In short, 25 Country Cup races across various regions of NSW were used as qualifying events, with the final fields for the Big Dance and Little Dance drawn from the winners and second placed horses from these designated Country Cups.
Once the announcement was made by Racing NSW, and the 25 Country Cups were selected as qualifiers, there was a noted increase in the number of City and Provincial stables contesting these events, which drew concerns from leading country stables from around the state.
The Big Dance is dominated by City and Provincial stables, with only seven country trainers and eight country horses included, three of which are emergencies.
The Kris Lees-trained and Frankie Dettori-ridden Hosier is the current $4.80 favourite, while the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Surf Dancer is on the second line of betting at $6 and Annabel Neasham has the third favourite, with $7 chance Sibaaq.
10 of the 22 horses in the Little Dance are from country stables, albeit the major players in the market all arrive from city yards, such as race favourite Steele (Gerald Ryan and Sterling Alexiou).
With all laid bare to see now that fields have been finalised, Racing NSW social media accounts have been inundated with comments from disgruntled racing fans and industry participants, who have gone on to highlight multiple issues.
In one post, Racing NSW stated, “Wherever you are in NSW, tune into the Big Dance at 2.20pm on Tuesday and witness Country Cup winners from across the state do battle in the inaugural $2 million feature at Randwick.”
Wade King promptly replied, “Another race supposed to help the country trainers and owners, yet the field says otherwise.”
In another post, Racing NSW shared a map of where all the finalist have qualified, which drew the ire of many frustrated followers.
“Great concept but needs a lot of work. The city trainers get enough of the spoils, Make these country cups (are) for country trainers,” Melissa Kay wrote
“Have a look at who has the favourite for the Big Joke and also its little brother. Certainly not a country trainer,” Errol Leicht replied.
Andrew Grills went on to suggest the Big Dance should be a country-only initiative.
“The big dance is a country cups race? City trainers shouldn’t be eligible,” Grills said.
Sue Weatherill echoed the same sentiment.
“It should have the same restrictions as the Highways. Just my opinion only for country trained horses,” Weatherill said.
Scott Frater went one step further, suggesting that the Big Dance concept needs to be scrapped, and that the money should be invested into a country-only race.
“Waste of time for country owners and trainers to win local cups. (It’s) just another way to get more money into the big stables and let those trainers try and win big dollars with ordinary horses,” Frater said.
“Have to laugh when Chris Waller went public saying he didn’t race in the country to make sure country trainers had opportunity until you put a race on for him. Get rid of this waste and put the money into country races.”
In other comments, the race has been referred to as the ‘Slow Waltz’, ‘Big Joke’, ‘Big Dud’, and other superlatives not fit for print.
The Honourable Kevin Anderson, who is the NSW Minister for Hospitality and Racing, didn’t avoid criticism either, with the MP’s Twitter account targeted after he wrote, “The bags are packed and the hotels booked ahead of tomorrow’s inaugural $2m Big Dance and $500,000 Little Dance at Royal Randwick, putting country horses on the map. Congratulations to Racing NSW and all trainers, owners and connections involved in this exciting new initiative.”
Lynsweet5 didn’t miss, replying “Well, guess you know nothing about country racing. Cameron added, “Lol there are bugger all country horses in the race.”
AzzoP went as far as suggesting Mr Anderson should brush up on his country racing knowledge.
“Unfortunately Minister your post shows your lack of knowledge and respect for country trained participants,” he wrote.
“It is about, and always about the city trainer, who has to float his horse and probably one staff member to swoop up the cash.
“Nothing for country racing or the country towns.”
The comments go on and on, and some aren’t simply kind enough for print, but it does raise the question. What are Racing NSW and Mr Anderson thinking when it comes to the Big Dance.
Positive comments are non-existent, and while some will say that these people interacting with Racing NSW posts are ‘trolls’ or they have an ‘agenda’, but when the consensus agree that something isn’t working, surely it raises concerns.
The Big Dance and Little Dance are still to be run and won, and it remains to be seen what feedback Racing NSW will receive once both races are completed tomorrow.
For full fields, readers can click here.