On Saturday morning, Racing Victoria (RV) announced a $15.5 million increase to Victorian prizemoney for the upcoming 2017-18 season, with a total of $214 million on offer across the State. I'd love to know where they stash the cash - that much money makes me want to get all Scrooge McDuck and go swimming in a vault!
The increases are spread over Carnival, metropolitan, country and picnic meetings, allowing more trainers, jockeys and owners access to bigger prizemoney pools. I won't rehash all the details but you can read the full breakdown HERE
The 2017 Spring Carnival kicks off on Saturday 2 September, with the season's first Group One, the Memsie Stakes, now a $1 million race. The Scobie Breasley Award presentation follows on Sunday 3 September. With the AFL taking that weekend off before their finals commence, they've basically given us a licence to make that weekend our very own. It would be a missed opportunity if we can't make a splash, pack Caulfield to the rafters and celebrate the start of the Carnival and this industry's great participants as only Melbourne sports lovers know how (maybe just minus the painted ladies this year please!)
I've been based back in Melbourne for two years now and I love attending the races during Carnival. Caulfield has a relaxed and intimate sophistication you don't always find at other tracks. With prizemoney increases applied to three other Caulfield feature races, the atmosphere on-course will only continue to be enhanced. Big money attracts the big horses which in turn attract the big crowds. Big crowds pump big money into the industry, they have a great time, come back for more and the cycle continues. If these new prizemoney increases can lure more interstate horses (Winx anyone?!) then it's only going to make the Carnival even more exciting!
In his announcement, RV's newly appointed Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, said “Our vision is ‘Racing for All’ and there is something for all owners, trainers and jockeys within these prizemoney increases which are spread from Flemington to Buchan.“
*Image: Racing Victoria
Over the years, I've had a few minor shares in provincial level racehorses, and whilst I can't disagree with Mr Thompson's statement, I would have liked to have seen a little more directed to our bread-and-butter level racing. The maiden race increase is nice and of course there are still VOBIS bonuses to chase but what about all the other races across country, midweek and night meetings? When a horse can cost up to $40,000 a year to train and not all are of a Saturday metropolitan standard, we need to continue to entice new owners and keep current owners reinvesting. I've lost owners because even the fun of ownership and the small amount of prizemoney they were winning was not enough to justify the expense.
In line with national policy, 1% of all prizemoney will also be distributed to both jockey and equine welfare programs. This is fantastic news and both the National Jockey Trust and Off The Track will benefit greatly. However it seems one vital group is continually forgotten about, and that's the stable employees. In NSW, a quarterly staff bonus is offered for all strappers and track riders. It would be wonderful to see something similar implemented in Victoria in the near future.
These newly announced increases now bring Victoria more in line with Racing NSW, who plan to spend $224 million in prizemoney in the coming season. Giles Thompson laughed off suggestions Saturday's announcement as being just another tit-for-tat with our friends north of the border, but let's be honest here - until the racing industry collaborates together properly on a national level, trying to outdo each other will no doubt always play a small factor in any decisions made!
Obviously we will just have to wait and see if these prizemoney increases have the desired long term effect, however kudos to Racing Victoria for opening the vault, doing something positive and investing back into this great industry.
For more information, visit the Racing Victoria website.
*Owners across the State will benefit from prizemoney increases