Racing Victoria (RV) has today released its 2017-18 Race Dates which will see the number of race-free days increase from two to 12 and a return to traditional timeslots for several Spring Racing Carnival feature meetings.
The 12-month schedule of meetings - which takes in the period from 1 August, 2017 to 31 July, 2018 – has been approved by the RV Board following extensive consultation with the Racing Clubs and stakeholders. It will see Victoria host 557 race meetings over 353 days.
The most significant change to the racing program will be a trial of race-free Mondays over a 10 week period from 15 January to 26 March, 2018.
The existing Monday meeting will be converted into a Wednesday meeting, with one of two meetings on the day to be conducted in the twilight timeslot commencing at approximately 3.45pm and concluding by 8pm.
The trial, which builds on the popular spectre of twilight and night racing, will test whether there is demand for Victorian racing between 5pm and 8pm on Wednesdays, while allowing participants to enjoy a break from Victoria’s seven-day racing schedule.
The first twilight of this sequence will be at Caulfield on Wednesday, 17 January, 2018. Six of the remaining nine Wednesday twilights will be conducted at Sandown with Ballarat hosting two and Bendigo the other.
With the AFL moving its 2017 Grand Final back to a traditional end of September timeslot, Flemington’s Group 1 Turnbull Stakes race meeting returns to a Saturday on 7 October, 2017 – the week after the Grand Final – after being held on a Sunday for the past two years.
The AFL Grand Final weekend will see the Benalla Cup return to its public holiday Friday afternoon timeslot after wet weather forced its abandonment in 2016, while the 2017-18 night racing season will launch that evening with the Group 1 Moir Stakes at The Valley.
After a three-year absence, Mornington will return to the AFL Grand Final Day timeslot, with Caulfield’s Group 1 Underwood Stakes meeting to be run on Sunday, 1 October.
Other changes of note in the 2017-18 Race Dates include:
Flemington - The removal of two Flemington meetings in December to allow an extended seven-week break for track maintenance following the Melbourne Cup Carnival. Flemington will resume racing on New Year’s Day 2018;
New meetings - In lieu of the extended maintenance break, Flemington will host an additional meeting on 5 August, 2017 - the first Saturday of the season – and a new midweek meeting on Wednesday, 27 September which will host the newly created Victoria Derby and VRC Oaks Trials;
Melbourne Cup Day expansion - The staging of a non-TAB meeting on Melbourne Cup Day at Cranbourne bringing to seven the number of race meetings across the state on the day;
Australia Day changes - The Australia Day metropolitan meeting to be held under lights with The Valley hosting the Group 2 Australia Stakes, while Caulfield’s traditional Australia Day meeting moves to Saturday, 27 January, 2018 due to the fall of dates;
Country Cup changes
- A new two-day Wangaratta Cup Carnival to be trialled over the weekend of Saturday, 3 March and Sunday, 4 March, 2018;
- The reinstatement of a two-day Mildura Cup Carnival with the Mildura Cup moving from its current March timeslot to Friday, 27 July and Saturday, 28 July, 2018;
- The return of the Echuca Cup to an early autumn timeslot moving from May to Sunday, 25 March, 2018; and
- The move of the Tatura Cup from March to a home in the Spring Racing Carnival on Saturday, 23 September, 2018.
“The Race Dates have again been constructed with a focus on continuing to build customer engagement, exploring opportunities to grow wagering returns to the industry and ensuring that event days across the state have the best opportunity to succeed,” RV Manager – Racing Operations, Paul Bloodworth, said.
“We are pleased to introduce important changes to the racing calendar next year underscored by a 10-week, race-free trial on Mondays. This initiative, which will run between January and March 2018 during daylight savings, is a first for racing in this state and one that we expect will be warmly embraced by the industry.
“We will be following with close interest the affect that this trial has on wagering and participation as we convert the Monday meeting into a Wednesday fixture with one of the two meetings on the day becoming a twilight.
"Given the success of our night racing program and the significant turnover growth being realised on double-header Thursdays and Fridays, we are confident that it will be a successful trial.
“From a country perspective, we have instituted changes around the Wangaratta, Mildura, Echuca and Tatura Cups to help foster even greater engagement with their local communities and to build upon the meetings as a destination event for racing fans statewide.
“From a metropolitan perspective, the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) will host two new race meetings during August and September at Flemington to make up for a seven-week, race-free window between the end of the Melbourne Cup Carnival and New Year’s Day while it undertakes important track maintenance.
“The VRC and Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) will also benefit from a change of dates to the AFL Grand Final, which sees two feature Group 1 race meetings in the spring – the Turnbull and Underwood Stakes – return to their traditional post-Grand Final timeslots ahead of the Caulfield Cup Carnival on 14 October – a fortnight after the Grand Final.
“The changes that we have been able to facilitate to programming early in the 2017 Spring Racing Carnival can only serve to assist in showcasing our elite races and engage Victorians in our premier racing period.
“Overall, we believe that the combination of these new and renewed initiatives will serve to enhance the racing calendar throughout Victoria next season. It is always a challenge to strike the right balance and wishes of all Clubs and stakeholders, but we feel that these dates do.”