Fri, Mar 10, 9:30am by Senior Writer
One of Australia’s greatest races is set for a major shake-up with news that the Melbourne Racing Club will seek to change the Caulfield Cup to a weight-for-age race.
The Caulfield Cup has been run as a handicap since 1879 and has historically been a key lead-in race for Australia’s greatest race, the Melbourne Cup, which has been run 17 days later.
But the MRC are seeking approval to alter the conditions of their marquee race in a move which would revolutionise the Melbourne spring. Weight-for-age races sees horses five-years and over carry 59kg, four-year-olds 57.5kg and three-year-olds 49.5kg, while fillies and mares carry two kilograms less in each category.
As it stands, there is only one 2400m Group 1 weight for age race in Australia, the BMW at Rosehill during the autumn, but there is every likelihood that could change as early as this year.
Changing the Cup to weight-for-age would likely reduce the numbers of horses who would compete, with the traditional capacity 18-horse field likely to be whittled down to 13 or 14.
There are plans to boost the prizemoney of the race from $3 to $4 million, which would make it Victoria’s second richest race and bring it on par with Sydney’s richest weight-for-age race, the Queen Elizabeth.
Significantly, it is likely to encourage more overseas runners to target the race, as running it under weight-for-age conditions would prevent the winner receiving a penalty for the Melbourne Cup.
One of the disincentives for overseas connections, particularly those from Japan, is that the winner of the Caulfield Cup is liable to a weight rise for the Melbourne Cup, making it difficult for those horses to win the Flemington race.
When Admire Ratki won the Caulfield Cup in 2014, he was given a 0.5 kg penalty for the Melbourne Cup, meaning he carried 58.5kg in the two-mile race.
The following year, Fame Game was ridden extremely cold in the Caulfield cup before charging home for sixth, with Zac Purton subsequently pulled before stewards to explain the ride. It was suspected that connections of the horse didn’t want Fame Game to win the Caulfield Cup because he would have to carry a bigger weight in the Melbourne Cup.
As it turned out, Fame Game ran 13th as favourite in the Melbourne Cup.
That situation would be made prevented by the Caulfield Cup going to weight-for-age, with top class international stayers likely to target both races.
While running a $4 million wfa 2400m race a week before the 2040m Cox Plate under the same conditions might overshadow the Moonee Valley feature, the MVRC has few concerns over the change.
Northerly was the last horse to win the Cox Plate after running in the Caulfield Cup.
The change has been prompted by the VRC’s refusal to change the handicapping conditions of the Melbourne Cup, so that the Caulfield Cup winner could not be handicapped.
The MRC have been seeking the change for a number of years, but the VRC have refused to budge.
The last horse to run in the Caulfield Cup and win the Melbourne Cup was Viewed in 2008, while Ethereal was the last horse to do the double in 2001, a stat which shows the diminishing importance of the Caulfield race.
The move follows the establishment of The Everest, a $10 million sprint race, to be run at Randwick in Sydney the week before the Caulfield Cup.
The Everest surpassed the Melbourne Cup as the richest race in Australia.
Caulfield Cup Market 2017 (Sportsbet)
Antonio Giuseppe $19
Francis Of Assisi $19
Yankee Rose $26
La Bella Diosa $26
Sir Isaac Newton $31
Bondi Beach $31
Red Cardinal $31
Sacred Master $31
Perfect Reflection $31
Vengeur Masque $34
Gold Trail $34
Tom Melbourne $34
Big Duke $41
Harlow Gold $41
Who Shot Thebarman $41
Heartbreak City $41
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