Watching the live feed from Australia early Monday morning, just before the running of the Phil Sullivan Handicap at Eagle Farm, I overheard the announcers joking amongst themselves about Big Brown’s big loss. “Yeah,” one of the guys said, “he didn’t get his steroids this month.” They all chuckled, and then you could hear them discuss in apparent disbelief how legal drugs varied from state to state here.
Their attitude was not all that surprising to me, as I acknowledge countries like Australia that race drug-free think we are a joke. Take a look at this columnist from The Australian, who begins his Belmont wrap-up with this juicy line: "Big Brown's flop when chasing the Triple Crown in yesterday's Belmont Stakes spared what could only be described as a big brown stain on the underpants of thoroughbred racing in the United States."
Now, that's funny. His article ends on a more serious note: "US racing will remain on the skids until it outlaws the use, or should that be abuse, of substances prohibited elsewhere in the world."
And, after watching as much Australian racing as I have thus far this spring, I’m beginning to believe it myself. Whether it’s the lack of drugs, their training methods, or running mostly (but not entirely) on turf, Australian racing has become far more exciting to me. First, there’s a noticeable lack of interest on mere speed—what I mean is, the announcer NEVER breaks down the race timing. American announcers always have to interject how fast this quarter or half was. They don’t in Australia. It’s all about getting the perfect ride for your horse and riding against the field. Secondly, they don’t post workouts—they have barrier trials or actually run their horses in races (shocking!) to keep them fit. They run more often, even the top horses. And, needless to say if you’ve read my blog before you know I love the mixed gender racing.
Unfortunately, my fillies Tan Tat De Lago and Maunatrice couldn’t handle the heavy going, and lost the G2 Queensland Guineas to Anthony Cummings’ Turffontein and Gai Waterhouse’s Royal Discretion. They did, however, finish fourth and fifth respectively, in the 13-horse field, so not a bad day for the girls. In the G2 Brisbane Cup, one of the very first horses that I “discovered” when betting Australian racing—Viewed—demolished the field to win, while another personal favorite Fulmonti got up for second.
Oh, and just to point out the aforementioned Phil Sullivan Handicap was won by G1 victor Rags to Riches…a 7-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding who is currently on a hot-streak. Apparently, he’s also a good breeding story, the result of the owners’ winning a free stallion service and mating a son of Sadlers Wells—Entrepreneur—to a $350 mare.