An enhanced program for the 2022 jumps racing season has been revealed by Racing Victoria (RV), with an additional $850,000 in prizemoney and a revamped lead-up to Warrnambool’s famous May Racing Carnival headlining today’s announcement.
Following consultation with the Australian Jumping Racing Association (AJRA), RV has moved the MJ Bourke Hurdle meeting at Sportsbet-Pakenham six days earlier to Easter Monday (18 April 2022) – a date which, until the recently-announced cessation of jumps racing in South Australia, had traditionally been occupied by Oakbank’s Easter Carnival.
The fixture will now provide trainers with the opportunity to fine-tune their preparations for the iconic jumps races held across the three-day Warrnambool May Racing Carnival, which gets underway two weeks later on Tuesday, 3 May 2022.
In 2023 and beyond, RV and the AJRA are planning for the enhanced Pakenham meeting to retain its position a fortnight prior to the May Racing Carnival, rather than move with Easter which will see it return to a Sunday (16 April) in 2023.
The repositioning and elevation of the Pakenham meeting has led to a doubling of prizemoney for its two feature races, the MJ Bourke Hurdle (3200m) and the J.E.H. Spencer Memorial Steeplechase (3500m).
Both will now be worth $100,000 and those prizemoney increases, combined with an additional $10,000 on offer in the Benchmark 125 Steeplechase on the same day, means that more than $4.75 million will now be available across the 2022 jumps racing season.
Next season will feature 19 jumps meetings throughout Victoria from March to August – six of which will be held exclusively for jumps riders – with 42 hurdle races and 24 steeplechase races programmed prior to any divisions.
As part of a revamped opening month, the season will commence for the first time at Terang on Friday, 18 March 2022, whilst retaining its finale at Sportsbet-Ballarat with the $350,000 Grand National Steeplechase (4500m) on Sunday, 28 August 2022.
As announced in September, minimum prizemoney in the 2022 jumps racing season will increase from $25,000 to $35,000 per race, while restricted races rise from $30,000 to $40,000 minimums.
A string of feature race increases were also announced, headlined by the Grand National Hurdle (4200m) which will be run on Sunday, 7 August 2022 at Ladbrokes Park (Sandown) for a record $300,000 – up $50,000 from 2021. It will feature alongside the Crisp Steeplechase (4200m), which has been increased to $150,000.
Ladbrokes Park will also host the coveted Australian Hurdle (3900m) and Australian Steeplechase (3900m) on Sunday, 22 May 2022 – both of which have been increased by $25,000 to $150,000.
Those metropolitan features are among the headline events in the 2022 J.J.Houlahan Jumps Championship which carries a point system for horses, trainers and jockeys across all 16 races of $100,000 or more.
The two new $100,000 contests at Pakenham on Easter Monday and the Twin Rivers Steeplechase (3800m), which will be held over the live hedges at Casterton on Sunday, 15 May 2022 for an increased purse of $100,000 (up from $75,000), will replace three Oakbank features in the championship.
RV’s Racing Operations Manager, Josh Grimwood, said: “The prizemoney increases and program changes announced today are recognition of the current strength of jumps racing here in Victoria, and reward the hard work and loyalty of our jumps participants and owners in improving the quality and safety of the sport.
“Together with the AJRA, we are committed to elevating the MJ Bourke Hurdle meeting at Sportsbet-Pakenham in April to deliver our opening feature races of the season and a suitable stepping stone to the May Racing Carnival at Warrnambool.
“This meeting will also be programmed exclusively for jumps riders in 2022, increasing from five to six the number that will feature jumps races only or a combination of jumps and highweights, making them focal points for the sport.
“We’re coming off a fantastic 2021 season, one of which was the among the safest in history of the sport off the back of the introduction of our new one-fit hurdles, and the plan has today been set for an exciting 2022 season where an ongoing commitment to safety will remain for all participants.
“Whilst the May Racing Carnival will again be the focal point, we believe there is a great spread of races and prizemoney on offer throughout the entire 2022 season, and I would like to thank the AJRA for their engagement and support in constructing the program.”
AJRA Chairman, Sandy McGregor, said: "We are very pleased with the outcome for the 2022 jumps program. The Pakenham meeting on Easter Monday is an ideal lead-up to the May Carnival. Overall, it’s a positive result for participants and we would like to thank Racing Victoria for their continued support.
“With the increase in prizemoney across the entire program, alongside the ongoing safety improvements in jumps racing, we are heading into what shapes as a great season of jumping. As we do, the AJRA’s focus will remain on continually improving equine and participant welfare.”
Please click here to view the full 2022 Victorian Jumps Racing Program.