NEXT year’s Albury Gold Cup carnival will be worth almost $800,000 in prizemoney after the Border race club landed a heat of the Country Championships.
Albury will host the Southern District Racing Association’s Country Championships qualifier on Sunday, March 19 before the Gold Cup is run on Friday, March 24.
It’s a shake-up for the Gold Cup carnival, which has traditionally been staged on a Thursday and Friday.
Albury Racing Club chief executive John Miller said it was a coup to secure the Country Championships qualifier from Wagga’s Murrumbidgee Turf Club, which has held the event for the past two years.
The Sunday meeting will boast $370,000 in prizemoney with more than $400,000 to be on offer on Gold Cup day. Last year’s carnival was worth $553,000 over the two days.
“It’s a huge jump, it’s really exciting,” he said.
“It’s really exciting to get the opportunity to host what is fast becoming one of the best concepts in country racing.
“It’s got a really good following and we’re rapt to be given the opportunity to host it at Albury.
“We’ve always been tossing around ideas with the Thursday, we’ve made changes to race programs over the years and this gave us an opportunity to have a go at racing on the Sunday and then the Friday.
“This is just an ideal opportunity with the Championships on the Sunday to see how this goes.
“When it’s on the Thursday-Friday, a lot of people can’t go to both days with work commitments.
“We think it’s got a lot of potential locally, for people to go to both big race days.
“For people locally, trainers, owners and the punters that will be coming out, they’re going to have two really big days of prizemoney and racing.”
Major drainage works are underway at the Albury track and Miller is confident they will be completed in time to return to racing in February.
The Border has experienced one of its wettest winters on record but Miller said work would progress quickly once the weather warmed up.
The Country Championships heat would likely return to Wagga if Albury’s track wasn’t ready.
“We’d love it to stop raining and the temperature to heat up a bit more,” he said.
“That’s obviously the unknown, we don’t want it to continue but we’ve got some great contractors on board and they’re quite committed to their dates and confident that we’ll be laying grass in Melbourne Cup week.
“It’s been well reported about wet tracks, lost race meetings and things like that but the Championships is a real positive. We’re really embracing it and can’t wait to see how it goes.”