Racing NSW has announced a new $2 million race called The Invitation, which will be run at Royal Randwick this Spring Carnival.
The Invitation, for fillies and mares, will be run over 1400m on Saturday, October 23, with the 12 starters invited by a panel convened by Racing NSW.
Invitations will be extended only to fillies and mares trained in Australia and New Zealand.
Racing NSW also announced two more races had been added to the group racing calendar, while prize money of some feature races will be given a cash injection, totalling $1 million.
The George Main Stakes and Hill Stakes will be increased from $500,000 to $1m.
A new 2300m handicap on The Hunter race day and a new 1000m handicap on The Gong race day have also been added, with both being worth $300,000.
“As we head towards ‘The Everest’ and ‘The Golden Eagle’, ‘The Invitation’ will provide a further highlight to spring racing in Sydney with a unique formulation of the field by invitation only,” said Racing NSW Chairman, Mr Russell Balding AO.
“The Invitation also provides the Sydney Spring Carnival with a marquee race for fillies and mares.”
While The Invitation is new to the calendar, the Hill Stakes will be run for the 100th time in 2021, which is a key reason why the prizemoney has been increased.
“The Hill Stakes will be run for the 100th time and it is fitting that this race be commemorated with prizemoney of $1 million where we are confident of attracting some of the best middle-distance horses in Australasia,” Mr Balding said.
NSW Racing Minister Kevin Anderson Australian Turf Club Chief Executive Jamie Barkley both said they were delighted with the latest addition to the Sydney Spring.
The Sydney Spring Carnival will now host eight consecutive weeks of $1 million-plus races, boosting the Everest Carnival prizemoney to over $50 million.
TAB have opened a market for The Invitation, which sees last year’s Epsom Handicap winner, Probabeel, head the betting at $6, ahead of dual-Brisbane Winter Carnival Group 1-winner Tofane at $8 and star Godolphin mare, Colette at $11.
Opinion: Our Take on The Invitation
Over recent seasons, Racing NSW, under Peter V’Landys, has seen an incredible boost to the racing calendar, including adding The Everest, The Golden Eagle, The Hunter, The Gong and The Bondi Stakes. Racing NSW has also rolled out a swag of prizemoney boosts to Highway races, country racing and the introduction of Midway races in just the last few weeks.
In just four years, The Everest has sky-rocketed to become arguably Australia’s best sprint, and the conversation has been had as to whether or not it has surpassed the Melbourne Cup as the #1 race.
The Invitation gives Sydney-siders yet another race to look forward to this Spring, but is it just another Racing NSW bullet, fired at Racing Victoria?
Set to be run on October 23, fillies and mares who are invited to run in the $2m event are unlikely to back up into the traditional fillies and mares Spring Carnival staple race, the Empire Rose Stakes over the mile at Flemington on VRC Derby Day, just seven days later.
Similarly, the Golden Eagle (1500m) is run seven days after the Cox Plate (2040m) which again detracts from one of our traditional race meetings, with connections of some of our top four-year-old middle distance runners targeting the $7.5m race instead.
The Golden Eagle was introduced for four-year-olds only and was set to give owners all over the country a chance to get their four-year-old milers into the field. But in just the two runnings of the race, we have seen the powerhouse stables of Chris Waller and James Cummings’ Godolphin operation win, so we can see why many disgruntled punters fear that this is just another cash grab for the elite.
Another big money race that impacts the elite minority in racing. No doubt the same usual suspects will be battling it out for millions again #SportOfKings
— KP (@tablordkieren) July 15, 2021
Wow,$2 million “The Invitation” 1 week before the $1million Empire Rose Stakes 1600m F&M n the $1million Hill Stakes 1800m on the same day as the $750k Turnbull Stakes 2000m.“The Invitation” wil create a lot of public interest as the Everest does as to whos going to get an Invite
— Sydwazza 🇦🇺 (@sydwazza) July 16, 2021
So where do we sit? Well, we are traditionalists and love our racing – the pure stuff – so yet another race in the Sydney Spring which is likely to detract from the Melbourne Carnival is going to get up our noses a little. Run the race a week prior, and it allows our top fillies and mares to have a two week lead in from The Invitation to the Empire Rose, creating a mouth-watering battle which racing fans are set to love.
Concepts like the All-Star Mile and The Kosciuszko where there is a voting system to decide the field in the past have been a success. And while the public does not decide who runs in The Invitation, we are confident the powers at be will be doing the best they can to produce a star-studded field.
It is another blow to Victorian racing, but the ball is now in their court.