Racing Victoria (RV) on Wednesday released the program for the 2019 jumps racing season which will end for the first time with the nation’s only all-jumps meeting, Grand National Steeplechase Day, at Sportsbet-Ballarat.
Jumps races traditionally programmed at Coleraine and Casterton in September have been moved into August to provide four consecutive Sundays of jumping culminating with the season finale on 25 August.
The six-race season-ending meeting at Sportsbet-Ballarat will again be headlined by the Grand National Steeplechase and JJ Houlahan Hurdle and will offer a record $630,000 in prizemoney with increases announced for the three restricted races.
Other notable changes and highlights of the 2019 jumps racing program include:
A mutual agreement between RV and the Bendigo Jockey Club to cease jumps racing at Bendigo due to the suitability of the track owing to its layout;
The move of the $100,000 Mosstrooper Steeplechase and $100,000 Open Hurdle from Bendigo to Racing.com Park (Pakenham) on Sunday, 21 July. This has been facilitated with a switch of meetings between the two Clubs on Sundays, 21 and 28 July;
The programming of Racing.com Park’s two jumps meetings – the other on Sunday, 14 April – as hybrid meetings with each hosting four jumps races on turf and four flat races on the synthetic track;
The upgrade of two feature country races with Casterton’s steeplechase on Cup Day (Sunday, 19 May) rising from $40,000 to $75,000 and the Eulong Steeplechase at Hamilton on Monday, 1 April up from $30,000 to $50,000; and
An increase in minimum prizemoney at five country premium meetings to $35,000 per race and at two metropolitan midweek meetings to $50,000 per race in line with statewide increases that took effect from 1 January 2019.
“To achieve our ambition of a true pinnacle to end the season, we’ve condensed it slightly to ensure that Grand National Steeplechase Day at Ballarat, a meeting that is firmly entrenched in the calendar as our only all-jumps day, is now the season-ending showdown,” RV General Manager - International and Racing Operations, Paul Bloodworth, said.
“Pleasingly for the local communities at Coleraine and Casterton we’ve retained their well-established September meetings by programming an additional meeting at Coleraine in August and moving one at Casterton from July to August to facilitate an exciting month of jumps to conclude the season.
“The other noteworthy change relates to Bendigo who will no longer conduct their annual jumps meeting. Upon review of the season, RV and the Bendigo Jockey Club were of the collective view that the track is not optimally designed for jumps racing.”
The 2019 jumps racing season will begin at Warrnambool on Thursday, 14 March with a total of 61 jumps races – 39 hurdles and 22 steeplechases – programmed across autumn and winter.