Blinkers Off: The city that forgot racing as taxis and crowds alike avoid Royal Randwick   Leave a comment

Blinkers Off: The city that forgot racing as taxis and crowds alike avoid Royal Randwick

Criterion rules in Queen Elizabeth Stakes

Criterion rules in Queen Elizabeth Stakes

IF you’re looking for a read on what’s going on, the mood of the city, ask your taxi driver.

My taxi driver in Sydney on Saturday knew were Randwick was — but he had no idea why I was going there. “Is there a big race meeting on there today?’’ he asked.

I told him yes, there was, and he went on to explain that Randwick was a “bugger’’ for taxis — short city fares, bottleneck — and hinted drivers tended to avoid it, even during The Championships (which he’d never heard of).

The taxi driver gave some insight, one piece of the puzzle, into why Sydney people have turned their backs on racing.

Golden Slipper crowds have plummeted and about 34,000 attended the two days of The Championships — 11,000 on the rescheduled first day and around 23,000 on Saturday.

More turn up for about six individual Melbourne meetings.

The fear of rain at this time of year has sapped motivation to go trackside. But wet autumns are nothing new in a city where the sky always seems to sit low and threatening at this time of year.

On Saturday morning only the pointy bit of the Centrepoint Tower poked through a heavy mist.

There is a cultural shift, a new mood, in Sydney. It’s a city that almost seems too racy, too groovy, for dear old racing.

On Friday night every pub was heaving with the young and beautiful, bars and restaurants spilling on to streets.

Many of them would have been in a coma — or still grooving — when the gates opened at nearby Randwick.

My taxi passed a cafe about 150m from the Randwick gate. It was full of beautiful people, none of whom were dressed for the track.

There was no sense that a big sporting event, our greatest international race meet outside the Melbourne Cup, was on, let alone an attraction. These groovers and rich backpackers are not sporting people.

Some did find themselves at the track and they made it a very different — and quite enjoyable — race-day.

The bean counters at the ATC would be bemoaning the disappearance of the sardine-tin crowds of the 1980s, and there is that gnarling sense that an “event’’ really does require a big crowd or it’s not really an event at all. Imagine Augusta without big galleries.

There was no crowd roar when the field jumped for the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes — but the groovers kept grooving out the back, merely shifting last night’s all-nighter to a new venue.

Racegoers Rachel Armstrong, Alise Ferreira and Philippa Alderton enjoy themselves out the

Racegoers Rachel Armstrong, Alise Ferreira and Philippa Alderton enjoy themselves out the back of the main grandstand on Saturday. Source: News Corp Australia

Music pumped throughout the day.

The races were on various TV’s but the sound was down or drowned out. Beautiful women shimmied and gyrated throughout the bars, as if employed for effect. If Criterion had galloped right through them, I doubt they’d have noticed.

The bean counters may not have felt the desire to dance, but there were no long queues for toilets (though some cubicles seemed strangely busy), ATMs or booze.

No punch-ons, push and shove or bursting bladders. It was a love-in.

They’re building a new light rail that will link Randwick to the city and in three years will solve one of Randwick’s great annoyances — getting out.

But Sydney feels different now. Bar a few thousand who might rave on at Randwick in early April, the city has shimmied away from the racetrack.

Do Sydneysiders care? Craig Williams pilots Criterion to a memorable victory in the Queen

Do Sydneysiders care? Craig Williams pilots Criterion to a memorable victory in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Picture: Getty Images Source: Getty Images

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Posted April 13, 2015 by belesprit09 in Uncategorized

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