Easter weekend set to serve up a feast of racing

The Victorian Festival of Racing reaches a fitting climax this Easter long weekend with 10 meetings across the state bringing the curtain down on eight weeks of first-class racing.

With an emphasis on family-friendly fare and relaxed racing in picturesque locations, race clubs will unite communities and attract tourists whilst also raising vital funds for the Good Friday Appeal, the official charity for the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital.

The headline act for racing purists is Easter Saturday’s $3 million TAB Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington, the 47th and final Stakes race during the Festival of Racing.

The 162nd edition of the Group 1 race is set to be the strongest in years with the move of the Australian Cup to a fortnight after the All-Star Mile set to deliver a mouthwatering contest.

The All-Star Mile trifecta – dynamic winner Pride Of Jenni, beaten favourite Mr Brightside and defending Australian Cup champion Cascadian – will match motors again, with 2023 Flemington Group 1 winners Atishu and Legarto adding an intriguing dimension to the battle.

The Flemington meeting will also see the first golden ticket into the 2024 Lexus Melbourne Cup issued to the winner of the Listed $500,000 Lexus Roy Higgins (2600m).

The Easter racing action commences on Good Friday, when Yarra Valley assumes hosting duties of the $1.1 million Country Discovery Raceday.

Regional Victoria’s richest sprint race, the $500,000 bet365 Country Discovery (1200m), is the highlight of a meeting which also offers plenty of entertainment off the track with an animal farm, face painting and an inflatable obstacle course designed to keep the youngsters occupied whilst adults can enjoy some of the Yarra Valley’s finest and freshest produce.

All proceeds from ticket sales on the gate will be donated directly to the Good Friday Appeal and the fundraising efforts continue into the evening when Cranbourne Turf Club hosts its first Good Friday meeting, with spectators able to enjoy 16 races of dual code action as thoroughbred and harness horses compete under the lights.

The night features the inaugural running of the $100,000 Ladbrokes Southside Challenge, an initiative of the newly formed Southside Racing which will see six runners trained at Cranbourne and six at Pakenham compete in a 1300m Maiden. 

The ‘home’ team will be captained by Cranbourne trainer Mick Price whilst Pakenham-based Peter Moody will lead the ‘away’ team, with the contest carrying a charity component to boost the fundraising efforts for the appeal.

“A huge weekend of racing right across the state is the perfect way to round out what has been a fabulous Festival of Racing,” said Matt Welsh, Racing Victoria’s Executive General Manager – Racing.

“From the Australian Cup at Flemington to country cups in regional Victoria, there’s something for everyone this Easter and perhaps the most important aspect is the charity component, with several race clubs raising vital funds for the Good Friday Appeal.

“Over the past five years the Victorian racing industry has contributed more than $350,000 to the Good Friday Appeal, and we look forward to growing that figure this weekend.

“With clubs offering kids activities including Easter egg hunts, arts and crafts and petting zoos, young and old alike will be entertained at the races over the Easter weekend.”

For those keen to escape the city and visit country Victoria, Kerang in the north and Warracknabeal in the west play host to their annual cup days on Easter Saturday.

With valuable points on offer in the 2024 Victorian Country Cups Series, the $50,000 Emmetts Warracknabeal Cup (1600m) and the $30,000 cluBarham Kerang Cup (1800m) are sure to be keenly contested as is the $70,000 Stuart McGregor Stawell Gold Cup (2000m) on Easter Sunday, the 17th and final country cup staged during the Festival of Racing.

Mornington also stages its traditional Easter Sunday fixture, complete with free fairground rides and an Easter egg hunt, whilst fans of grassroots racing can head to Balnarring (Saturday) and Swifts Creek (Sunday) as the clubs host picnic meetings before Sportsbet Sandown rounds out the action on Easter Monday.

The full schedule of Victorian race meetings over the Easter weekend are as follows: 

Good Friday – 29 March

bet365 Yarra Valley – bet365 Country Discovery Raceday
Cranbourne – Good Friday Night Racing

Easter Saturday – 30 March

Flemington – TAB Australian Cup Day
Warracknabeal – Emmetts Warracknabeal Cup Day
Kerang – cluBarham Kerang Cup Day
Balnarring – Easter Raceday

Easter Sunday – 31 March

bet365 Stawell – Stuart McGregor Stawell Gold Cup
Mornington – MPNG Mornington Easter
Swifts Creek – Tambo Valley Cup

Easter Monday – 1 April
Sportsbet Sandown – Easter Raceday