Steve Moran

Victorian officials deserve praise for All Star Mile concept

The proposed $5 million All-Star Mile is a cracking idea, especially in a racing jurisdiction which has seen nothing momentous happen – bar the advent of the TAB and Moonee Valley night racing – in almost 60 years.

It matters not what impact it might have on any other race. The Australian Cup, for example, has had any number of guises over the years and may now have another. So be it.

The Autumn Carnival has been in desperate need of a fillip for years and this may well provide it. Given racing’s gradual erosion from the mainstream psyche, any initiative demands plaudits and, of course, its chance.

I’d take it a step further and create the World’s Sprinter-Miler Championships. Run the Orr Stakes, at set weights and penalties five weeks beforehand, and then rebadge the Futurity Stakes as the Super Seven two weeks before the All-Star Mile on 16 March.

The racing world lacks a legitimate, international seven furlong (1400m) race and the Futurity is an entirely dispensable name. Every country in the world, plus a handful of others in rivals codes, has a race named the Futurity.

Perhaps a link could be forged with the Doncaster in Sydney or the Champions Mile in Hong Kong or the Yasuda Kinen in Japan or even the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. Eventually the quarantine barrier will be broken with Hong Kong… I think.

Yes, various world series of races have failed in the past but they were unwieldy, too broad and too ambitious. The focus here should be one link with one other jurisdiction.

And while we’re at it, let’s just stick with the Autumn Carnival. That’s what it is, just like the Spring carnival which has worked forever as a brand.

The VRC hosts the inaugural All-Star Mile and they just might come to the party by dropping their ‘private members’ club’ mentality and open the members’ gates and car parks to the public on this day.

It’s time they tried something. You’d imagine that the CEO of any other business which attracted a huge number of customers on four days of the year, in the space of one week, would issue a modest first challenge to his or her marketing team: “Get me these numbers on one other day of the year.”

If such a challenge has ever been issued at headquarters, it’s not been met.

It also matters not that the concept of a public vote to determine ten of the 14 runners, which mimics Japan’s hallowed Arima Kinen, is not original. Many of the world’s most successful business have been built on poaching ideas from abroad.

Moonee Valley this year celebrated 20 years of night racing and that innovation has to be hailed as a success, against the backdrop of limited industry support initially and compared with the crowds and turnover generated by the decaying mid-weekers it generally replaced.

It may become even more significant after the redevelopment begins, post 2020 Cox Plate, with the the plan that Moonee Valley will be exclusively a night racing venue and with the Cox Plate to be run under the lights.

The advent of off-course betting via TAB outlets was a monumental success even if it did bizarrely precipitate a decline in racing’s place in the mainstream media as most administrators dropped the ball for 20-plus years as they were awash with funds. Who could blame them?

As a less grumpy and much younger man, I vividly remember many a club chief saying: “Don’t worry about the drop in attendance, sonny – look at these off-course turnover figures.”

That ought not be an issue with the All-Star Mile. With the right marketing and assuming it attracts a decent 12 to 14-horse field, who’s to say that in twenty years people (not me, I’ll be grumpily dead by then) won’t be declaring: “Wasn’t that a great idea!”