The Sydney Spring Racing Carnival’s major race meeting Epsom Handicap Day has lost one of its Group 1 highlights with the 2013 Spring Champion Stakes to run a week later this October.
The decision by the Australian Turf Club (ATC) has seen the $400,000 Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) move from Epsom Handicap Day, October 5, at Royal Randwick to its own major race day on October 12 setting up a clash with the start of the Melbourne Spring Carnival in Victoria.
A major lead-up for three-year-olds heading towards the lucrative $1.5 million Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington during the Melbourne Cup Carnival in early November, the Spring Champion Stakes will this year run on the same day as the $1 million Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) in Melbourne.
Explaining their decision to shift the race ATC said it would now allow a fortnight between Sydney’s headline three-year-old event the $1 million Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) on September 15 and the $200,000 Group 3 Gloaming Stakes (1800m), and then another two weeks between the Gloaming and the Spring Champion.
One trainer now weighing up options with his 2013 Victoria Derby-bound galloper because of the move is Anthony Cummings with Drago who will be out to emulate the VRC Derby winning effort of their stablemate Fiveandahalfstar from last spring.
Happy with the previous calendar, Cummings is now unsure whether the Spring Champion Stakes will fit into the spring prep of the Danehill Dancer colt who enjoyed a scintillating four length win in the Juvenile Stayer at Rosehill last start.
“Generally speaking the Spring Champion horses and the Caulfield Guineas horses are a different beast so I don’t think there’s any issue in those races overlapping,” Cummings said.
“But what it does do is changes the preparation for a (Victoria) Derby horse.
“It was a nice two week break from the Gloaming to the Spring Champion, two weeks into the Norman Robinson at Caulfield and two weeks into the Derby.
“That’s a nice progression, nice timing, the horse improves and you get a good result with that.
“Now you have to decide if you go Spring Champion and two weeks into the Vase at Moonee Valley then back-up in the Derby or miss the Spring Champion and go Norman Robinson, two weeks into the Derby.
“It does change how you get to the Derby and there are 1.5 million reasons why it’s the priority so you build the preparation about being right on that day.
“I have to sit down and work things out now and see if the Spring Champion still plays a part.”
Last season Cumming’s Hotel Grand gelding Fiveandahalfstar, last start winner of the Group 1 The BMW (2400m), won the Derby without having raced in any of the traditional lead-ups but he knows he isn’t dealing with quite the same class of horse in Drago.
“For a horse like Fiveandahalfstar it wouldn’t matter but he’s a pretty tough beast,” he said.
“He’s a very different type of horse to Drago.”
While admitting that there will be some horses the race move will suit, overall Cummings believed the decision would be detrimental to Sydney which will now have to compete with a major Cox Plate lead-up in Melbourne, the Spring Champion also running on the same day as the $400,000 Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m).
“I think it’s fair to expect the top Sydney jockeys will be in Melbourne for the Guineas while the Caulfield Stakes is also on that program,” he said.
“It’s the Cox Plate lead-up for a number of horses.
“Combine that with the difference in prize money between the two meetings and there’s no doubt the Randwick meeting will suffer.”
Meanwhile there will still be three Group 1 features running in Sydney on Epsom Handicap Day with the meeting’s namesake race the $500,000 Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) joined by the $400,000 Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m) and the $400,000 Group 1 Flight Stakes (1600m) for fillies.
Other changes to come from the ATC in the spring include the Group 2 Furious Stakes to now run over 1200m down from 1400m, and the Group 2 Tea Rose Stakes moved from Rosehill to Randwick and run over 1400m instead of 1500m.
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