The New Year’s Day race meeting at Woolamai last Thursday was a huge success but if Racing Victoria gets its way, there will be no repeat next year. The scene above, as horses make a start in the 1508 metre George Bass Hotel Maiden Plate, shows only part of the huge holiday crowd in attendance.
THE first-ever race meeting on New Year’s Day at Woolamai last Thursday was a huge success with upwards of 2300 people in attendance.
It outshone the only other picnic race meeting in Victoria on the day, at Merton near Mansfield, where about 1800 people attended the 150th running of the Merton Cup.
And could go on to rival the likes of Dunkeld’s legendary November race meeting if given the chance.
But Racing Victoria, and the powers behind racing in the state, look set to block a repeat performance at Woolamai.
A week before the meeting was even held last week, Racing Victoria put out its draft calendar for 2016 and Woolamai’s New Year’s Day meeting wasn’t on it.
The sticking point could be the opening of the new ‘Pakenham’ race course at Tynong in March where the club is expected to reclaim its New Year’s Day meeting in 2016.
If the calendar stands, the Woolamai and District Racing Club will be cut down to five meetings a year, where not that long ago it had seven popular dates.
But Woolamai isn’t taking the decision lying down.
It plans to petition Racing Victoria Limited to change its mind and is preparing a compelling submission for their consideration, fully documenting the success of last week’s meeting in words and pictures.
Racing Victoria Executive General Manager, Infrastructure and Club Support, Jamie McGuiness, said this week that the calendar won’t be finalised until March or April and he has welcomed Woolamai’s feedback (see RV statement attached).
“We were absolutely delighted with the success of the day,” said Woolamai and District Racing Club Secretary Bev Carmichael.
“The crowd would have been up with the best we’ve had, equal to our cup meeting, which is quite exceptional for a first-time effort.
“We’re confident it could get even bigger once it became an established event.
“We believe we have a good case for keeping it, the community has backed us in that, and we’re keen to make sure they (Racing Victoria) know about it.”
As well as voting with their feet last Thursday, community support for the meeting came in the form of a letter from the Bass Coast Shire Council to the CEO of Racing Victoria Limited, Bernard Saundry.
“On behalf of Council I would like thank Racing Victoria for the support it gives the Woolamai and District Racing Club. It is very grateful to have been awarded a New Year’s Day race meeting in 2015,” said Manager Economic Development and Tourism, Peter Francis.
Although it stopped short of calling for a repeat in 2016, the shire underscored the contribution made by Woolamai’s race meetings to Bass Coast’s calendar of events.
“The Bass Coast region population swells by around 70,000 over summer with the peak being around the New Year period. A race meeting on New Year’s Day will provide a fantastic and low cost family entertainment opportunity for the many visitors to the region at this time,” he said.
And the same would hold true in 2016.
Mrs Carmichael said concerns about running two picnic race meetings in the state, on the same day, could be overcome.
“Merton is in a totally different part of the state to us so we’re not competing for horses or racegoers.
“The number of amateur jockeys available is an issue, however. Normally we’d have had up to 19 jockeys but we only had nine.
“You’ve got smaller fields at that time of the year though, so that was quite sufficient. It isn’t an issue that couldn’t be overcome.”
Stony Creek Racing Club could be another option to run a New Year’s Day meeting locally because it would have access to professional jockeys but manager of the club, Terry Grace, has ruled out making a competing bid.
“I attended the Woolamai meeting last week and it was a huge success. We’d be happy to see them continuing to run it and I’ll be telling everyone I know what a great success it was,” Mr Grace said.
“But New Year’s Day is a busy day for racing and we’re happy with our Ladies Day meeting, a few days later, in the first week of January.”
Mrs Carmichael said it was important that the community retain the event for several reasons.
“Not only was it popular with the visitors, there were a lot of locals there as well and the community groups that provided the catering raised important funds for their organisations, including Dalyston Football Netball Club, which has lost its mud run event.
“It’s very important to the likes of the Wonthaggi Citizens Band and the Kilcunda-Bass Cricket Club too to get these opportunities,” Mrs Carmichael said.
Racing Victoria welcomes feedback
FAR from ruling out the bid from Woolamai and District Racing Club for a review of its draft calendar for 2016, specifically to include a New Year’s Day meeting at Woolamai, Racing Victoria has welcomed the club’s feedback.
Racing Victoria was delighted with the first-up success of this year’s event and notes that next year’s calendar is not final.
“Excellent weather conditions assisted in attracting strong crowds to all of the New Year’s Day race meetings held across Victoria this year. This includes the picnic meeting held at Woolamai and the club should be congratulated for hosting such a successful event,” said Jamie McGuiness, Racing Victoria Executive General Manager Infrastructure and Club Support.
“Racing Victoria (RV) goes through an annual race dates process to determine the state’s racing calendar which can be summarised as follows:
(1.) Draft race dates are released to Victorian Race Clubs and industry stakeholders before Christmas.
(2) Further stages of review and industry consultation regarding the draft race dates is undertaken. Feedback from clubs and stakeholders is welcomed.
(3) Final dates are confirmed by RV in March or April.”
Mr McGuiness said that in the first draft of the 2015-16 racing calendar, released in late December 2014, RV and Country Racing Victoria (CRV) had decided not to conduct multiple picnic race meetings on the same day.
“Merton conducts its only race date on New Year’s Day and therefore the club was allocated the picnic meeting for this day in the draft race dates.
“The first draft of race dates are open for feedback and RV and CRV welcome submissions from clubs. A number of race dates generally change during this consultation process but unfortunately not all race date requests across the state can be met.
“The draft calendar is reviewed by all Clubs and industry stakeholders before being formally adopted and released publicly by the RV Board in late March or early April 2015.
“RV and CRV consider numerous factors when determining race dates and attempt to balance out the best options for the industry as a whole in order to better showcase the sport while delivering growth in wagering, attendance, media reach and participant engagement.”
So, Woolamai is still in the race to have its New Year’s Day meeting reinstated and public support could make the difference.