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NSW take aim at Spring Carnival with big prize-money boost

Racing NSW announce new races, up prizes and boost infrastructure as battle to secure best horses heats up

Racing NSW will add another $30 million to the state’s already booming prize-money levels, with some of the state’s biggest races as well as grassroots meetings receiving increases, while $125 million will be spent on much-needed infrastructure projects, among a host of changes and initiatives announced by the regulator yesterday. 

From September 1, Racing NSW will also increase its rake from each race conducted in the state from one per cent to one-and-a-half per cent to fund its equine welfare programme, while two per cent of prize-money (up from one-and-a-half per cent) will be directed to the strappers’ bonus fund, which has been in place since 2012 to help support the industry’s lowest-paid workers. The jockeys’ welfare fund will remain unchanged at one per cent of prize-money.

It also emerged at the media conference – attended by RNSW chairman Russell Balding, chief executive Peter V’landys and NSW racing minister Kevin Anderson – that the cash splash tit-for-tat between Australia’s two most affluent racing states appears no closer to a truce.

Racing NSW is set to distribute a $6 million bonus to the connections of Australia’s elite sprinters who race in Sydney in the lead up to and after the $15 million The Everest (1200m) this spring, effectively trying to lure them away from the prestigious Melbourne carnival.

Last week, Racing Victoria fired its own bonus broadside, offering $1 million incentives for the winners of the Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m); Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m), Empire Rose Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m), Darley Champions Sprint (Gr 1, 1200m) and the Kennedy Champions Mile (Gr 1, 1600m), if they can also win a designated lead-up races, including the Manikato Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) a move the regulator hoped would convince connections to focus on the Victorian carnival.

Yesterday, the northern state’s administration returned serve by revealing the Sydney Sprint Series bonus – the huge $6 million pot solely contributed by the sponsor, market-leading corporate bookmaker Sportsbet, and not Racing NSW’s long-time ally Tabcorp. 

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys was not hiding the motive behind the massive incentive at yesterday’s televised media conference, with Royal Ascot hero Nature Strip (Nicconi), Masked Crusader (Toronado), Classique Legend (Not A Single Doubt) and Mazu (Maurice) squarely in his sights. 

“The Everest has made those horses well-known throughout Australia and it’s only fair they stay in NSW, because we’re the ones that have made them household names and we’re the ones that have highlighted the sprint racing in Australia,” V’landys said. 

“Now having the $6 million bonus will encourage them to stay for the five-race series and in particular the Nature Strip (Winner’s) Stakes (1300m) on Golden Eagle Day.” 

The series comprises six races – the Concorde Stakes (Gr 3, 1000m), The Shorts (Gr 2, 1100m), Premiere Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m), Sydney Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m), The Everest and the Winner’s Stakes (1300m) – with points allocated to the horses finishing from first to fifth and double points offered in the final leg. 

To be eligible for the bonus, horses must compete in at least three of the nominated races with the bonus split between the five horses who finish with the most points, including $2.5 million to the overall winner. 

Other significant announcements yesterday included: 

The introduction of a new $1 million race, The Five Diamonds Prelude (1500m) on Everest day as a lead-up to $2 million The Five Diamonds (1800m), a race for five-year-olds.

The $500,000 The Little Dance (1600m), a Melbourne Cup Day consolation race at Randwick for horses balloted out of $2 million The Big Dance (1600m)

Doncaster Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) both increased by $1 million to $4 million and $5 million respectively 

TJ Smith Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) rises to $3 million (from $2.5 million), while The Galaxy (Gr 1, 1100m) and Ranvet Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) will be worth $1 million from next autumn 

The Kosciuszko (1200m) for NSW country-trained horses will increase from $1.3m to $2m from this October.

Increased prize-money for grassroots racing with country races to be worth a minimum of $27,000 while two races on each country program will be restricted to country-trained horses 

Provincial stakes levels remain the same, but each card will have a race for provincial-trained horses only and another restricted to horses from Midway stables 

Highway and Midway Handicaps to rise from $100,000 to $120,000. 

Punters’ thirst for wagering appears not to have been dulled by the state’s blanket of wet tracks, with Racing NSW chair Russell Balding indicating betting turnover on the state’s thoroughbred meetings at record levels, a point echoed by V’landys, which has in part enabled the increased investment.

