Racing NSW, government combine to boost autumn carnival

John Messara: “If you are interested in racing, you will want to be in Sydney for this week”. Photo: Louise KennerleyThe state government and Racing NSW are set to deliver a long-promised boost to the Randwick autumn carnival with huge prizemoney injections to attract the racing world to Sydney.
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And it is hoped that one week of racing at Randwick in April will come to rival the eight-day Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington, which is the crowning jewel of Melbourne’s racing calendar.

The concept has been in the pipeline for more than two years and will be announced by Racing Minister George Souris at Racing NSW headquarters on Tuesday.

A small committee has been working on the meeting for the past year and former Australian Turf Club chief operating officer Ian Mackay was appointed the chief executive of the series last January.

Racing officials were extremely tight-lipped about the final make-up of the series on Monday, claiming that “it could still fall over” if it was to appear in the press.

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said at the time of Mackay’s appointment he could not reveal much about the series because of ”commercially sensitive negotiations”.

“This new race series will complement the wonderful facility that is being developed at Royal Randwick and give Sydney a world class racing carnival. The hard work now begins for us to deliver this, ideally in time for 2014,” V’landys said in January.

The Herald understands the carnival will target the best horses from Asia and North America and Canterbury racecourse is set to become a quarantine centre for the overseas visitors.

Canterbury is scheduled to hold its last meting for the autumn on March 12 and will not race again until April 23, which will allow it to be used as a training and quarantine venue by any international stables.

Racing NSW chairman John Messara told a select group of owners and breeders during this year’s Easter sales in April about the concept.

”If you are interested in racing, you will want to be in Sydney for this week,” he said. ”I would think we would get horses from Japan and North America to compete at the meeting.”

It is believed the funding will come from a revamp of the way the NSW government distributes funds under its agreement with Tabcorp, bringing it into line with the Victorian model, under which racing in that state picks up about $85 million a year more than its northern neighbour.

”If we can get this plan in place it will be an incredible boost for the industry in NSW,” said Messara about the difference in funding levels during his address in April.

”We have been working on this for quite some time and it would make NSW the leading open jurisdiction in the world in terms of returns to owners.

”We can’t match some of the closed markets in Asia but in the next couple of years it will be great to be part of the industry in NSW.”

The focus will be the races at Randwick during the autumn carnival – the main group 1s, including the Doncaster, the T.J. Smith, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Sydney Cup, are likely to get significant boosts in stakes. The announcement on Tuesday is expected to make it clear whether the goal of a start next year has been reached.

However, there are also plans to use some of the additional funding in grassroots racing around the state.

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