23 January 2012 - Victoria’s ever evolving Choice Hotels Country Cup carnival is leading a remarkable resurgence in on-course attendance and wagering throughout the state.
Comprising 25 regional features over six months, Victoria’s Country Cup circuit continues to grow in status and is now at the forefront of a trend suggesting crowds are returning to the track. One of harness racing’s genuine heartlands in Bendigo spearheaded the renaissance with a bumper crowd resulting in a 38% increase in on-course turnover for their marquee meeting on January 14. Hamilton’s third Cup meeting since its refurbishment fortified the trend with a 12% rise in on-course wagering before Shepparton confirmed the revival with an almost capacity crowd and 26% lift in the key wagering statistic on Saturday night. North-east Victorian equine enthusiasts also came out in their droves for Ouyen’s first harness card in almost seven years yesterday afternoon. Hosting a crowd greater than the Mallee Township’s population, the Ouyen Pacing Cup programme also welcomed Victorian Minister for Racing Dr Denis Napthine to its Blackburn Park course. This followed the Minister’s sojourn to Hamilton one week prior and further exemplified the Coalition government’s unwavering commitment to harness racing in this state. Harness Racing Victoria CEO John Anderson attended the Shepparton and Ouyen Cups and was thrilled by the support of local communities in those regions and right around Victoria. “It has been great to witness such tremendous crowds in recent weeks,” he said.“The Clubs have done a great job promoting their Cups and I also thank the local media in each area for their contribution.” On Saturday night, Ballarat will stage their much anticipated Pacing Cup along with second round heats of the Inter Dominion Trotting Championship and The Pure Steel. Hosting some of southern hemisphere harness racing’s finest performers, Bray Raceway will also continue their rich association with the Sky Racing Nights of Glory carnival. Ten more Choice Hotels Country Cups will follow, with Wangaratta and Boort also set to stage their first hometown features since 2005 this March. - Jason Bonnington