Arrowfield Stud principal John Messara said Racing NSW’s new $7.5 million spring race for four-year-olds would not change the program of super colt The Autumn Sun but said Australian racing would be the winner with the initiative.
Messara said The Autumn Sun was already established as the country’s leading young horse and most attractive stallion prospect so the race would not shake him off his path to the Cox Plate, but he said new four-year-old-only race The Golden Eagle – to be run a week after the Cox Plate next spring – could do wonders for the depth of Australian racing.
“I’d say the ones below him (The Autumn Sun) might consider that race but he’s in a slightly special situation in that he’s proven himself superior to his own age group – significantly superior – and we’re hoping that’s reinforced in the new year and they he will be aiming for weight-for-age success so he has a pretty clear route as to where to go,” Messara said.
“Yes the (Golden Eagle) money is very attractive and the race would be easier to win than the one he’ll be going in probably because it’s only got one age group, but for stud purposes, winning against all ages is probably a better underpinning to where he’s going.
“What I think it might do, rather than stop horses going to stud – I don’t think necessarily that will be the prime thing – I think it might stop horses being sold to Hong Kong and Asia and that can only increase the depth of quality of our horses.”
In making the ground-breaking announcement on Wednesday, the Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding said: “We believe The Golden Eagle will be attractive in retaining our top three-year-olds to race on as four-year-olds and benefit the racing industry, underpinning the strength of racing in NSW and Australia more broadly.”
Messara said he felt The Golden Eagle was unlikely to stop the very best colts going to stud but that the race offered the benefit of strengthening our top-end racing.
“If you have a really valuable horse that would stand at a fee of somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000, I don’t think it (Golden Eagle) would have an impact,” he said.
“The ones they are buying from Hong Kong, they are buying the progressive horses that at three have shown something and they are going to be good four-year-olds, but we’ve lost them.
“Making it four-year-olds only has a special purpose and I think the purpose is to keep the horses in training that might have otherwise been sold to Asia.”
Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said the fact that none of the new races hold any black-type status meant little.
“The pattern (committee) doesn’t really concern me one iota,” he said of the group that determines Group and Listed racing.
“This is about attracting the under 35s. They couldn’t care if it is Listed or a Group 96.”
Messara said he understood Racing NSW’s thinking in respect to black-type races with these new races.
“It’s a changing world,” Messara said. “We are a young nation and we are trying to break new barriers so I understand what he (V’landys) is saying but worldwide, the attainment of Group 1 races by a stallion prospect is still important.
“That is not to demean that race. But that race is aiming at not so much in making stallions, but I think it’s about keeping horses in training that might otherwise have been sold.
“The very good ones don’t get sold to Hong Kong. They go to stud. They are not staying here for prizemoney. They are staying here for stud purposes.
“From a long-term point of view, proving-up of the horse and going to a weight-for-age race where you take on all ages, is probably going to provide a better benchmark as to where the horse stands historically against other three and four years that have raced.
“A horse like The Autumn Sun, who has won the (Caulfield) Guineas and the Golden Rose and who hopefully comes back and contests the Randwick Guineas among other races in the autumn, he’s trying to scale heights in terms of reputation and we’re not overly chasing the money as it were.
“We are chasing the reputation and achievements against all comers.”
Messara said the NSW initiatives could benefit both states.
“When they had the Caulfield Guineas and The Everest on the same day this spring, they both had significant increase in waging turnover and attendance,” he said.
“Hopefully one feeds upon the other and that will also be the case here.”
As for The Autumn Sun, who went for a spell with five wins (two at Group 1 level) from six starts, Messara said the colt was in fabulous order in the first stages of his pre-training.
“He’s amazing. I saw him yesterday. He’s put on a significant amount of weight. He’s thickened up. His structure has widened. He looks so strong and he’s so active,” Messara said.
“He’s full of energy and so I am very much looking forward to the autumn.”