Retired racehorses set to dazzle as Racing Victoria renews partnership with Victorian Agricultural Shows

On the eve of Victorian Agricultural Shows’ (VAS) annual Saddle Horse Championships, Racing Victoria’s (RV) Off The Track (OTT) program is delighted to announce the extension of its support of VAS for a 10th consecutive year.

The $50,000 annual sponsorship supports and rewards hundreds of retired thoroughbred racehorses competing in over 80 agricultural shows annually across Victoria.

The culmination of the VAS circuit comes up this weekend at Bendigo Showgrounds when the winners of the OTT classes at VAS events throughout 2023 compete in the Victorian Saddle Horse Championships.

The two-day event on Saturday, 6 January and Sunday, 7 January will showcase the elegance, style and manners of top tier retired thoroughbred racehorses. 

Among those set to compete is household name Hartnell, along with the much loved So Si Bon who will make his showing debut in a support category after his 95-start racing career ended in July last year.

Retired racehorses compete across the calendar year either as a Show Horse or Show Hunter in ridden and led classes at VAS events across Victoria, which serve as qualifiers for the state championships at Bendigo.

In addition, this weekend’s event will also feature First Season OTT and Rising Star OTT Open and Show Hunter competitions, as well as the new additions of an OTT Amateur Owner Rider competition, and a Junior Fashions on the Field event for competitors aged 12 to 18. 

Stylish men and women will also have the chance to compete, as they have done in prior years, in the Led OTT Race Day Fashions categories which is where So Si Bon will step out under the guidance of RV Acknowledged Retrainer Sammi McMaster.

Passionate OTT supporters competing in this year’s state championships, include RV Acknowledged Retrainer Fiona McIntyre with Jokerman and Westminster (The Arod) and Sheralee Patterson with four-time Group 1 winner Hartnell and Crown Obsession.

The ridden championships will involve three judges, who will observe each horse’s manners and paces, as well as looking at their thoroughbred qualities and how they have adapted to the show world after racing. 

RV General Manager - Equine Welfare, Melissa Ware, said: “We are thrilled to continue our association with VAS as they continue to provide a wonderful platform to showcase retired racehorses each and every year across Victoria. 

“VAS covers a significant geographic footprint across Victoria and provides an opportunity for riders to qualify at their local agricultural show to compete at the Victorian Saddle Horse Championships. 

“Country racing and agricultural shows are the backbone of many Victorian country communities, and this partnership provides opportunities and pathways for retired racehorses while showcasing the versatility of thoroughbreds.”

Rod Bowles, Executive Officer of VAS, is equally thrilled with the ongoing partnership stating: “It’s a fantastic partnership that has allowed us to go from strength to strength. 

“We started with just a ridden series, which has developed to now include led as well as Show Hunter sections. In addition, we’ve added in Fashions on the Fields at the final, a newcomer category and we are thrilled to bits with how far it’s come.”

For more information about the Victorian Saddle Horse Championships, view the event program, here.