Victorian race dates unveiled for 2024-25

Racing Victoria (RV) has today unveiled the race dates for the 2024-25 season with a focus on consolidating changes successfully instituted in spring and autumn this season, whilst enhancing the schedule of meetings through summer.

The current season saw the creation of a new Group 1 raceday in mid-November, the Schweppes Caulfield Thousand, and the scheduling of Flemington’s TAB Australian Cup meeting a fortnight after the All-Star Mile in late March. Both initiatives were a success and are to be retained in 2024-25.

Central to the summer of racing are opportunities to showcase the sport statewide alongside Christmas celebrations and throughout the holiday period. Headlining the summer schedule are three Saturday metropolitan meetings outside Melbourne, including the ‘Super Saturday on the Coast’ meeting successfully launched at Geelong this year, and an additional 17 Country Cup meetings.

The release of the race dates follows an extensive consultation process with Country Racing Victoria, metropolitan and country Clubs, key stakeholder groups (Australian Trainers Association, Victorian Jockeys Association, Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners Association) and wagering service providers.

A summary of the race dates for the 2024-25 season, commencing 1 August, follows:

Volume of Meetings

  • 548 race meetings are scheduled, seven fewer than programmed in 2023-24.
  • The season will comprise 112 metropolitan, 386 country TAB, 17 country non-TAB and 33 picnic meetings spread across 350 days, with 16 race-free days including a two-day Christmas break.
  • A total of 57 night meetings have been programmed – the same as 2016-17 – which is one more than the current season due solely to the fall of the calendar.
  • A total of 16 twilight fixtures have been scheduled – up one on 2023-24, but four less than that being programmed five years ago.
  • Synthetic racing will remain unchanged year-on-year at 27 meetings, well down from the peak of 48 meetings in 2015-16.

The small reduction in meetings comes following a review which found that field sizes are consistently declining in January through April due to the volume of meetings run. Thus, to better match the calendar with the available racehorse population through this period, seven meetings (five country and two midweek metropolitan) have been removed. An overview and background follows:

  • COVID impacts aside, the number of meetings scheduled in Victoria each season has remained consistent for the past decade after declining by 22 over the 10 years prior.
  • In the coming season, seven Thursday afternoon meetings have been removed in the first quarter of 2025 on days where there are Thursday night meetings programmed.
  • This represents a 1.3% reduction in scheduled races compared to the 10-year average.
  • Four of the five country meetings removed are at tracks undergoing renovation or development works which means they will be unavailable for racing at the time.
  • Analysis showed that through the first quarter of the year the number of races with less than eight starters increases to more than 20% against an annual average of 15%.
  • Fields with less than eight starters are suboptimal for wagering with no each way betting.
  • Wagering demand is expected to shift to other scheduled meetings with a turnover uplift of 9-10% estimated for Thursday nights where no afternoon meeting is programmed.
  • Thursday country day meetings where there is a Thursday night meeting are less profitable than comparable Monday, Tuesday and Friday meetings, hence their selection.
  • Saturday and Sunday P2 meetings are the least profitable country meetings of the week but were not considered for removal because they provide an opportunity for Clubs to draw a crowd and engage their local community, particularly in the summer/autumn period.

Spring Racing Carnival

  • Victoria’s three marquee races, the Sportsbet Caulfield Cup (2400m), Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) and Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m), will be run on Saturday, 19 October, Saturday, 26 October and Tuesday, 5 November respectively.
  • For the second year running, the final three Saturdays of the Carnival will be the Caulfield Thousand (16 November), Ladbrokes Cranbourne Cup Day (23 November) and the Caulfield Spring Finale featuring the Zipping Classic (30 November).
  • The Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) meetings on AFL Grand Final weekend will be switched with Sportsbet Sandown to race on Saturday, 28 September alongside interstate Group 1 racing and Mornington on Sunday, 29 September.
  • The AFL Grand Final eve public holiday (Friday, 27 September) will feature the Benalla and Coleraine Cups during the day and The Valley at night where the Group 1 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes (1200m) and Group 2 Ladbrokes Feehan Stakes (1600m) will debut in new timeslots.
  • To strengthen their feature race, Seymour’s Cup meeting has been brought forward a week to Sunday, 13 October, thereby providing a fortnight gap to the Listed Ladbrokes Sale Cup (27 October) which is also run over a mile.
  • The picnic racing season will commence a week earlier than traditional with Yea to host the opening meeting on 19 October – Caulfield Cup Day. The circuit will again conclude with the Tambo Valley Cup at Swifts Creek on Easter Sunday, 20 April.

