The 2023 Victorian Spring Racing Carnival has been a success with racegoers turning out in impressive numbers across the state to witness an array of exceptional racing.
Figures released today by Racing Victoria (RV) showed that over 566,000 people attended race meetings in Victoria throughout the three-month carnival – an increase of 12.5% on 2022.
The carnival featured top-tier thoroughbred racing complemented by stellar fashion, food and entertainment at racetracks across Victoria from 2 September to 3 December 2023.
A revamped racing program saw the restructure of early spring features, together with the expansion of Group 1 racing from 10 to 11 weekends via the new Schweppes Caulfield Thousand meeting on Saturday, 18 November.
International participation increased to mark the 30th anniversary of international competition, with Victoria hosting horses from England, Ireland, France and, for the first time since pre-COVID, Hong Kong and Japan.
A total of $112.5 million in prizemoney and bonuses was paid out to local and international competitors – an increase of close to 30% on returns paid pre-COVID in the 2019 carnival.
A review of all race meetings from the Stow Storage Memsie Stakes at Caulfield (2 September) to the Haymes Paint Jericho Cup at Warrnambool (3 December) included the following notable results and highlights:
- The four race meetings at Flemington during Lexus Melbourne Cup week were the most attended in Australia in 2023 reinforcing its status as the nation’s premier racing event;
- Despite restricted capacity owing to racecourse redevelopments, the Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup had 25,121 attendees (up 2.6%) and the Ladbrokes Cox Plate 21,021 (up 10%);
- Country meetings attracted strong crowds with those increasing by more than 25% including the Bendigo, Moe and Peninsula Cups, and Yarra Valley’s spring finale; and
- Dunkeld and Avoca welcomed back crowds to their cup meetings for the first time since 2019 after COVID and weather impacts, with over 6,000 and 3,000 fans respectively.
- The Group 1 trio of the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m), Memsie Stakes (1400m) and the Kennedy Champions Mile are provisionally the three highest rating races of the carnival;
- The Melbourne Cup (3200m), Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup (2400m), TAB Empire Rose Stakes (1600m), Darley Champions Sprint (1200m), Clamms Seafood Feehan Stakes (1600m), Charter Keck Cramer Moir Stakes (1000m) and TAB Turnbull Stakes (2000m) were among the feature races to provisionally achieve increased race ratings year-on-year, underlining the quality of racing in 2023;
- The 100th Group 1 Live Life Foundation Underwood Stakes (1800m), which moved from Ladbrokes Park to Caulfield and was held eight days earlier in 2023, attracted a field of 15, including the subsequent Melbourne Cup quinella and Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) winner, up from six starters only in 2022;
- The shift of the Group 1 Thousand Guineas (1600m) to mid-November successfully attracted a strong field of 13 starters compared to an average of 11 over the last decade. Wagering turnover on the race increased 41% while the winner Joliestar and third placed Skybird only had their second starts in early October; and
- The Group 1 Neds Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m), which moved to the same Caulfield meeting, delivered its second highest provisional rating in the past five years.
- The Anthony and Sam Freedman-trained Without A Fight completed the first Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup double in 22 years;
- Danny Shum’s superstar Romantic Warrior created history as the first Hong Kong-trained horse to win the Cox Plate at The Valley before returning home to win a second Hong Kong Cup last weekend;
- Imperatriz (Mark Walker) became the first horse to sweep the carnival’s three Group 1 open sprints with victories in the Moir Stakes and Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes (1200m) at The Valley, and the Champions Sprint at Flemington;
- Gemma Rielly's Claidheamh Mor was victorious in the inaugural Victorian Country Cups Final (2000m) at Caulfield; and
- A unique milestone was achieved when trainer Mitch Freedman and jockey Beau Mertens both claimed their maiden Group 1 titles winning the Toorak Handicap at Caulfield with Attrition.
- Total domestic turnover for the carnival reached $2.9 billion – down 12% year-on-year owing to macroeconomic pressures, favourable results for bookmakers and a 33% decline in free bet turnover. The total figure is 14% higher than pre-COVID in 2019;
- The carnival’s three marquee races – Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup –produced $300 million in domestic turnover, remaining in line with recent COVID peaks and largely unaffected by the downturn;
- RV worked with its international distribution partner Sports Information Services (SIS), the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), and the Victorian metropolitan clubs to broker the conduct of four World Pool meetings during the carnival;
- The Cox Plate became the second highest turnover race ever conducted globally for World Pool behind the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Stakes (UK);
- The Turnbull Stakes and the Neds Caulfield Guineas (1600m) were among the feature races to reach record turnover levels in 2023; and
- Despite the overall wagering market softening, turnover increased on Saturdays early in the carnival assisted by the metropolitan 10th race trial.
RV Chief Executive, Andrew Jones, said: “This year’s Spring Racing Carnival delivered high quality, safe and competitive racing and excellent crowds.
“We thank racing fans for their support through Spring, from the feature Group 1 meetings to our iconic Country Cups.
“We thank our Clubs for delivering spectacular raceday experiences and the punters, owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys and stable staff, locally and internationally, for their continued support of this fantastic carnival.
“Our attention now turns to a great program of summer racing including the inaugural Super Saturday on the Coast at Geelong on 6 January and the return of the Sportsbet Future Stars series. Geelong will be a fun, family-friendly raceday for holidaymakers and locals alike.”