Sydney's $18m carnival can boost Canberra racing

The revamped $18 million Sydney autumn carnival can be the catalyst to strengthen the capital's premier race day and attract Australia's best runners to Thoroughbred Park, Canberra Racing boss Peter Stubbs says.

Racing NSW has overhauled its autumn program and increased prizemoney to $18 million, making the two weekends of racing in April richer than Melbourne Cup week.

Canberra's best two races - the Black Opal Stakes and the Canberra Cup - are set to benefit as trainers search for quality races for their preparation.

Stubbs said Canberra Racing will keep the Black Opal and Canberra Cup in March unless the Sydney calendar changes in the coming years.

''Those races in Sydney are going to be more competitive than they've ever been,'' Stubbs said.

''You can't rule out it's going to have some benefit to us. The Canberra Cup is 2000 metres and can be a good lead-up to some of the races in the Sydney carnival.


''We're in a perfect position [on the calendar] at the moment and this change in Sydney could be the catalyst for us to continue to grow Black Opal day.''

Trainers will see the Canberra Cup as an attractive proposition given the rise in prizemoney for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000 metres) at Randwick a month later. The Queen Elizabeth Stakes was worth $550,000 this year, but will jump to $4 million next year, the richest 2000-metre race in the world.

Canberra Racing will monitor the schedule for the Golden Slipper in coming years before making any decision whether to change the date of the Black Opal and Canberra Cup. The capital's two premier races were scheduled in 2012 to be run on the same day to boost crowd numbers and exposure.

The Canberra Racing Club still has hopes of the Black Opal being upgraded to group 3 status.

''Any innovation that improves the profile of racing will have some benefit in Canberra,'' Stubbs said.

''We're aiming to have the Black Opal Stakes upgraded to group 3 status and over time have at least two group races on the program.

''That depends on the quality of the field [in 2014] and then a decision will be made in August.

''We'll be aiming towards our first $1 million race day in a couple of years.''

Meanwhile, racing was abandoned at Queanbeyan on Tuesday because of the wet track following two days of rain.