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The Racing Victoria (RV) Board has today determined that the existing feature race program and traditional dates will be retained for the 2020 Spring Racing Carnival.

Whilst racing has been the only sport to safely continue during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on Australia’s sporting and events calendar and ongoing social restrictions meant that an industry discussion was required on the best format and timing for this year’s Spring Racing Carnival.

The primary options under consideration were a retention of the existing structure and dates; a movement of the entire Spring Racing Carnival back by up to one month; or a major restructure of the feature race program to conduct the Caulfield Cup Carnival at the conclusion of the Spring Racing Carnival.

The RV Board and Executive received and considered submissions and feedback from Country Racing Victoria (CRV), the three metropolitan racing clubs, stakeholder associations, wagering service providers, media partners, key trainers and owners, racing fans and punters, as well as advice from the Victorian Government on the potential for crowds and the likely restrictions come spring.

Among the key areas of focus were the unclear timeline for the easing of social restrictions and the potential for large gatherings; key commercial and media partnerships; both the local and national pattern of feature races; the need to maintain an exceptional standard of racing; expected clashes with other delayed competitions and events; potential competition for the wagering dollar and possible impacts on publicity and media coverage.

Having considered the submissions and feedback, which were varied and not definitive, and acting upon all the information available at this time, the Board ultimately determined that it is in the best overall interests of Victorian and Australian racing that the established program and dates be retained for 2020.

The key features of today’s announcement are as follows:

  • The 2020 Spring Racing Carnival will officially commence with the Group 1 Memsie Stakes meeting at Caulfield on Saturday, 29 August and conclude with the Ballarat Cup meeting on Saturday, 21 November;
  • The Caulfield Cup Carnival will be conducted over three days with the Caulfield Guineas meeting on Saturday, 10 October; Blue Sapphire Stakes meeting on Wednesday, 14 October and the Caulfield Cup meeting on Saturday, 17 October;
  • The Cox Plate Carnival at The Valley will be run over 24 hours with the Manikato Stakes meeting on Friday night, 23 October and the Cox Plate on Saturday afternoon, 24 October;
  • The Melbourne Cup will retain its iconic date on the first Tuesday in November, with the four-day Flemington Carnival to be held on Saturday, 31 October (Derby Day); Tuesday, 3 November (Cup Day); Thursday, 5 November (Oaks Day) and Saturday, 7 November (Stakes Day);
  • Owing to the postponement of the AFL Grand Final, a switch of Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) meetings has been made on the final weekend in September with Caulfield’s Group 1 Underwood Stakes meeting moving 24 hours earlier to Saturday, 26 September, with Mornington’s Ansett Classic meeting reverting to Sunday, 27 September;
  • All feature races conducted in the 2019 Spring Racing Carnival will be retained, including 21 Group 1 races and 26 country cups; and
  • Prizemoney for all races will be announced by early July following further consideration by the RV Board of the current and future financial impacts of the pandemic.

Quotes attributable to RV Chairman, Brian Kruger

“The Board has today determined that retaining the existing feature race program and traditional dates for the 2020 Spring Racing Carnival is in the best overall interests of Victorian and Australian racing.

“I want to thank all of our stakeholders and partners who provided submissions for the Board’s consideration and whilst their views were varied, all were united in wanting to see the Spring Racing Carnival remain a global racing icon.

“The Spring Racing Carnival is one of the world’s most successful racing events and an incredible asset for the state of Victoria. The Board has been heartened to see the passion that has existed for it both from within our industry and the wider community in commentary over recent weeks over its best structure and timing for 2020.

“In making its decision, the Board agreed that any case for major change owing to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic did not provide compelling outcomes with enough certainty to outweigh the benefits of retaining the existing structure, particularly when racing on mainland Australia has continued throughout the pandemic.

“While the potential for crowds has been central to the debate, whether we can have crowds during the Spring Racing Carnival is unknown at this stage – we will be guided by the directions of the Chief Health Officer, as we have throughout the pandemic.

“Understanding that the situation will continue to evolve, the road to Spring glory starts in June for the vast majority of our elite horses and that’s why we owed it to owners and trainers to make this decision now.

“Our core product is racing and we need to ensure that we continue to attract the very best horses, trainers and jockeys, where restrictions allow, to Victoria for our feature races. We noted that the Australian Trainers Association (ATA) and Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners Association (TROA) both supported the retention of our existing program.

“We considered the potential impacts on our Festival of Racing in February and March 2021 and whether a later Carnival would encourage horses to bypass races here in late summer, early autumn to pursue later opportunities interstate.

“The current pathways and Grand Finals of the Spring Racing Carnival are well understood, and we believe retaining that existing structure this year will give us the best opportunity for outstanding fields and broad support, both from local and out-of-state competitors.

“Equally, racing fans want to see the very best compete against one another and we know that the Spring Racing Carnival is Australia’s leading wagering product having been warmly supported by punters in its current format for many years.

“Wagering is the industry’s key source of revenue and while the opinions from wagering operators varied, our analysis indicated that any potential uplift would not be material and comes with downside risk.

“The challenge for publicity and media coverage from additional competition throughout October is a real one, but we were ultimately of the opinion that it couldn’t be the primary driver for change in a year in which uncertainty still abounds.

“We are looking forward with optimism at the spotlight that sport will receive in the media landscape this spring and in the knowledge that we have great media partners, in addition to guaranteed free-to-air broadcasts, to showcase our premier races.

“In making its decision today, the RV Board looks forward to all within the industry working together to ensure that the 2020 Spring Racing Carnival is the best that it can possibly be in a unique and compromised year.”

2020 Spring Racing Carnival – Feature Meetings

The schedule of feature race meetings during the 2020 Spring Racing Carnival is as follows: