Australia’s leading trainer Darren Weir will not be excluded from a new series of country races which culminates in a final at Flemington on Oaks day.
The Victoria Racing Club and Racing Victoria have announced a $600,000 Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series incorporating eight $50,000 heats at country tracks with the final worth $200,000.
The races will be restricted to Victorian trainers who don’t have a metropolitan training base.
Greg Carpenter, RV executive general manager of racing, said the Australian Trainers’ Association had been consulted over Weir being included in the new series.
“Darren Weir is a country trainer,” Carpenter said.
“There was considerable discussion whether or not you exclude a country trainer because he was too good or too big.
“But in the end, following a consultation process, it’s been decided it’s for country-trained horses and their owners.
“Darren’s not a city based trainer, therefore his horses will be eligible for the series.”
The series will be run in eight regional areas of Victoria starting at Murtoa on October 7 with horses finishing first and second earning their way into the final.
The final replaces a race for country-trained horses which has featured on the Crown Oaks day program in Melbourne Cup week for more than a decade.
VRC chair Amanda Elliott said the club was thrilled to boost its support of country racing.
“The Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Final presents a wonderful opportunity for connections of country-trained gallopers to experience the magic of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, one of the world’s premier racing events,” Elliott said.
As part of the series the 2017 Melbourne Cup will be taken to the country venues and displayed with the exception of Hamilton where the 1965 cup won by Light Fingers will be on show.
Dates and venues for the Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series:
Heat 1 October 7 Murtoa BM64 Handicap 1600m
Heat 2 October 12 Ballarat BM64 Handicap 1600m
Heat 3 October 13 Cranbourne BM64 Handicap 1400m
Heat 4 October 22 Seymour BM70 Handicap 1400m
Heat 5 October 25 Geelong BM78 Handicap 1500m
Heat 6 October 29 Hamilton BM70 Handicap 1600m
Heat 7 October 29 Sale BM70 Handicap 1400m
Heat 8 November 1 Bendigo BM78 Handicap 1400m
Final November 9 Flemington $200,000 BM80 Handicap 1600m