Victoria Racing Club (VRC) Chief Executive Simon Love on Tuesday announced enhancements to the race conditions for the 2015 Emirates Melbourne Cup, including ballot exemption status for Group 3 The Bart Cummings (2500m).
The VRC has broadened the exemption clause to allow The Bart Cummings to join the Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m) as the “first and last handicap opportunities” for ballot free status. The VRC is boosting prize money for the race, held on Turnbull Stakes Day, presented by Yellowglen, Sunday, 4 October, from $150,000 to $300,000.
“Ballot exemption for The Bart Cummings will introduce another dimension of intrigue in the lead up to the race that stops a nation, and further enhance the quality of the Turnbull Stakes Day card,” Mr Love said.
“This demonstrates our commitment to staying races, which the VRC is backing up with a $150,000 increase in prize money for The Bart Cummings. It now becomes a compelling pathway into the Emirates Melbourne Cup, adding certainty before first acceptances are taken, just as the Lexus Stakes on AAMI Victoria Derby Day offers the opportunity before final acceptances,” Mr Love said.
Racing Victoria Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter, welcomed the announcement that The Bart Cummings would carry Emirates Melbourne Cup ballot exemption status in 2015, joining the Lexus Stakes, Longines Mackinnon Stakes, Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate.
“This is a significant enhancement to the conditions for the Emirates Melbourne Cup and provides another unique and coveted opportunity for a horse, particularly one lower in the handicap, to win its way into the world’s premier staying race,” Mr Carpenter said.
“The Bart Cummings is an emerging feature race that will only grow in stature. It carried Group 3 status for the first time in 2014 and the winner Who Shot Thebarman went on to finish third to Protectionist in the Emirates Melbourne Cup with the Lexus Stakes winner Signoff in fourth.”
A separate amendment to the conditions was required due to renovations to Eagle Farm Racecourse, which necessitated a reduction in distance of a number of Queensland Group 1 races to 2200m in 2015. The conditions continue to allow the winner and 2nd or 3rd placegetters in the Queensland Derby, Queensland Oaks and Brisbane Cup to pass the first ballot stage under relevant race performances.
The VRC contributed to a formal review, led by Racing Victoria, into the potential inclusion of emergencies for the Emirates Melbourne Cup. The review determined that emergencies would not be added to the conditions in 2015 based on the following:
that Australian and international pari-mutuel operators remain unable to accommodate field sizes in excess of 24 and would have to invest significantly in upgrades, while requiring regulatory approvals, to change this;
that the Victorian racing industry would be up for significant direct charges related to these upgrades via its joint venture with Tabcorp without the likelihood of a return of investment through increased wagering activity, even when viewed in a longer-term context;
that the process of compulsory pre-acceptance veterinary inspections has and will continue to play an important role in managing the suitability of horses to accept; and
that the inclusion of emergencies should be reviewed every two years.
“The VRC supports the review’s findings that the introduction of emergencies for the Emirates Melbourne Cup is not presently commercially viable, and are committed to reviewing this policy every two years,” Mr Love said.
“The VRC worked closely with Racing Victoria in developing the changes to the 2015 Emirates Melbourne Cup race conditions, to ensure the fairest opportunity possible for Cup aspirants and eventual participants, while assembling the best available field for this iconic event.”