There was a
time when the $2.5 million Caulfield Cup was commonly viewed as second only to the Melbourne Cup on
the Australian racing calendar. But these days you wonder if it’s
now the Cox Plate that’s usurped that status.

Yesterday’s decision by the Melbourne Racing Club committee to turn its
back on form horses – such as the heavily backed Confectioner and
Queensland Derby winner Lachlan River (first emergency) – when it
weighed up its discretionary powers for Saturday’s field, was simply
not good enough. What is the point of giving yourself discretionary
powers, if their application gives the green light to a number of
plodders?

While technically they have qualified higher in the starting order,
there’s little doubt they would finished well behind Confectioner, if the
in-form galloper had run. Many punters have done their money
cold (Confectioner was race favorite a few weeks ago).

Racing likes to trot out all the business fundamentals to let us know
that it’s a huge industry, but that doesn’t mean officials don’t shoot
themselves in the foot – and yesterday the MRC blew away both feet.

The
time is long past when the final determination of our major race fields is left
to faceless and unaccountable committee room politicians. Racing Victoria already has control over many
vital components of the state’s industry, so why can’t it be charged with
overseeing an independent and expert Major Racing Events qualification
commission?

The commission’s sole purpose would be to take the politics out of the decision making process so that decisions
aren’t made against the best interests of racing. Instead, it would use common
sense as the most practical criteria for ensuring the best horses
run. And if that means a few less
distinguished overseas entrants won’t chance the journey – why do we need them
in the first place?

How can the
Caulfield Cup be better off by discriminating against well regarded entries on
the basis of making no allowance for late inclusion based on recent form or race
betting – which obviously reflects strong form?
By not exercising discretion and sticking blindly to purely
technical pre-qualifying grounds, an
English entrant who’s never won a listed race has won priority over a strong Derby
winner.

The committee’s failure to show any initiative means we have a Cup
that is inferior in quality and many punters and some very upset local
owners have been kicked in the teeth.

No doubt the Seven network will also be thrilled to know it is
broadcasting a race that places no premium on giving a start to the
absolute best field the club can attract.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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