This Melbourne Cup Day at Yarra Valley harness racing is going green.
Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) in conjunction with Yarra Valley and the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association (VTDA) last night revealed that, for the first time in over 16 years, the trots will be racing on the grass gallops track.
HRV Racing General Manager Steve Bell appeared exclusively on Sky Racing’s In the Gig to break the news.
Two trotting races will be conducted in front of a predicted 5000-strong crowd, both standing start events bringing the action closer to the fans than ever before.
“This is what Melbourne Cup Day at Yarra Valley is all about – exciting harness racing for families and fans, showcasing our great sport to the masses,” Bell said.
“Harness racing has to constantly evolve. We’ve had grass track racing before, but we’ve identified an opportunity for a new, improved version of it on one of the sport’s premier days in terms of entertaining a big crowd.
The throwback to a favourite of times past has struck a positive chord with industry participants and VTDA president Lance Justice lauded the announcement.
“We’ve worked closely on this one with HRV and Yarra Valley and we think it’s a wonderful idea,” Justice said.
“We’re confident it will be a great spectacle. They run these races all the time in New Zealand and we used to have them here.
“Ultimately what the Trainers and Drivers Association would like to see would be a harness race on the grass at Flemington on Cup Day. Anything that can promote like this we’re right behind.”
Local trainer Peter Goudie agreed.
“I support this initiative 100 per cent. We loved it years ago and we’re so happy to see it back again. It will be a marvellous spectacle,” he said.
For trivia buffs, the last grass track race to be conducted in Victoria was the Fox Plate at Moonee Valley in February 2003. It was won by Trappers Salute for trainer Gary Bailey and driver Jodi Quinlan (pictured).
Yarra Valley Racing Chairman David Long is excited about the move and said the club had long been eager to see grass track racing conducted at its venue.
“It’s a wonderful thing for Yarra Valley and our local harness racing community with two races on our grass track allowing customers to cheer up close and personal for the first time in Yarra Valley history,” he said.
The progressive Yarra Valley club already boasts over $4000 worth of Fashions on the Field prizes, prestigious hospitality featuring local food and wine and for the first time ever, with support from the Victorian State Government, the club will introduce the ‘Family Fun Zone’.
The carnival-inspired lawn enclosure will be free for all, with child-friendly rides, lawn games and carnival-favourite foods such as fairy floss and the like.
The HRV HERO horses will also be on track for fans to ‘Pat Their HERO’ horse.
Bell said HRV would “pull out all stops” to help ensure full fields for Yarra Valley’s two-day Melbourne Cup week carnival.
“There’s no doubt it’s a busy racing period, but we’ll do everything we can to assist the club in drawing full fields,” Bell said.
The two grass track races will be standing-start trot events over 1950m, an NR40 to NR55 $7000 handicap and a four-year-old and older Trotters Discretionary Handicap for horses with a minimum NR of 55.