Flemington falling flat as NSW pulls another rabbit out of the hat

The Redfern Oval hill produces more field-of-dreams memories than the Flat at Randwick racecourse, before it gained the Royal designation, but I’d rather be watching today’s outstanding program high in the sky.

Like other sporting venues, the old Sports Ground, the SCG Hill, Henson Park and the Sydney Stadium bleachers, Redfern Oval had character to supplement the lack of comfort while the Randwick Flat, with limited vision, was used for financial expediency.

Castelvecchio is among the hopes for Saturday’s Randwick Guineas on a strong program at headquarters.Credit:Getty

A shilling (10 cents) was the entrance fee to the wonderful world of the betting ring. Sure, you were distanced from the greats, human and horses, but up close and personal with bookmakers.

Due to limited resources then the plan was to back a winner and graduate to the Leger, which had a grandstand but close to the home turn. If the streak continued you moved into the Big Time, the Paddock, and rubbed shoulders with those who mattered nearer the winning post.

Alas the Flat went out of play in 1976 around the period the computer tote was introduced and the cheap non-seats facility just wasn’t worth the cost of installing the new machinery.

Currently moves are afoot to modernise suburban rugby league grounds; latter day aficionados don’t like standing, be it at the action or boozing at the bar like the good, old days.

Racegoers once would have besieged all the enclosures at headquarters for today’s Randwick Guineas, Challenge, the Canterbury Stakes and the opportunity of seeing some spark put into a so far dreary two-year-old category with the Todman Stakes and Reisling Stakes.

Historically the corresponding Flemington “Super Saturday” has been one of the season’s best but even with a couple of small fields, Randwick is more than comparable, particularly as the Flemington rail has gone out eight metres after Wednesday’s races, moves shunned by purists.

Recent Melbourne track bias is likely to play a role in both programs. Perhaps Sydney has had quirks, but nowhere near the folly down south.

Form guides are littered with “mad track bias’’ … “best ground” … “worst ground” and “faster section” from Caulfield and Flemington. Fortunately the Randwick Guineas, for three-year-olds, is bleat free in these aspects with the improvement of proven classic types Castelvecchio, Shadow Hero and Warning key factors.

No doubt they found the opposition too slick and the distance too short in the Hobartville, notched by Brandenburg under a sweet ride by Rachel King, withstanding the strong finish of Reloaded, now primed for today’s serious class test in the return bout.

Punters and families on the old Randwick Flat in 1976.Credit:Fairfax Media

Hugh Bowman attempted to exploit a leader’s pattern in the Hobartville on Microphone, who quit over the latter stages of the 1400 metres but could be given a less hectic passage over 1600m today.
Shadow Hero, however, caught the eye getting sufficient but hardly severe pressure to benefit from the fifth, beaten just over three lengths.

At first glance the Newmarket lacks past greatness with Alizee, engaged in Randwick’s Canterbury Stakes, having a higher handicap rating (115) than the best speedsters in the Flemington major – top weight Gytrash (111) and the three-year-old filly Loving Gaby on the same mark.

But other three-year-olds – Bivouac and Exceedance – with the possibility that their best is yet to come, could enhance the chapter for future reference. At least they are locally bred unlike 11 of the 14 acceptors for the Australian Cup on the same program in which Avilius, chasing rain, has found conditions to suit.

Regal Power, from Western Australia, came off a bone-hard Caulfield surface favouring leaders last start and did well for fourth. On the same program Tagaloa was dynamic taking the Blue Diamond.

To what degree the track contributed will be evidenced in the Todman at Randwick where seats are plentiful. Yes, my viewing area is prone to rain but you’ve got to suffer for your sport.

Seats at suburban rugby league grounds? The renowned miracle worker Peter V’landys should indulge in a more worthwhile venture and bring the mighty Rabbits back to Redfern Oval.

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