Good form in 2018 for Canberra

Thoroughbred racing in Canberra enters 2018 in “strong” shape, according to Racing Club CEO Peter Stubbs.

2017 delivered many racing highlights in the Capital, but was marred by the tragic deaths of two female track riders — Riharna Thomson and more recently Samara Johnson — deeply affecting all in the industry participants.

Samara was farewelled on Tuesday at Young racecourse where she rode her last winner. Her partner — Canberra trainer Garry Kirkup —was badly injured in the car accident that took Samara’s life and he remains in Canberra hospital recovering from surgery.

The performance of the Nick Olive-trained Single Gaze during the Melbourne spring carnival placed Canberra appreciably on the national racing map.

Her brave second in the Caulfield Cup and participation in the Melbourne Cup was a tremendous fillip for local racing and advanced Canberra’s growing reputation as a quality thoroughbred training venue.

The performances of the Matt Dale-trained Group sprinter Fell Swoop and his presence inaugural $10 million Everest at Randwick also focussed strong attention on the local racing industry.

The Canberra Racing Club lobbied hard to prevent Racing NSW’s decision to exclude Canberra-trained horses from its Highway Handicaps. Racing NSW believed the training facilities in the Capital gave Canberra trainers an unfair advantage over their country colleagues.

When the decision was confirmed it came as a considerable blow to local owners and trainers. However, the Club moved proactively to fill the void announcing the introduction of The Federal — a $50,000 dollar race at each of its 25 race days.

CEO Peter Stubbs says the concept has been enthusiastically embraced by all local racing participants and will take the annual prize money in Canberra to $5.6 million.      

The first ‘Federal’ will be held on Friday 5 January 2018.

Peter says planning is well underway for the Club’s premier race-day, the John McGrath Auto Group Black Opal Stakes on Sunday 11 March.

The race meeting is one of the more important autumn race days on the calendar for 2yo's and dates back to 1973 when Rich Reward was the victor.

The 2018 Black Opal Stakes eight race program includes: the $275,000 Mercedes-Benz Canberra Black Opal Stakes (Group 3), the $200,000 Canberra Cup (Listed), the $125,000 (Canberra) National Sprint (Listed) and the $125,000 Canberra Guineas (Listed). 

Peter says the Maiden on the program will have “Federal” status as will the Burley Griffin sprint on the preceding Lightning Ridge Plate day.

A record 300 horses are in work at Canberra at any one time mentored by 25 trainers, providing a solid foundation for continued success in local, regional, city and feature races.  

Peter says the Club committee and management having been working to finalise a new 5 year strategic plan that will set the platform for Canberra racing over that period. The plan is likely to be presented to the committee at its January meeting.