Prizemoney and strategy woo Niwot to Canberra
Niwot is set to race in Canberra. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
The impressive prizemoney and a chance to prepare Niwot for the Sydney Cup convinced the Hawkes stable that racing in the capital was a good fit for the accomplished stayer.
And with Canberra's biggest day of racing boasting a record prize pool of $766,000, Michael Hawkes has warned the capital's trainers they will face more interstate competition for the Black Opal and Canberra Cup on Sunday.
Hawkes will accept with Niwot for the $200,000 Canberra Centenary Cup when the fields are finalised on Thursday morning.
The two-time Melbourne Cup runner has been handicapped on 60 kilograms at Canberra and will carry the No.1 saddlecloth.
Hawkes said the race fitted in perfectly for Niwot's tilt at back-to-back Sydney Cups on April 27.
There's also $250,000 up for grabs in the Black Opal Stakes for two-year-olds, with Canberra trainers vying for the top prize against the power stables of Hawkes, Gai Waterhouse and Peter Snowden.
The Canberra Racing Club will have its two showcase races on the same day for the second year.
The club's aims are bigger crowds, more prizemoney and greater revenue.
It's working so far, with 10,000 people expected and strong fields in the two premier races.
''Anywhere they have prizemoney, they attract people,'' Hawkes said on Wednesday.
''If you can have the better prizemoney on offer, then people will always come around. I think it's better to spread the prizemoney around.
''It's [Canberra's] biggest day of the year … we're looking forward to it and it's an attractive race for people to go to, and for Niwot with the Sydney Cup coming up.''
The Hawkes stable has already withdrawn 2010 Melbourne Cup runner-up Maluckyday, who will instead run in the group2 Blamey Stakes (1600 metres) at Flemington on Saturday.
Hawkes said Maluckyday was racing in Melbourne to avoid a clash between the two stayers.
Niwot, an eight-year-old, has eight wins from just 34 starts and has made a remarkable comeback to racing after shattering the back of his knee while spelling in the winter of 2009 and being out of action for almost two years.
Three vets said Niwot would never race again.
Since his return to the track, Niwot has won four races, including the Sydney Cup and the Lexus Stakes at Flemington on Derby Day in 2011. He went on to run eighth behind Dunaden in the Melbourne Cup.
''He's going good and generally, as horses get older, they don't get better,'' Hawkes said. ''In this case, he's only very, very lightly raced and hopefully we're on target for another Sydney Cup.
''This race [in Canberra] fits in perfectly.
''The day Niwot stops is the day we think he's had enough … the older horses with us don't get punished early, we always take our time, and that's why Niwot is winning races as he gets older.''