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'Everything is on the table': Melbourne hits back in racing's turf war

Melbourne’s three racing clubs meet with Racing Victoria to discuss next year’s feature race scheduling on Thursday in what promises to be a tense discussion where ‘‘everything is on the table’’ as the state’s powerbrokers bid to counter a growing attack from across the border.

The interstate turf war is close to tipping point following Racing New South Wales boss Peter V’Landys announcement this week that big races worth a total of $45 million in prizemoney will clash with the Melbourne spring carnival feature racedays. The $14m Everest, in its third year, is scheduled for Caulfield Cup Day for the first time while the inaugural $7.5m Golden Eagle will be run on Derby Day at Flemington.

Owners of some star horses have indicated they will bypass Melbourne – and prestigious races like the Cox Plate – but Racing Victoria chairman Brian Kruger says an ‘‘emotional response’’ to Sydney’s latest move would not be constructive.

‘‘I think an emotional reaction would just make them beat their chests even harder,’’ Mr Kruger said.

‘‘But we feel that Victoria is Australia’s pre-eminent racing state and we plan to remain the pre-eminent state.’’

‘‘Watch this space,’’ he added of possible changes and that ‘‘everything is on the table’’ as far as scheduling is concerned, raising the prospect of Melbourne potentially moving race days to avoid a clash with Sydney and Mr V’Landys.

Mr Kruger confirmed there there would be further prizemoney increases to compete with Sydney’s riches. Racing NSW has also created a slew of hastily named feature races – including the Bondi Stakes and Silver Eagle – to extend its spring reach, meaning there will be at least one $1m race on six consecutive weekends over spring.

It means top trainers and jockeys will need to make a choice between Melbourne and Sydney, rather than automatically aiming their star horses at the spring carnival. Australian racing had always worked on the tradition of Sydney dominating autumn racing, and Melbourne the spring, but the message from Mr V’Landys couldn’t be clearer.

‘‘You can’t just live in the past,’’ he said. ‘‘Our decisions are commercially driven and we are going to have relevance in that period. We aren’t just going to have picnic meetings while there are carnival fixtures on in Melbourne.’’

While Mr V’Landys is unapologetic, his critics say he is uncooperative and his disruptive scheduling detrimental to the sport overall. The Victoria Racing Club, which runs Flemington, is one of those.
The Melbourne Racing Club, which runs Caulfield can see an upside to the battle, though. MRC racing manager Jake Norton welcomed the competition and said the impact was ‘‘largely immaterial’’.

‘‘Our view is that other than the loss of a couple of jockeys that might otherwise be riding at Caulfield, there has been only positive benefit to the racing industry or racing as a whole as a result of the clash,’’ he said, adding that his club was open to discussing race date changes.

‘‘We would be derelict in our duty not to consider all options that could be of benefit and we should be open-minded to considering race dates.’’

If Victoria is going to compete on prizemoney with NSW, Kruger says Racing Victoria need to address a point of consumption (POC) tax issue with government that has put the state at a competitive disadvantage. ‘‘They have a huge advantage,’’ he said. ‘‘The Victorian government has committed to a review of the POC. There have been a lot of questions about how Racing NSW are paying for all of what they are doing. There is a funding differential of tens of millions of dollars.’’

Article courtesy of Nine and The Brisbane Times

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