Monday, 26 March 2012
: The 2012 Victorian jumps racing season commences on Wednesday March 28 underpinned by increased prize money, an enhanced feature race schedule and a new veterinary inspection regime.
The 70 race season will feature 46 hurdle races and 24 steeplechase races which collectively offer prize money of $3.2 million - an increase of 26.5 percent on 2011.
The significant prize money increases are due largely to the Victorian Coalition Government's four-year $2 million funding commitment to jumps racing.
Other highlights of the season, which commences with two $50,000 features at Sportingbet Park (Sandown) and concludes with the Rookie Series Final at the same track on 29 August, are;
• The Grand Nationals have moved from August to July to provide a condensed feature race schedule with a leg of the JJ Houlahan Championship now showcased every fortnight
• The minimum prize money has been increased by 33 percent to $20,000 per race
• Horses registering their first career jumps win will also earn a $10,000 bonus
• The Grand Annual Steeplechase at Warrnambool on 3 May and the Grand National Steeplechase at Sportingbet Park on 29 July have both been increased to $250,000
• The number of races with prize money of $100,000 or greater has increased from 11 to 15 with new features at Mornington on 20 May and at Bendigo on 17 June
• A $200,000 Melbourne Racing Club bonus is on offer for any horse that can win three of the following six races; Brierly Steeplechase, Galleywood Hurdle, Australian Hurdle, Australian Steeplechase, Grand National Hurdle, Grand National Steeplechase
• 10 tracks will host jumps races with the return of Moe after a one-year absence and Ballarat after a three-year absence - both will conduct five races
• The return of hurdle racing to Casterton with two programmed along with four steeplechases
“Thanks to the support of the Victorian Coalition Government we have been able to significantly increase the prize money on offer in jumps races this season,” RV Chief Executive, Rob Hines said.
“This, coupled with the introduction of a first win bonus, has generated renewed interest in jumps racing and we have seen that reflected prior to the season's commencement with the number of horses that have trialled to date more than double that of the 2011 pre-season.
“The movement of the Grand Nationals from August to July is a major programming change this year and one that we believe provides a better flow and structure to our feature race schedule, both for participants and for promotion of the sport.
“The industry has made significant improvements in safety over the past two seasons courtesy of new obstacles and more rigid governance and we are committed to building on that in 2012.
“As part of our commitment to enhanced safety, compulsory pre-race veterinary inspections have been introduced. To be conducted upon arrival on-course, the inspections provide another layer of security to ensure that all horses are free of a pre-existing condition that may impact on their ability to safely complete a jumps race.
“Other new initiatives this year include the conduct of a two-day safety workshop in January in which riders were tutored by renowned English Olympic equestrian coach Yogi Bresner, together with a more rigid qualification process for new riders with the number of trials they must complete doubled.
“The Jumps Review Panel will also continue to play an important role in ensuring all participants adhere to the established standards set down to protect the safety of horses and ridersand ensurethat the sport enjoys a successful season.”
Minister for Racing, Denis Napthine, said the Victorian Coalition Government and the racing industry had worked cooperatively to make the 2012 jumps racing season bigger and better than ever.
“The jumping season is an important part of the Victorian racing calendar and all signs are pointing to a fantastic year in 2012,” Dr Napthine said.
“The Coalition Government is a proud supporter of jumps racing and has invested in a range of initiatives to help the industry grow and improve. This includes important measures to improve the safety and welfare of both horses and jockeys.
“I am pleased to see an increase in the number of horses trialling for jumps racing and I am looking forward to the season ahead.”
Australian Jumping Racing Association (AJRA) President, Rodney Rae, said the level of interest generated by the 2012 program enhancements has been very heartening.
“We are looking forward to a fantastic season of jumping racing withstrong horse numbersoff the back of significant prize money increases and owners' incentives,” Rae said.
“The support we have received from Minister Napthine and the Victorian Coalition Government has been unprecedented and the future of jumping racing is looking very bright.”