With superstar chaser Black Magic Opal temporarily retired to stud with a hock injury, Paw Licking retired to stud and Ronan Izmir China bound, the chances of picking up a country cup in Victoria or NSW have just improved tenfold. These three speed machines have dominated the cups scene in country Victoria for the past 15 months, beginning with Ronan Izmir’s Bendigo Cup victory in March of 2013.
Whilst pondering their total domination I realised that, with the demise of Harold Park, there is only one group one event for these sort of freakish horseshoe sprinters. The time honoured Hobart Thousand is that event, last won by Paw Licking in track record time from Black Magic Opal. Harold Park used to have four or five group one races each calender year.
Surely it is time for sprinters of this quality to get “their crack” at “group one glory”, by elevating one or more of the country cups to group one status. City sprinters get countless chances, yet when they have had compete against this trio they have had to be content with minor placings. The three superstars hold, or have held, countless track records and sectional split records, yet these three have only two group ones between them. Black Magic Opal claimed the 2013 Melbourne Cup to go with the Paw Licking win in the Hobart Thousand.
I reckon that at least one major cup in NSW and Victoria should be elevated to the highest status, perhaps one in March and one in October, so as to give more horseshoe dogs the chance. Most likely it will be another decade or so until such a group of one bend chasers grace the tracks at the same time.
The toughest question is which country cup should be elevated? Horsham provides solid turnover and the 480 metre trip gives all runners a chance. Whilst the Ballarat honour roll is one deserving of group one status. Would the outer track at Geelong be an option? The massive upgrade to the facilities at Geelong means they have the capabilities to cater for a group one event.
So there are plenty of options within Victoria to have a group one at a one bend track. When the next wave of horseshoe superstars grace our tracks I hope that they get the credit they deserve and the chance to be elevated to where they belong, at the pinnacle of the sport.