Tuesday, 22 April 2014



Nicholas Godfrey samples Randwick's new Championships series, which despite a soggy start is embraced by a willing crowd.

"A TOUCH overhyped it may be but in the end,  despite abysmal weather and a deficiency of

 overseas horses, Australia's richest race day is a success. Not an unqualified success, it must be admitted, but a success nonetheless as Royal Randwick witnesses the dawning of a new era with day one of The Championships, a cash- laden attempt to showcase  Sydney's racing to a global audience.

"If caricature stereotypes about the denizens of this spectacular city are blatantly inaccurate -they don't all hate the English and they aren't all boorish yahoo's - then one particular cliche still rings resoundingly true. What will always remain is an intense rivalry with those snobbish, toffee-nosed Melbournians'.

"Such antipathy clearly extends to the racing world, where they can't even bear to race in the same direction: they go from left to right  in Melbourne , right to left in Sydney.  Domestically speaking, the home of Tommy Smith and his daughter Gai Waterhouse used to be able to claim approaching parity; abroad, though, it has always been a different story, with the Melbourne Cup and it's attendant spring carnival registering in Richter-scale proportions on the international scene.

"In contrast, Sydney's autumn carnival barely rates a mention. Something, clearly, had to be done- and hey presto, Racing NSW  launched the Championships, two Saturdays of top-class racing as historic Randwick featuring eight Group 1s and a total of  A$18.2 million (about 10m) in prize-money, backed by the full support of the state government.

"Yet they don't get a fairytale start on the first Saturday, which features four Group 1's headed by the time-honoured Doncaster Mile- now the worlds richest mile-and the TJ Smith Stakes thereby rendering the nation's senior Classic, the Australian Derby, as almost a third-level attraction.

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