Australia is blessed with hundreds of racetracks right across the length and breadth of this great country. But which are the best to punt at? Tim Hickman has his say.
11. Kembla Grange
Often holding the coveted ‘just after Melbourne’ position on the Saturday Sky 1 circuit, Kembla is one of the premier non-metropolitan tracks in the country. Built along similar lines to Randwick, it is a wide open, spacious track that gives every horse its chance.
Just on the ‘wrong’ side of the Murray River (that one is up for debate), Albury is a big spacious track where every horse gets their chance. Its position on the border means you can often find value as runners come from all over the place. You don’t want to draw too wide over the sprint trips, especially the 1000m.
9. Sunshine Coast
Opened in the 1980s, the track formerly known as Caloundra is one of the best in the country. There are chutes for nearly every start meaning that wide barriers don’t cause a problem at any distance. Drains very well also, as shown by the Cup meeting this year that took place despite torrential rain.
Known as the nursery of champions for a reason, because the top stables love bringing their young horses there. The central Victorian track is renowned for giving every horse its chance, but it loses points for having no starts between 1600m and 2200m.
You have to love the Bool. Aside from being the best jumping course in the country, it is a terrific flat course with long runs to a sweeping bend for home. Warrnambool is one of the most popular courses in the country all year round, not just during the famous May Carnival.
Overshadowed by its big brother in the eastern suburbs, Rosehill is nonetheless a world class racetrack. We’ve seen the Golden Slipper won from all barriers over the journey as well. The lack of a mile start is a black mark though.
Australia’s flagship racecourse, it nonetheless loses points with me due to the straight track used for 1000-1200m races. I am not a fan. Also the 1400m and 1600m starts have very short runs to the first turn, as does the 2500m start. Inside draws are critical there. Obviously it is a beautiful track and immaculately presented, but not as perfect as its reputation suggests.
4. Moonee Valley
Moonee Valley is a divisive track to say the least. Some love it, some hate it. Being tight turning and with a short straight, it unsurprisingly favours on pace runners, but if you factor into the form it can often help when trying to find a winner. For such a tight turning track it has excellent starting points as well, although the distances are limited (none between 1200m and 1500m).
Sydney’s main track has copped its share of criticism over the journey but given the volumes of rain the harbour city has copped over this year, it hasn’t played too badly. Every start up to 1600m has a magnificent starting point, 1800m to 2000m aren’t great, but the 2400m start in front of the stand is iconic.
The best horses just win at Caulfield. Other tracks have longer straights or are more spacious, but if there is a track where you want to bet, for me, it is Caulfield with a firm surface. The 1400m start makes life difficult for those drawn wide, but otherwise it is pretty much perfect, with easily the best 1000-1200m track in Australia.
1. Sandown (Hillside)
It just doesn’t get better than the Hillside track. Every horse gets their chance and it is seldom afflicted by bias, even though it cops a massive workload right through the season. You also have the magnificent hill that is used for jumps racing, that provides an outstanding test of horse and rider and consistently delivers exciting racing.