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Victorian harness racing in for major boost following Cup turnover

A stakemoney hike is just days away for Victorian harness racing after the recent Victoria Cup meeting obliterated the all-time state turnover record for the sport.

Despite the state’s second biggest race night being moved from Melton to Bendigo because of Melbourne’s curfew, the Victoria Cup card will top $9.1m in turnover once international figures are finalised.

That’s up 14.5 per cent or about $1.15m on the previous record, the 2018 Inter Dominion Grand Final night (ID18) at Melton.

“It’s a huge result. ID18 had stood alone for a long time for us, but this has smashed it,” HRV CEO Dayle Brown said.

More remarkably, Victoria Cup night was up an astonishing 54.7 per cent or about $3.25m on last year.

“The great news extended to the whole two nights of the Victoria Cup Carnival,” Brown added. “Smoken Up Sprint night, or night one, will land at about $6.8m including international. That’s up 70 per cent on the previous year.

Across the two nights, turnover will top $15.9m compared to $9.85m last year, an increase of over 61.4 per cent.

“The figures are even more amazing when you consider we raced at Bendigo not Melton. Historically, there’s always been higher turnover at Melton because it’s our major track, but we’ve done a lot to educate people about the great quality tracks we have at our regional centre,” Brown said.

Importantly, industry participants are poised to benefit from the turnover surge.

“We intend to make targeted stakemoney increases that will be sustainable and that was always planned to be announced after the Victoria Cup Carnival,” Brown said. “We will have details on how that will look in the next week or so.”

Brown admits COVID-19 has played a significant role in the turnover growth, as it has turnover on all racing codes, but quickly added some other key strategic changes from HRV has also been major contributing factors.

“The (Australian-wide) decision to change the racing season to the calendar year created some opportunities for us to really shake-up when our feature races are run and part of that was moving the Victoria Derby and Oaks to be part of the Victoria Cup Carnival,” Brown said. “They added a lot of interest and depth to the two weeks.

“We also pushed the Breeders Crown back from August to November and the Vicbred from mid-year to have the finals on New Year’s Eve.

“The first benefit of those changes we saw was fantastic turnover figures on that first Vicbred finals night last New Year’s Eve.”

Brown also said the opportunity to showcase major race nights through HRV’s own TrotVision(ok) online coverage – as opposed to Sky Racing 1’s wall-to-wall racing – had been crucially important to bring new fans onboard.

HRV’s surging figures and the success of TrotsVision has positioned it for fascinating negotiations in the countdown to the big three – the wagering licence, media rights and industry sponsorship – up for renewal with TAB and Sky Racing in 2024.

“Those will be very important talks for us … the landscape has changed enormously,” Brown said. “TrotsVision has been huge for us with more than 6000 unique viewers across the two nights of the Victoria Cup Carnival and an incredible 224,000 minutes viewed, which shows the audience sticks, rather than turns on and off.”

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