Jockeys oppose second Caulfield track
Victoria’s jockeys would rather ride at one track at Caulfield, rather than the current main course and an inner track at the Heath.
That was the view put to the Melbourne Racing Club in a meeting on Wednesday and it’s a view shared by Caulfield Cup-winning jockeys Mark Zahra and Damien Oliver.
Zahra was one of the riders who attended the meeting in person.
“I don’t like it,” Zahra told Racing.com of the proposed inner track at Caulfield.
“I think it was very clear, all the industry participants yesterday, we said, ‘If you’re going to spend a lot of money on Caulfield, just make one big track, make one very good track’.”
Zahra pointed to inner tracks at interstate venues as a reason why the MRC shouldn’t proceed with the current plan.
“If you look at the Kensington track inside Randwick, which is a lot bigger track than Caulfield, it just seems so leaderish and the same with the Morphettville Parks track,” he said.
“I just don’t think we need another small track to be racing out of in Victoria, especially metropolitan, and a standalone meeting on a Wednesday night.”
Oliver, who attended the meeting electronically, echoed Zahra’s sentiments and questioned the quality of racing that would occur on an inner track.
“They flagged some issues about watering one big track, rather than having two separate tracks, but we still felt that no inner tracks have really worked when you consider Randwick’s Kensington track and Morphetville’s Parks track,” Oliver said.
“They all seem to be inferior tracks or products to the outside tracks and no doubt they’re all tighter turns, not only the home turn, but the whole tracks are also (made up of) tighter turns.
“We’re trying to produce a premium product, not inferior products. Even from a riding point of view, it’s not as safe and it’s not as conducive to good racing.”
MRC CEO Josh Blanksby said the club had its track managers speak at the meeting about the potential for bias one larger track could create, adding it had to keep in mind that its premium race days are conducted on the course proper.
From a broader point of view, Victorian Jockeys’ Association CEO Matt Hyland felt that Wednesday’s meeting with the MRC was a positive one in what was the latest round of discussions between the participants and the club.
“I felt like yesterday was a good meeting on the basis that everyone was clear of the challenges that the MRC and the wishlist that the MRC have, and then the MRC got the opportunity to hear exactly what the participants thought of what they’re proposing,” Hyland said.
The discussion of a secondary, inner track at Caulfield comes at a time when Moonee Valley Racing Club is scheduled to have a break of approximately two years from racing after the 2025 Cox Plate Carnival for its redevelopment, while there is the ongoing uncertainty around the future of Sandown.
The addition of the proposed inner track at Caulfield would allow the club to host night racing, filling a void that will be briefly left by The Valley in a few years.
“You can see both sides,” Hyland continued.
“You’ve got the Melbourne Racing Club; they’re wanting to capture and do what they see is the best opportunity for their Club. Completely understand and respect that.
“However, the participants who are going there and riding on it, they have a different view.
“They have a view that, why are we creating this inner track when we know what style of racing it’s going to create and we know that it’s going to be another tight-turning track, leader-biased track.
“Jockeys naturally aren’t supportive of riding on that style of track in this day and age.”
Another concern raised by the jockeys, should plans for an inner track go ahead, is the access to that track.
The riders are in favour of accessing it via a tunnel, as opposed to going over a crossing on the course proper, citing safety and modern-day best-practice concerns.
“We also raised some concerns about not having tunnels, about getting on and off the tracks where tracks like Ballarat and Geelong in the past, where there’s certainly a higher risk of incidents getting on and off the tracks without tunnels, when the horses are going in confined spaces, getting on to the tracks,” Oliver said.
“Anyone that you talk to, crossings at any track are a thing of the past, so if you’re going to build a premium product, you’re not going to base it on what occurs at other tracks that have inner tracks,” Hyland said.
“If you’re going to build an inner track, the safest option is to access it underneath because you’ve got your premier track on the outside.
“The MRC are comfortable that they can manage multiple crossings. That’s fine to say that but that’s not the view of the jocks.
“The jocks say, ‘Well crossings are a pain anywhere. Horses jump crossings, horses shift at crossings, interference happens at crossings’.”
Zahra noted that what happens from this point on will reveal how much of a compromise can be reached between the participants and the MRC.
“The trainers that were there and all the jockeys, we just all think that it’s probably not the greatest idea, we just think inner-track racing is not great racing,” Zahra said.
“We’re of the opinion that they should just spend it all on making Caulfield better and we were very strong on our opinions. If anything was taken on board or we were heard, I guess time will tell.”