Melbourne set for radical shake-up with Caulfield Cup delayed until November

Horse Racing Mer De Glace Caulfield Cup
Japanese visitor Mer De Glace (Damian Lane) wins the Caulfield Cup. Photo: Racing and Sports

By Nicholas Godfrey

Australia: The Melbourne Spring Carnival looks set for a big shake-up for 2020 with the Caulfield Cup set to be run after the Melbourne Cup.

While the latter is likely to retain its traditional slot on the first Tuesday in November – November 3 this year – the Caulfield highlight will be moved from mid-October to November 28 if proposals from the racecourse are given the official seal of approval.

On Tuesday, the Melbourne Herald Sun reported that Racing Victoria will next week announce an overhaul of the calendar for the spring carnival. A draft schedule has already been presented to racing clubs, with the most obvious changes being the switch of both the Caulfield Cup and the G1 Caulfield Guineas to be run at the end of November.

Among reasons for the move are the possibility that an extra month might enable a crowd to be present at Caulfield, while the desire to avoid a clash with the AFL finals series is another serious factor.

Normally held on the last Saturday in September, the AFL Grand Final has this year been pushed back to October 24 after coronavirus affected the Aussie Rules season.

While the Cox Plate is also scheduled for October 24, it is likely to retain its published date, though Australia’s premier weight-for-age contest may be run at night to avoid a direct clash.

The Victoria Derby card will also retain its traditional slot on the Saturday before the Melbourne Cup, meaning the Caulfield Guineas over a mile comes after the 1m4f Derby.

Similarly, the 1m4f Caulfield Cup is no longer an essential lead-up race for the Melbourne Cup over a half-mile more. Vow And Declare was second in the 2019 Caulfield Cup before scoring at Flemington; Mer De Glace, the Japanese-trained winner at Caulfield, was sixth.

Racing Victoria issued a statement on the matter, saying: “As we have consistently stated, nothing is off the table at this time given the unprecedented circumstances of 2020. Equally, we have said that we do not need to make any decisions prior to June.”

Horse Racing Vow And Declare
Vow And Declare: last year’s Melbourne Cup winner was second in Caulfield Cup.
Photo: Racing and Sports

However, last year’s Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Danny O’Brien suggested the proposed changes did not go far enough and wants the entire carnival pushed back a month with the main event held on the first Tuesday in December.

“The problem we have is we are stuck with dates that aren’t really the best for the racehorse,” O’Brien told RSN.

“The horses go dormant over winter. They are a seasonal animal, they grow a winter coat and their bodies shut down until the spring starts. Our season is way too close to winter.”

Senior trainer David Hayes agreed. “I’ve said it for years that a later date is better for your horse the further you can get away from winter,” Hayes said, speaking to AAP Racing.

“Horses always do better later in the year,” he added. “The sequence of races has worked for something like 120 years, so don’t meddle with that, just move it back three or four weeks and keep it simple.”

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