Horse Racing

The Australian racing Grand Slam should now include the Doncaster Mile

The Doncaster Mile is often referred to as Australian racing’s fifth major – and deservedly so.

The famous Royal Randwick 1600m handicap is always an exciting contest and the field for tomorrow’s race is outstanding with 11 individual Group 1 winners among the 20 runners.

Mugatoo hasn’t won at Group 1 level yet but he is the Doncaster topweight and favourite, while every runner is rated 101 or higher which only underlines the quality of this race.

So, where does the Doncaster Mile fit into the elite race framework given it regularly rates higher each season than three of the four designated Grand Slam races, the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup and Golden Slipper?

For that matter, what about The Everest, TJ Smith Stakes, ATC Australian Derby and ATC Queen Elizabeth Stakes?

It’s becoming obvious that Australian racing has out-grown the four-race Grand Slam concept.

I’m not suggesting the existing Grand Slam races including the Cox Plate be stripped of their elite race status because each has earned their “major” ranking.

But why not consider expanding and modernising the Grand Slams into an elite major race series?

Any fair-minded person would acknowledge The Everest should be elevated to Group 1 level and as the nation’s best sprint race – and arguably the best in the world – it’s deserving of Grand Slam status.

Similarly, the field for the TJ Smith Stakes tomorrow is “Everest-like” – as it is every year – and always rates through the roof.

Australian sprinters are recognised as the best in the world and The Everest and TJ Smith play to the strengths of our racing and breeding industry.

But the three Melbourne majors cater for middle distance and staying types, while the Golden Slipper is for two-year-olds only.

By increasing the number of Grand Slam races, it provides opportunities for sprinters to earn deserved recognition, the nation’s best milers through the Doncaster Mile to win a major, and gives our middle distance champs two significant aims as the Queen Elizabeth Stakes complements and challenges the Cox Plate as the best weight-for-age race each season over that distance range.

The ATC Australian Derby is the nation’s premier three-year-old classic and if elevated to Grand Slam status, it would be in keeping with worldwide trends.

Thus, an elite tier of Group 1 races is established carrying Grand Slam status which acknowledges the very best and most prestigious races.

There are similar concepts in other sports like tennis, for example, which has its Masters series, an elite group of tournaments carrying higher rankings points than other ATP events.

The Group (Grade) race system has been adopted by all racing jurisdictions but that doesn’t mean Australian racing could not be a pioneer of a new tier of elite, prestigious Grand Slam races.

Now is the time

NOW IS THE TIME FOR GAI

It seems incongruous that Gai Waterhouse has never won the Derby at Royal Randwick.

The Hall of Fame trainer has prepared 144 Group 1 winners during her career including 10 in partnership with Adrian Bott but the ATC Australian Derby has eluded her.

This is the race Waterhouse’s father, the late, great Tommy Smith dominated with a record nine Derby wins including his first major with Playboy in 1949 and with champions like Tulloch (1957), Imagele (1973) and Kingston Town (1980).

At least Waterhouse can boast she “rode” a Derby winner as shown in this famous photo of her as a four-year-old on the back of the mighty Tulloch.

Gai Smith (now Waterhouse) as a four-year-old on champion Tulloch.Source:News Corp Australia

Waterhouse and Bott have an opportunity to finally win the $2 million Bentley ATC Australian Derby (2400m) tomorrow with the improving Yaletown.

The Coolmore-owned Yaletown goes into the Derby after a tough win last Saturday in the …. Tulloch Stakes!

Waterhouse and Bott also have two chances in the $3 million The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) with Yao Dash and Shout The Bar.

If either was to win the Doncaster, it will give Waterhouse a historic eighth win in the famous race. She currently shares the race training record of seven wins with her father.

STAYING HOME

Gem Song, trained by Kris Lees, was scratched yesterday from the Doncaster Mile after showing signs of lameness in the off foreleg after Newcastle trackwork.

Lees can still rely on the outstanding Mugatoo, last start winner of the All-Star Mile, and the Doncaster favourite at $4.20 in tomorrow’s big race.

Originally published asRacing Confidential – with Ray Thomas

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