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New programming initiatives set to increase opportunities in Victoria

Racing Victoria (RV) has today announced the trial of new programming initiatives aimed at improving field sizes in selected metropolitan races and enhancing the opportunities for horses at the sport’s grass roots.

Next month will see the start of a trial of Benchmark 100 Handicaps in place of Open Handicaps for a series of distance races, along with a monthly reverse ballot maiden.

The initiatives are being trialled following a review of the racing program, feedback from participants, and consultation with the Victorian Jockeys’ Association (VJA), Australian Trainers’ Association (ATA) and Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners’ Association (TROA).

Benchmark 100 Handicaps

Four Saturday metropolitan races will be converted from Open Handicaps to Benchmark 100 Handicaps this summer in an initiative designed to increase field sizes and a deliver a more competitive wagering product.

Over the past two seasons, the average field size for Open Handicaps at Saturday metropolitan meetings in December and January has been below average at just over nine runners per race. Further, only four horses rated between 102 and 105 contested these selected races last season and none with a rating of 106 or higher.

The four races which will be converted to Benchmark 100 Handicaps are:

  • 2600m race at Flemington on Saturday, 18 December 2021
  • 2000m race at Caulfield on Saturday, 8 January 2022
  • 1700m race at Flemington on Saturday, 15 January 2022
  • 2500m race at The Valley on Saturday, 22 January 2022

Carpenter said: “The conditions for the Benchmark 100 races will allow for a greater spread in the allocated weights which will make them more attractive to lower-rated horses whilst also limiting the increase in weights at the top end.

“We’ll trial it across four Saturday metropolitan races this summer and, subject to the outcome, we’re open to introducing some Benchmark 100 races at other times of the season where field sizes have been tracking below optimum levels.”

The key conditions for the Benchmark 100 Handicaps and their comparative differences to Open Handicaps are as follows:

  • A handicap rating of 100 will be equal to 60kg as the benchmark. In comparison, 60kg in an Open Handicap currently equates to a rating of 102;
  • A maximum topweight of 62kg will apply to ensure that horses rated 104 and above do not lose racing opportunities as a result of the trial; and
  • A minimum weight of 53kg will apply, down from 54kg in an Open Handicap. Accordingly, the new minimum equates to a rating of 86, down from the minimum rating of 90 in an Open Handicap.

Reverse Ballot Maidens

For the remainder of the 2021-22 racing season, RV will be trialling one reverse ballot maiden per month to further opportunities for horses at the grass roots.

Entry will be provided first to those horses who have toiled the longest in maiden grade, thus rewarding the connections of one horse a month for their perseverance and commitment to the sport.

Victoria conducts on average 120 maiden races at TAB meetings per month. The reverse ballot maiden will be programmed across a range of country tracks and distances and carry standard TAB prizemoney of $25,000.

Two reverse ballot maidens will be programmed in June 2022 with the annual Drought Breaker (1600m) to be run for $50,000 as part of across-the-board prizemoney increases previously announced for the Swan Hill Cup Carnival.

RV Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter, said: “Maidens are tough to win and some connections never get the opportunity to experience the thrill of winning a race with their horse. Through this trial we’ll provide a better opportunity once a month for that to occur and thus reward perseverance at the grass roots.

“Importantly, as we’ll be converting only one of the existing 120 maidens a month to reverse ballot there won’t be an impact on the breadth of racing opportunities for better performed maidens and debutants.”

The proposed schedule of reverse ballot maidens for the remainder of the 2021-22 season is as follows:





Saturday, 11 December 2021


Goulburn Murray


Friday, 28 January 2022


Western Otway


Monday, 14 February 2022

Stony Creek



Sunday, 20 March 2022

Swan Hill



Saturday, 9 April 2022


Midwest Bellarine


Tuesday, 24 May 2022


Bay and Ranges


Saturday, 4 June 2022




Sunday, 10 July 2022


Goulburn Murray