The Country Discovery to headline Good Friday racing

Racing Victoria (RV), Country Racing Victoria (CRV) and the Sale Turf Club (STC) have today released the race program for Victoria’s inaugural Good Friday meeting on 15 April 2022 which will offer $1.4 million in prizemoney.

Headlining the historic meeting at Sale is The Country Discovery, a new 1100m race that will assume the mantle as the richest sprint in country Victoria with $500,000 in stakes on offer. It will be run as an open handicap with a maximum topweight of 61kg.

The Country Discovery will become the flagship event for Good Friday racing which will rotate annually throughout country Victoria promoting different regions of the state and encouraging tourism within, whilst also supporting the time-honoured Good Friday Appeal.

Sale is home to one of the state’s premier country racetracks and is in the heart of the Gippsland region in Victoria’s east. It is the gateway to the Gippsland Lakes, the largest inland waterway system in Australia, and a short drive from the iconic Ninety Mile Beach.

If changes to the Racing Act 1958, which would permit the conduct of thoroughbred racing on Good Friday, are passed by the Victorian Parliament in early 2022, the destination event will kick start the 2022 Easter long weekend in Gippsland and see thoroughbred racing join the AFL, NRL and NBL in conducting professional sport on Good Friday within Victoria.

With Good Friday to feature eight races – the first of which will be run no earlier than 1pm – RV and CRV have developed a support program that provides enhanced opportunities for smaller and emerging stables and up-and-coming horses. 

Among the highlights will be the $150,000 Country Oaks (2200m) for three-year-old and older fillies and mares, and two $150,000 finals of a new Country Trainers Series – one a 1200m Benchmark 70 and the other a 1500m Benchmark 70.

The Country Trainers Series will be exclusive to trainers who are licensed in Victoria only, had less than 50 metropolitan starters in Victoria in the 2020-21 racing season and less than five metropolitan winners in Victoria in the same period. 

To be eligible for each series, both of which will feature qualifying heats in country Victoria throughout March and April, horses must have been in the care of an eligible trainer on or before 1 January 2022 as per an official stable return. The schedule of heats for both series will be released in the first two weeks of January.

The other $150,000 race on the support program is The Shooting Star, a 1700m Class 3 race for horses that have had less than 10 career starts, while a trio of $100,000 Benchmark 64 races round out the card.

The full program for the 2022 Good Friday race meeting at Sale is as follows:

  1. $500,000 The Country Discovery - 1100m Open Handicap
  2. $150,000 Country Oaks - 2200m, 3YO&Up Fillies & Mares
  3. $150,000 Country Trainers Series Final - 1200m Benchmark 70
  4. $150,000 Country Trainers Series Final - 1500m Benchmark 70
  5. $150,000 The Shooting Star - 1700m, Class 3 less than 10 starts
  6. $100,000 Good Friday Appeal Cup - Benchmark 64 Open, 2200m 
  7. $100,000 Benchmark 64 Open, 1100m
  8. $100,000 Benchmark 64 Open, 1600m

The announcement of the Good Friday racing program comes on the day of Sale’s final race meeting of 2021 with the STC hosting its annual Christmas Races this afternoon.

Quotes attributable to RV Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter

“We want this raceday to be a destination event for country Victoria, one that showcases different areas of our state through an annual rotation that supports regional tourism. We’re excited to conduct the first ever Good Friday meeting in the heart of Gippsland at Sale. 

“In developing this new raceday from scratch, our goal was to create a racing program that was attractive to participants, fans and holidaymakers alike, whilst also complementing the traditional schedule of races throughout the remainder of the Easter long weekend.

“There are many great things to discover when travelling throughout country Victoria and we hope to unearth a future star of racing in The Country Discovery which will headline the annual Good Friday race meeting and becomes the richest sprint in country Victoria.

“With the distance set at 1100m we think there’s a great link between The Country Discovery and the coveted Wangoom Handicap which will be run over 1200m at the Warrnambool May Carnival a little under three weeks later. Collectively, the two races will offer $700,000 in prizemoney making them an appealing double.

“We’re also excited to provide those stables who are smaller and emerging or didn’t compete regularly on the metropolitan circuit over the previous season with the opportunity to chase some attractive prizemoney in the two Country Trainers Series.”

Quotes attributable to CRV Chief Executive, Scott Whiteman

“Country Racing Victoria is delighted to host the inaugural Good Friday raceday at the Sale Turf Club and warmly welcomes today’s release of the racing program as another important part of the countdown.

“It is a privilege to be able to host Good Friday racing at a country racetrack and to be able to support local communities while doing so. This raceday, which will rotate annually between country clubs, will not only be big on the track but off the track, with many people travelling to explore the local region and support country Victoria.

“We’d like to take this opportunity to again extend our thanks to the Minister for Racing, Martin Pakula, for his support of the initiative and look forward to attracting a huge crowd to the Gippsland region which will provide a welcome boost to the local economy.

“We also look forward to not only developing a premier raceday for country Victoria but taking the opportunity to support the Good Friday Appeal with various fundraising to occur in association with the race meeting.”

Quotes attributable to SRC Chief Executive, Brad Evans

“It is an honour to be the first club entrusted with hosting Good Friday racing and we will leave no stone unturned in delivering a successful raceday with some fantastic racing promised headlined by The Country Discovery. 

“With a predicted influx of both local and visitors from afar to our region for this race meeting, there is a great opportunity for the racing industry to support the retail, hospitality and tourism industries that have done it so tough with not only COVID but devastating drought, floods and bushfires throughout Gippsland in recent years. 

“The Sale Turf Club is also extremely keen to work with attendees, partners and the wider racing industry to ensure that we support the time-honoured Good Friday Appeal on this important day for all Victorians. We’re planning a range of fundraising initiatives for the Appeal including a contribution from every entry ticket sold on the day.”