By Garry Howe
Cranbourne Turf Club will this year host a meeting on Australia’s most famous race day for the first time in its 150-year history.
The club has secured a meeting on Melbourne Cup Day, Tuesday 7 November, and expects to draw a crowd of around 10,000 people through the gates.
Chief executive Neil Bainbridge described it as a real coup for Cranbourne.
“There are enormous meetings on Cup Day throughout Australia, and it’s fantastic for us to now be among those,” he said.
For many years, the racing industry shied away from allowing race meetings to be held within a 200 kilometre radius of Flemington, fearing it would impact on the Cup Day crowds there.
But there has been a softening of that attitude of late and – having applied for the past few years – Cranbourne was eventually successful in securing the date.
It cements Cranbourne’s link with Australia’s most famous race, which dates back to the town’s first race meeting in April 1867.
The main race of that two-day carnival was won by aged gelding Toryboy, who two years earlier had won the Melbourne Cup.
Toryboy had run fifth behind Archer in the first Melbourne Cup of 1961 – the year Cranbourne was officially gazetted as a town – and was sixth to the same horse the following year.
He missed the 1863-’64 cups and went out at long odds when he won the 1865 race, earning a fortune for his owner, Prahran draper B.C. Marshall.
Mr Bainbridge said there had already been a lot of interest in the Cup Day race meeting, with a lot of hospitality packages already taken up by eager patrons.
He said the meeting was a nice fit to an already busy Spring Racing Carnival program for Cranbourne.
The action kicks off on Friday 13 October with the big Pinker Pinker Plate night race meeting, then the TAB Cranbourne Cup meeting on Sunday 15 October.
After the Melbourne Cup Day meeting, the focus switches to the popular Tricodes meeting on Saturday 18 November – the only meeting in Australia where three codes race at once – before the club begins to focus on the busy Christmas meeting schedule.
This month, the club will hold the Cranbourne Racing Industry Awards on Saturday 19 August, celebrating the achievements of local horses and trainers.
The Cranbourne Horse of the Year, Trainer of the Year and Rising Star will be named.
The club is also in contention for the honour of Country Racing Victoria Club of the Year, which will be announced on 26 August.