Flemington expansion? VRC makes pitch for new race day after Cup week

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The Victoria Racing Club, host of the Melbourne Cup, has proposed to extend its place in the spring racing carnival from 2024 by taking over Cranbourne’s biggest race day of the year.

The VRC has made a pitch to take over this Saturday’s Cranbourne Cup race meeting, which draws a good Christmas party crowd, from next season. The proposal will be considered when Racing Victoria begins its review into the racing calendar from December.

The VRC is making a pitch to host another race meeting two weeks after the end of Cup week.Credit: Getty Images

Racing Victoria, headed by chief executive Andrew Jones, has continued to innovate with race dates after Cup week in an attempt to elongate punters’ interest in racing during what’s considered clean air in the sporting calendar.

A race day at Flemington two weeks after Champions day would almost certainly result in a wagering turnover increase compared with the Cranbourne Cup meeting. The Cranbourne Cup was held a week after Champions day last year, but was moved back a week to accommodate last Saturday’s new Caulfield Thousand race day.

More than 7500 people attended Caulfield, where the group 1 Thousand Guineas was shifted from a Wednesday in October to a standalone Saturday, along with the group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke, which was shifted from August to November. The moved improved wagering numbers, with the decline from Champions day half of what last year’s drop-off was to Cranbourne Cup day.

If the VRC’s proposal is successful, the new race day could mean existing stakes races at Flemington shift dates, while also giving the club and Racing Victoria the chance to innovate with other fresh race ideas, including a new rich pop-up race.

“The Victoria Racing Club (VRC) has made a formal application to Racing Victoria (RV) to host a Saturday metropolitan meeting two weeks after the conclusion of the 2024 Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington,” VRC chief executive Steve Rosich said.

“The VRC reviews the program every year to find new ways to innovate the offering for participants, members and racing fans and would like to work with RV to develop a new race day two weeks after the carnival that targets a young audience that was so prevalent over the Melbourne Cup carnival this year.

“Flemington is the state’s premier racetrack and the club believes the addition of a Saturday metropolitan meeting two weeks after the Melbourne Cup carnival would maximise the use of Flemington’s world-class facilities, including the use of infrastructure that is available for further use after the carnival.”

VRC CEO Steve Rosich.Credit: Arsineh Houspian

Next Saturday’s Zipping Classic meeting – which was traditionally run at Sandown on the Saturday after Cup week – is now the official spring finale at Caulfield three Saturdays after Cup week ends with Champions day.

Racing Victoria won’t finalise race dates for next season until April next year.

Speaking on SEN last week, Jones said the idea that the whole carnival could be shifted back a few weeks – which would mean the Melbourne Cup is run on the last Tuesday of November as opposed to the first – was not something being considered as an idea to better capture the public’s interest.

“We’re constantly looking at what the best way to optimise the schedule is,” Jones said.

“It’s tricky because the Melbourne Cup carnival is so iconic and so successful, [they are] the four best attended [race days] in Australia, everyone knows the Melbourne Cup is the first Tuesday in November, is an ingrained habit among Australians.

“It’s hard to move that carnival, and it’s debatable whether it’s the right idea or not. There are two sides to that argument, for sure. So you’ve got think about what you can put on after the Melbourne Cup that makes sense from a racing point of view and from a sporting narrative point of view. What could be climatic after the Melbourne Cup, that’s climatic in itself as well as Champions day?”

As reported by this masthead last week, Racing Victoria will propose that the VRC increase Derby and Champions days from nine- to 10-race cards, as well as look at moving the Melbourne Cup-exempt Archer Stakes, so the Cup field can be finalised earlier than the Saturday night before the race.

Racing Victoria and the Cranbourne Racing Club have been contacted for comment regarding the VRC’s pitch.

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