of personal maturity and ability to adapt to the very strong Sydney riding bench after the debacle, not of their making, of the wagering disqualification of their former number one rider James McDonald. Doyle more that filled both requirements. It was an excellent use of the stable’s world-wide talent.
Doyle also endured injury and a potentially drastic fall in the Sydney Cup two weeks ago. It will be one of the enduring memories of the 2017 autumn of his fellow rider Blake Shinn assisting him to his feet off the Randwick turf. It was a fine message of care and sportsmanship to all who witnessed the incident.
Sydney might have just about settled back from carnival racing but the coming months have much to look forward to.
There are two major Hong Kong international meetings coming up, three months of the South African Champions Season culminating in the Durban July, the addition of Canada’s premier racing from Woodbine for the news platform, major Singapore races, summer racing from the USA, UK and France and the Queensland Winter Carnival back here. Racing never sleeps.