Caulfield Thousand

  • An opportunity was identified in 2023 to extend feature racing further into vacant sporting landscape through November to engage casual fans for longer.
  • Created with the MRC, the Caulfield Thousand delivered Group 1 racing after Melbourne Cup Week with the move of the Schweppes Thousand Guineas (1600m) and Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m).
  • Moving the Thousand Guineas from a Wednesday to a Saturday offered significant wagering upside for the race and an opportunity to build its prominence in a prime timeslot.
  • It also considered that in the previous 5 years (2018-2022), only 4 of the 60 horses that started in the Thousand Guineas went on to contest the VRC Oaks (2500m).
  • Turnover was up 20% on Caulfield Thousand Day to $73 million in a market down 12% overall and more through the back end of the preceding Cup Week owing to unfavourable results.
  • The Thousand Guineas attracted 13 starters – up on the average of 11 starters over the previous decade (2013-2022) – and achieved its highest rating in three years.
  • To date 11 of the 13 fillies have returned to race in the autumn registering six wins and four placings in Group and Listed races including Vibrant Sun’s Group 1 Australasian Oaks triumph.
  • The 2023 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes attracted a capacity field and was the second highest rating edition of the race in the last five years with scope to still go higher before season’s end.
  • The winner Magic Time has returned in 2024 to win a second Group 1 in the All Aged Stakes (1400m), whilst the unplaced Chain of Lightning has won the G1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m).

Summer Racing

  • The Sportsbet Pakenham Cup (2500m) returns to a Saturday metropolitan meeting on 21 December, whilst Sportsbet Ballarat Cup Day retains its metro status on Saturday, 7 December.
  • Following the successful launch of the ‘Super Saturday on the Coast’ meeting at the start of this year, Geelong will host the second edition on Saturday, 4 January.
  • The Great Western Cup meeting has been moved back a week to Saturday, 25 January where it will be showcased on the Australia Day long weekend alongside the Hanging Rock and Balnarring Cups (both Sunday, 26 January).
  • With the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) planning a re-skin of the Sandown tracks from October to January and a renovation of the Caulfield course proper from mid-December, the Caulfield Heath track will play an increased role in summer.
  • After its successful launch, Caulfield Heath has been allocated 10 fixtures next season including Boxing Day (26 December) and a new meeting on Super Bowl Monday (10 February) where the MRC will work with partners to cross promote racing to sporting fans.

Festival of Racing / Autumn

  • The Sportsbet Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield and Yulong Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington will be run on Saturdays, 22 February and 8 March respectively.
  • Following the successful switch of the TAB Australian Cup (2000m) to a fortnight after the All-Star Mile in 2023, the Group 1 will remain in its new timeslot next year on Saturday, 29 March.
  • The switch saw the Australian Cup achieve its highest rating since 2017, whilst the All-Star Mile rated above the international Group 1 benchmark for the sixth year running.
  • The revised pattern allowed the brilliant All-Star Mile trifecta of Pride of Jenni, Mr Brightside and Cascadian to renew hostilities in both the Australian Cup and Sydney’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes a fortnight thereafter in a boon for Australian racing fans.
  • Hosting rights to the fourth annual bet365 Country Discovery Raceday on Good Friday, 18 April have been granted to Echuca which will be a popular Easter destination for holidaymakers.

Further Considerations

  • The All-Star Mile Raceday has been provisionally programmed for Saturday, 15 March with the host track to be announced prior to the end of the current season.
  • With two rotations across Flemington, Caulfield and The Valley complete, a review is on foot to determine the race and hosting structure for 2025 and beyond.
  • A submission by the newly constituted Southside Racing for the return of Saturday night racing to Cranbourne as part of a four-meeting summer trial also remains under consideration.
  • The request centred upon the move of four existing Thursday/Friday night meetings to Saturdays to assist in promoting racing to the south-east and engaging local communities.
  • Cranbourne previously held two to three Saturday night meetings annually from 2011 to 2019 prior to their cessation during the COVID pandemic.
  • A decision on whether Southside Racing proceeds with the trial in the 2024-25 season will be made over coming months following further consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Quotes attributable to Matt Welsh, RV’s Executive General Manager – Racing:

“Following an extensive consultation process with Clubs and stakeholders, we’re pleased to release the calendar of meetings for the 2024-25 season which provides an array of opportunities for owners, trainers, jockeys and fans alike.

“The 2024-25 race dates seek to build upon the substantive changes made in spring and autumn this season, whilst enhancing the schedule through summer to build engagement right across the state.

“Our objective this season was to extend Group 1 racing further into November where there is less competition and to improve the pattern of feature races in March with the move of the Australian Cup to two weeks after the All-Star Mile.

“Both of these enhancements have proven successful with horses springboarding to further success, so our goal is to consolidate those dates in the spring and autumn of 2024-25.

“The host track for the All-Star Mile will be determined in the coming months. With two rotations of our premier metro tracks now completed, we’ve commenced a review to determine the best structure and venue for the race in 2025 and beyond.

“We’ll also make a final determination in coming months on the request by Southside Racing for the return of Saturday night racing at Cranbourne. Their submission to trial four Saturday night meetings over summer remains the subject of further industry consultation.

“Overall, the small reduction in the volume of meetings is designed to help maximise field sizes through the first quarter of the year where the number of races with less than eight starters increases to more than 20 percent against an annual average of 15 percent.

“The programming changes through summer ensure that our calendar better matches the available racehorse population at that time to maximise field sizes and ultimately industry returns through wagering which is our goal.

“New in February will be a meeting at Caulfield Heath on Super Bowl Monday where the MRC and their partner Sportsbet will showcase the NFL and racing trackside for sports fans. With the continued growth in sports wagering, it’s important racing is tapping into this next generation of potential customer.”

For the full 2024-25 race dates, please click here