Aussie feature race jigsaw

By Adam Hamilton

THE race is on to snare the most valuable vacant timeslot in Australian harness racing.

Confirmation this year’s Inter Dominion has been postponed has opened-up the late-November/early-December window for major open-class racing.

And there’s plenty of interest in it.

It’s crucial to some key New Zealand trainers who often target some of Australia’s major open-class races.

The tussle for the vacant timeslot now looks a race-in-two with Western Australia and Queensland both formally expressing interest to Harness Racing Australia.

There was speculation Harness Racing Victoria could push back the Group 1 Victoria Cup into that window, but it confirmed today (Wednesday) that would not be the case.

“We’re staying on October 10,” HRV CEO Dayle Brown said. “We weighed-up everything and we felt, after moving a race like the Victoria Cup around a bit in recent years, it was important to give it a home and keep it in that mid-October window.

“It’s been performing really well at that time and, although everything is different because of COVID, we still feel that’s the best way to go.

“Plus we’ve got a very busy November and December as it is, now we’ve moved the Breeders Crown back to November and the Vicbred to December.”

Racing and Wagering WA (RWWA) and Gloucester Park are clearly keen to bring forward their two biggest open class features, the $450,000 WA Pacing Cup and $300,000 Fremantle Cup, from their mid-January timeslots.

“They felt that November/December timeslot worked really well for the three years they hosted the Inter Dominion and it’s vacant now without an Inter Dominion this year,” a WA source said.

The other big upside is flights to Perth, which ruined planned WA and Fremantle Cup raids by My Field Marshal and Alta Orlando earlier this year.

WA’s major thoroughbred carnival is run in the November/December timeslot so flights to and from the eastern states are plentiful.

Queensland was forced to postpone its flagship open-class race, the Group 1 Blacks A Fake from next month, owing to COVID and associated border closures in Australia.

Now they believe early December is the ideal time to run the race, especially given this year’s Aussie harness season has been extended to December 31.

It’s possible both WA and Queensland could run their majors in the timeslot, but they ultimately appeal to the same elite pool of pacers so there could be some impact on both events.

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