Racing Victoria (RV) and the Victoria Racing Club (VRC), have today announced changes to the handicap conditions for the winter racing series that culminate on Flemington Finals Day on Saturday, 4 July 2020.
The changes follow ongoing discussions between RV and the VRC around broadening winter racing opportunities for connections impacted by interstate travel restrictions and programming changes owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The changes, which have been made in consultation with the Australian Trainers Association (ATA), also give consideration to the temporary increase to the weight scale to assist jockeys with their weight and fitness due to industry biosecurity protocols and the closure of gyms, on-course spas and saunas.
All races on Flemington Finals Day will now be conducted as Quality Handicaps with the following races to carry a maximum topweight of 62kg:
- VRC-CRV Winter Championship Final (1600m, Open)
- All Victorian Sprint Series Final (1200m, Open)
- Banjo Paterson Series Final (2600m, Open)
- Mahogany Challenge Final (2500m, 3YO)
- Silver Bowl Series Final (1600m, 3YO)
- Rivette Series Final (1400m, 3YO Fillies)
- Leilani Series Final (1400m, Mares)
The two-year-old series that culminate on Flemington Finals Day – the 2YO Sprint Series (1200m) and the Taj Rossi Series (1600m) – will be Quality Handicaps with a maximum topweight of 61kg.
The minimum weight for all races on Flemington Finals Day remains 56kg with no apprentice allowances as advertised.
In addition to the above, heats conducted at Flemington on Saturdays, 6 June 2020 and 20 June 2020 for the following winter series will also become Quality Handicaps with a maximum topweight of 62kg:
- VRC-CRV Winter Championship Series
- All Victorian Sprint Series
- Banjo Paterson Series
- Mahogany Challenge
For these eight heats, the minimum weight remains 56kg and apprentice allowances are no longer permitted, noting that the 20 June heat of the All Victorian Sprint Series – the Listed A.R.Creswick Stakes (1200m, 3YO) – was already advertised as a ‘no claim’ race.
Finally, a further programming amendment has been made to the Flemington meeting on Saturday, 18 July 2020 with the 3YO&Up 2500m Handicap increased in distance to 2800m and converted to a Quality Handicap with a maximum topweight of 62kg. Again, apprentice allowances will no longer be permitted in this race.
VRC Executive General Manager Racing Leigh Jordon, said: “The VRC and RV recognised that to support the Victorian racing industry during these unprecedented times, including the impact brought about by travel restrictions, we needed to make changes to our racing conditions to accommodate high quality horses during the winter period at Flemington.
“We’re delighted to announce these changes with Racing Victoria today.
“Flemington Finals Day is the pinnacle of racing throughout the winter period at Headquarters, and the heats run through May and June allow for quality horses to be featured during this period leading into spring.”
RV Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter, said: “Whilst we’ve made it clear that we wouldn’t be creating any new feature races or increasing prizemoney for the remainder of the racing season, we do recognise that the interstate travel restrictions and programming changes have impacted Victorian trainers and owners.
“Following ongoing discussions with the VRC, we have elected to convert all races on Flemington Finals Day on 4 July to Quality Handicaps, as we’ve also done with the heats for the Winter Championship, Mahogany Challenge, Banjo Paterson and All Victorian Sprint Series on 6 and 20 June at Flemington.
“The new handicap conditions give consideration to the impact changes made to the Queensland Winter Carnival have had on the plans for Victorian stables. Equally, they acknowledge the desire of some connections, given the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, to continue racing their quality horses whilst they remain race fit and active.
“For the seven winter series conducted for three-year-old and older horses, we have maintained a 6kg weight spread which we think strikes an appropriate balance for all stakeholders given the unique circumstances of this unprecedented event.”
In making the announcement, Carpenter also highlighted the opportunity that the recently introduced The Mahogany Challenge provides for three-year-olds impacted by the cancellation of the upcoming Queensland Derby and Oaks.
Launched in 2019 to enhance the program for young and emerging stayers, the $632,000 series features six heats – three at Flemington, two at Sandown and one at Caulfield – from 23 May to 20 June over distances from 1600m to 2400m.
The Mahogany Challenge Final, for which the heat winners are exempt from the ballot, will then be run over 2500m for $120,000 at Flemington on 4 July.
The Mahogany Challenge follows the Listed $320,000 The Andrew Ramsden (2800m) which is run exclusively for three, four and five-year-olds at Flemington on Saturday, 16 May 2020 and offers the winner a ballot exemption in the 2020 Lexus Melbourne Cup.