Black Opal's turn to race - for a status prize
The Black Opal Stakes is still waiting to become a group race. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
After a stunning Super Sunday, Canberra Racing chief executive Peter Stubbs will cheer the David Payne-trained Criterion all the way to the $3.5 million Golden Slipper.
Stubbs lauded this year's Black Opal Stakes Day as one of the most successful events in the club's history with more than 12,000 punters passing through the gates to help celebrate Canberra's centenary.
The only way Black Opal day could get better is through the elevation of the $250,000 race from listed status to group 3 - the next level up.
To do that, the Black Opal needs to rate at more than 100 for three consecutive years.
Because it's a race for two-year-olds still very new to their careers, the rating is decided by how they perform in the autumn after the race - if the winner goes on to win a group 1 or group 2 race it helps the Black Opal cause.
Last year the Black Opal, won by the Peter Snowden-trained Epaulette, rated at 105.8 - equivalent to a group 2 race - but it only managed 96.8 in 2011.
Despite it breaking the 100 mark in 2010, the Australian Racing Board will only consider elevating the Black Opal if it rates better than 100 this year and next - making 2015 the earliest it could become group 3.
Thoroughbred Park needs Criterion or second-placed Sidestep to perform well in the Golden Slipper or in the lead-up to it.
A repeat of Queanbeyan trainer Frank Cleary and his horse Catbird's Black Opal-Golden Slipper double in 1999 would be ideal.
''We've only had the one horse, Catbird, that's won both races so I think it's high time we had another one win both races,'' Stubbs said.
The Australian Racing Board regulation and policy manager Brent Leisemann said there were strict guidelines to be followed for an elevation in status.
''If the Black Opal gets to a certain level for three years that's what it needs, without that no races get promoted,'' Leisemann said.
Sydney trainer Snowden said the Black Opal was worthy of being a group 3 race on Sunday.
Stubbs was thrilled with how Canberra supported Super Sunday and said it was one of the few times in the Black Opal's 40-year history 12,000 spectators turned up.
''There would not have been a whole lot of days in that 40 years that were bigger crowds than Sunday,'' he said.''