ONLY horses trained in the Hunter and North West Racing Association will be eligible to run in next year’s $100,000 Country Championship qualifying race at Tamworth.
That was one of the qualifying conditions Racing Minister Troy Grant confirmed in Tamworth yesterday for the Friday, March 20 event.
As reported in Saturday’s Leader, the Tamworth qualifying event will be over 1400m, with first and second-placed horses qualifying for a $300,000 Country Championship Final at Royal Randwick as part of next April’s multi million The Championships.
Grant was in Tamworth yesterday and said the March 20 race was a “terrific opportunity for locally-trained horses to have the chance to race for $300,000 at Royal Randwick”.
He also confirmed the third and fourth-placed horses at Tamworth would also be emergencies for the Country Championship Final at Randwick.
“It ensures country-trained horses get a chance to race at Royal Randwick,” Grant said.
He said similar conditions apply at the other six country championship qualifying venues – Wagga, Port Macquarie, Grafton, Bathurst, Goulburn and Dubbo.
“Tamworth has a massive reputation in the industry as a great track with a lot of horses trained here.
“It is known as the Randwick of the North and fitting that it hosts one of the qualifying events.”
Since taking over as Racing Minister he’s found a major “disconnect” between country and metropolitan racing and hopes this is one way of filling that gap.
“I have had plenty of dialogue with trainers, owners and punters and this is the first thing we wanted to focus on.”
He said a provincial racing championship was also being designed by his office and Racing NSW.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson reckons the country championships are a massive boost for clubs such as Tamworth Jockey Club.
“It’s an outstanding initiative,” Anderson said.
“This is so important for a club like Tamworth.
“We have 150 horses being trained here with 40 trainers.
“To have a $100,000 1400m event here is special.”
Tamworth Jockey Club president Garry Collins and operations manager Victoria Toy are already preparing for a massive month, with the $80,000 Tamworth Cup – also over 1400m – to be run a few weeks later.
Collins said having the Tamworth Country Championship Qualifier restricted to HNWRA-trained horses was a huge bonus.
“It’s a real chance for our horses to race for good prizemoney here and at Randwick,” Collins said.
“At this stage we know it is 1400m, $100,000 and restricted to HNWRA-trained horses.
“All the other conditions we’ll find out later.
“At this stage we have a meeting next Tuesday. Actually we have three Tuesday meetings in September – September 2, 16 and 30.”
Toy said the country championship qualifier would begin a big month for the club with the Tamworth Cup meeting to follow and the prizemoney for the Cup to be $80,000 in 2015.
“Everyone in the industry up here is genuinely excited,” she said.