Black Opal Stakes date unlikely to change even if Golden Slipper moves
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Black Opal Stakes date unlikely to change even if Golden Slipper moves

Canberra racing boss Peter Stubbs wants more runners in the Black Opal Stakes but said the club was unlikely to change dates to avoid clashing with Sydney meetings.

Seven scratchings in the $300,000 Black Opal Stakes didn't deter racegoers on Sunday after move back to the Canberra Day long weekend saw the event's best crowd in years.

Encryption reels in Sizzling Belle at the finish to salute in the 2018 Black Opal Stakes.

Encryption reels in Sizzling Belle at the finish to salute in the 2018 Black Opal Stakes.

Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Almost 8000 punters rolling through the gates at Thoroughbred Park for the capital's marquee day of racing.

The Black Opal is a group 3 race for two-year-olds and placed two weeks from the $3.5 million Golden Slipper in a bid to attract a strong field as a lead-in option.

Two-year-old races can have up to 14 runners but just eight jumped in the Black Opal, with most of the scratchings opting for the group 2 Todman Stakes at Randwick.

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"The scratching situation between Sydney and Canberra is an ever-present issue. Would have hoped to have had 10 runners in the race but we ended up with eight," Stubbs said.

"Some of the years when there's a dominant colt or filly running around, that tends to send some of those Sydney horses to Canberra, but this year there really hasn't been a real dominant two-year-old in Sydney.

"That was a factor and previous years Sydney weather delivered wet tracks but it's been a dry autumn up there so they had the choice of two good tracks.

"At the end of the day our field of eight was a pretty good field and the three placegetters will stand up in any company."

To be promoted in class a race must have its first four horses have rating equal to the class above for three consecutive years.

As a result the Black Opal will not become a group 2 in the next three years and prizemoney was increased just last year.

"Prize money will be part of the review but it's already $300,000 and the Sydney races we compete with are group 2 and the same prize money, so minor increases wouldn't make a significant difference," Stubbs said.

Even if the Golden Slipper was moved, Stubbs said the Black Opal date would likely remain unchanged so it stayed on the long weekend.

"I think we're comfortable with the Canberra Day long weekend," Stubbs said.

"It was an excellent day on Sunday with a great vibe and certainly one of the better Black Opals for quite a number of years.

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"There was no doubt about what the weather was going to be all week and we had strong races on the day, it was a very good program.

"Quite a lot of younger people go out after the races to the night venues around Canberra, so no doubt they enjoy the day off the next day."

Eamonn Tiernan is a sports reporter with The Canberra Times

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