The Hunter a highlight of the never-ending spring

This article was written by Chris Roots and originally appeared in The Age.

The never-ending spring hit a high note on Saturday with The Hunter and Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys has ideas to make it better in 12 months.

More than 6000 punters went to Broadmeadow for the first $1 million race in Newcastle, won in stunning fashion by Savatiano, and the youth of the crowd was a feature.

In the coming weeks V’landys and his team will sit down to review the the revamped spring, which has achieved its goals of lifting turnover and return to NSW racing.

But the crowd for The Hunter, which was run in front of full grandstands, gave the vibe of a carnival day with roars coming from the stands in the closing stages of races.

“This has been one of the surprises to me. The crowd is young and really enjoying the day, it is like Everest day,” V’landys said. “I thought this was a risk but the quality of the field and the crowd has made it a success

“Newcastle has really embraced this race and it is only going to get bigger.

“I came up on the train and I think we could do a raceday carriage to Newcastle for those that want to come from Sydney next year.”

The Newcastle meeting could be improved with some extra prizemoney for the Max Lees Classic for two-year-olds and a bonus to link the Bondi Stakes with the Spring Stakes for the three-year-olds.

The Racing NSW review will look at the placement of races and may add another million-dollar plus staying race to the program, which is a weak point of the spring at the moment. They are happy with the date for the Golden Eagle as it outperformed all races from Derby day.

Sargent has a luva for The Gong

Randwick trainer John Sargent believes the second $1 million provincial race, The Gong, at Kembla Grange on Saturday has the potential to deliver Luvaluva to a Doncaster next year.

Sargent set his powerful mare a late spring-summer program when the race was announced which will take in the Kembla mile on the way the Villiers Stakes, three weeks later, when she could earn a spot in the Doncaster.

“The two races just fit together well and with Luvaluva, she has already won a Kembla Grange Classic over the trip,” Sargent said.

“She will be third-up in the race, when she is at her best, and we will put the blinkers back on her, so she can be a little closer. Her two runs at 1400m this prep have been very good and I think hard miles is where she will excel. She will have a couple of those in her next two starts.Add to shortlist

“She’s fully mature now and over the next year we will see the best of her.”

Sargent is hoping to have two mares in the Villiers with the Christmas mile also a target for House Of Cartier after her win over the Newcastle 1850m on Saturday.

“Luvaluva has the rating to get into the Villiers, whereas House Of Cartier will probably need to get a couple more points,” Sargent said. “She was very good on Saturday and will go to the ATC Cup over 2000m at Rosehill [on November 30] and then drop back to the mile.

“I think the tough Randwick mile is probably ideal for both of them.”

Trots and dogs to push for national tote

Harness Racing NSW and Greyhound NSW want a national tote and are set to lobby Racing NSW to get a deal done.

The tote is only as strong as the size of the pools and the drop in holds for the trots and dogs has seen punters forced to a fixed odds product, which doesn’t return as much to the racing industry.

“We need it,” Greyhound NSW chief executive Tony Mestrov said of the national tote. “It will add competition to the fixed odds product and be great for the exotic bets like quinellas, trifectas and quaddies.”

Harness Racing NSW chief executive John Dumesny said he will push the national tote, but understands that the deal must increase returns to the three codes in NSW.

“We just need to be sure we get the best deal for NSW, which I’m sure we will given Peter [V’landys] will lead our negotiations,” Dumesny said.