HURDLES racing returns to Casterton following a decision by the State Government to overturn Racing Victoria and Country Racing Victoria’s decision earlier this year to scrap hurdles racing at the historic Casterton racecourse.
The RV had decided to cut hurdle racing at Casterton because of the cost of transporting hurdles to the track from other venues. However, it was prepared to send hurdles from Warrnambool to Coleraine and Hamilton for meetings, but not Casterton.
Even though the course has live hedges for steeplechases, leading jumps trainers said they would not take their horses to Casterton if there were no hurdle events.
Racing Minister Denis Napthine said in February that he had a reassurance from RVL that hurdle races would return to Casterton next year and, if need be, there would be another set of hurdles made which will be used in the Western District.
“Casterton has a 100-year-history of conducting hurdle racing and I can understand the situation of trainers and owners of jumping horses who have been disappointed with the decision,” Mr Napthine said.
“I have received assurances from Rob Hines (CEO RVL) and Scott Whiteman (CEO CRV) that hurdle racing will return next season.”
Mr Napthine said the construction and availability of an extra set of hurdles would be a positive for the industry.
The decision to return hurdle racing to Casterton was announced last Wednesday when RV released its 2012 jumps racing program which will deliver increased prize money and an enhanced feature race schedule.
The significant prize money increases are due largely to the Victorian Coalition Government’s four-year $2 million funding commitment to jumps racing.
The Casterton Racing Club has been given a significant boost in funding for two hurdle races and four steeple events at its four meetings next year.
Race club president Bruce Miller said the club had been given a minimum 33 per cent increase in prize money for each race.
“Horses registering their first career jumps win will also earn a $10,000 bonus,” he said.
“We have been very fortunate to receive this extra funding and it should be large enough to attract horses and punters from Melbourne to our race meetings.”
He said the two hurdle races the club will host in 2012 will have prize money of $20,000 plus the $10,000 bonus and the annual cup day steeplechase will be worth $30,000 and the remaining two steeple events later in the year will be worth $20,000 each.
“We will also be replacing the existing inside metal rail on the course proper with a plastic running rail by the time of the cup meeting on May 27,” Mr Miller said.
“Thanks to the support of the State Government, we have been able to boost prize money for our biggest races and provide increased returns for maiden winners through a new bonus scheme,” RV CEO Rod Hine said.
.The racing minister said he was excited about next year’s Victorian jumps racing season, which will see more prize money and more excitement.
“The Coalition Government’s $2 million investment in jumps racing in 2012 includes measures aimed at increasing prize money, improving jockey and horse safety and increasing the international profile of our fantastic jumps racing program,” Mr Napthine said.
“The Baillieu Coalition Government’s commitment to jumps racing has delivered an enormous shot of confidence to the industry with trainers and owners already making investments in new facilities and additional racehorses.
“Importantly, these new investments lead to economic benefits and increased job opportunities throughout the State; and regional Victoria in particular.”
In other developments, Warrnambool will house a set of jumps for trials and races in the district, reducing transport costs and opening up a return of hurdle racing to Casterton, which will hold four steeplechases and two hurdle races next year.
Transporting cost forced RV to drop hurdle races at Casterton last year but, with the jumps now being based at Warrnambool, RV is now are able to transport them to Casterton a lot cheaper.