Australia’s horse racing jewels to go ahead as planned

Australia’s horse racing jewels to go ahead as planned

Plans to dramatically alter the schedule of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival in Australia have been shelved and the world famous horse racing festival will go ahead as planned later in 2020.

While Australian horse racing managed to continue relatively unaffected during the coronavirus pandemic – the lack of crowds aside as racecourses kept their doors closed to all but those competing on the racetrack, the sporting calendar Down Under had been halted.

And it was the knock on effect of delays to the NRL Rugby League season and, most importantly, the AFL Australian Rules season that resulted in plans being drawn up to move a number of Australia’s biggest races.

With the Aussie Rules season running into October and the Grand Final set to take place more than a month late, Racing Victoria – the governing body of racing in Melbourne – had come up with a plan to push the Group 1 Caulfield Cup back until late November from its October 17 date to avoid any clashes.

It would have been a move that had a huge impact on the entire Spring Carnival. The Caulfield Cup is one of the big three events along with the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup and attracts horses from Europe and Asia chasing the $5 million (AUD) prize.

But more than just a logistical headache for the international runners heading to Australia, the later date would have seriously affected the pattern of races with the Caulfield Cup often a stepping stone to the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most famous race held on the first Tuesday in November each year.

The contingency plans were thrown in the bin at a Racing Victoria board meeting with pressure from the Australian Trainers Association and Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners Association partly behind the decision to leave the Spring Carnival schedule untouched.

It means horse racing trainers, fans and punters around the globe can continue to enjoy that special three-and-a-half week spectacle that sees the world’s best racehorses clash in the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and then Melbourne Cup, while the Spring Carnival as a whole will run from August to mid-November as originally scheduled.

“In making its decision, the Board agreed that any case for major change owing to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic did not provide compelling outcomes with enough certainty to outweigh the benefits of retaining the existing structure, particularly when racing on mainland Australia has continued throughout the pandemic,” Racing Victoria chairman Brian Kruger said.

“Understanding that the situation will continue to evolve, the road to spring glory starts in June for the vast majority of our elite horses and that's why we owed it to owners and trainers to make this decision now.

“The current pathways and grand finals of the Spring Racing Carnival are well understood, and we believe retaining that existing structure this year will give us the best opportunity for outstanding fields and broad support, both from local and out-of-state competitors.

“Equally, racing fans want to see the very best compete against one another and we know that the Spring Racing Carnival is Australia's leading wagering product having been warmly supported by punters in its current format for many years.”

The Caulfield Cup will be held at Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday, October 17 followed by the Cox Plate a week later at Moonee Valley Racecourse on Saturday, October 24. The Melbourne Cup – known as the race that stops a nation – will take place on Tuesday, November 3 at Flemington Racecourse.