“And there’s a possibility we’ll be announcing further prize-money increases in the next six months, so these are sustainable, fully funded and that’s thank you to the NSW state government and the negotiations we did on the point of consumption tax (which is) assisting the funding, but we’ve also had record turnover,” V’landys said.

“Now, we do expect that (turnover) to come down a little bit after Covid, but at this stage they are fully funded and there’s probably still a surplus left over.”

Also announced yesterday, an infrastructure fund of $125 million – $70 million from the state government and $55 million from Racing NSW – will be invested over the next two years to support the building of stable complexes, improve drainage on the state’s waterlogged racecourses, construct new training tracks and race day amenities for participants and customers, as well as improve jockeys’ rooms across the state.

 V’landys said some race clubs had already started the planning process for those projects.

“We have a number of clubs who have already started development applications with councils and, in particular, stable developments, because there is now a substantial demand from interstate and international trainers to come into NSW,” he said. 

“That has already started and, as the chairman pointed out, we’ve (built) all the Polytracks [in Sydney to allow continued training of horses]. However, no matter what drainage we had in place, with the weather we’ve had, any race meeting would have been called off.”

NSW Racehorse Owners Association chief executive Jane Henning welcomed the prize-money increases, as well as the designated country-only races which are to be programmed. 

“Obviously there’s a little bit more coming out of the owners’ purse [percentage wise], but then again, the prize-money’s gone up, so I think it’d be quibbling to nitpick about that,” Henning told ANZ Bloodstock News yesterday.

“We have had some feedback from our owners in recent times about metro trainers going out to the country and taking the majority of the prize-money, so they will be very happy that there’s a couple of races (each meeting) that are exclusive to country trainers.”

V’landys said the NSW country racing sector had been the biggest beneficiary of prize-money increases over the past decade.

“The country sector’s gone from $5,000 a race to $27,000 a race. However, because of the attractive prize-money, there’s been provincial and metropolitan trainers going there (country meetings), so what we’ve decided to do is make two, possibly three, races for country trainers only,” he said. 

“Not only that, there’s interstate trainers coming from Queensland and Victoria taking some of the prize-money. We want to keep our country trainers viable and that’s why we’ve done what we’ve done today.”

Prize-money in NSW has more than tripled in the past decade from $119 million in 2012, to $358 million when the new levels come into effect from September 1. 

 

Minimum prize-money increases

  • Picnic minimum prize-money increases from $5000 to $7000
  • Non-TAB minimum prize-money increases from $10,000 to $12,000
  • Sky 2 minimum prize-money increases from $15,000 to $16,000
  • Country TAB minimum prize-money increases from $25,000 to $27,000

Spring feature race increases

  • Concorde Stakes $160,000 to $500,000
  • The Shorts $500,000 to $1m
  • Premiere Stakes $500,000 to $1m
  • The Kosciuszko will increase from $1.3m to $2m
  • Sydney Stakes $500,000 to $2m
  • Nature Strip (Winners) Stakes $1m to $3m

New races

  • $1m Five Diamond Prelude (1500m) (Everest day)
  • $500,000 The Little Dance (1600m) (Big Dance day)
  • The Four Pillars (1500m) for Midway trained horses will have a purse of $500,000, down from $700,000, and the field will be determined on horses’ benchmark ratings. 

$6m Sydney Sprint Series bonus

A new $6m bonus to be paid to horses winning the most points across the following six races:

  • Concorde Stakes (1000m) September 3
  • The Shorts (1100m) September 17
  • Premiere Stakes (1200m) October 1
  • The Everest (1200m) October 15
  • Sydney Stakes (1200m) October 15
  • Nature Strip Stakes (1300m) October 29

Points awarded: 5 points for 1st, 4 points for 2nd, 3 points for 3rd, 2 points for 4th and 1 point for 5th in each of the first 5 races.

Double points will be awarded for the Nature Strip Stakes on Golden Eagle Day.

It will also be a condition of the bonus that horses must have competed in at least 3 races in the series to be eligible.

Autumn feature race increases

  • Queen Elizabeth Stakes $4m to $5m
  • The Doncaster Mile $3m to $4m
  • TJ Smith Stakes $2.5m to $3m
  • The Galaxy $700,000 to $1m
  • Ranvet Stakes $700,000 to $1m