Melbourne’s spring carnival hits record high

MELBOURNE’s spring carnival continues to flourish, based on key measures.

Attendance, wagering and viewing rose year-on-year from 2016 as the carnival’s international footprint grows.

Using data collected from September 2 to November 25, Racing Victoria reported significant increases with betting turnover rising by 5.4 per cent to a record $ 2.35 billion.

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Almost 700,000 spectators — an increase of 5.6 per cent on last year — attended meetings.

Moonee Valley’s two-day carnival was the star performer, with its Manikato Stakes meeting growing by 44.1 per cent before a sellout crowd of 32,712 watched Winx win a historic third straight Cox Plate.

More than 55,000 attended the three days of the Melbourne Racing Club’s Caulfield Cup carnival, while the Victoria Racing Club suffered a slight decline to its four-day Melbourne Cup carnival.

The 2.6 per cent fall to more than 310,000 was primarily because of construction on the new members’ grandstand.

Attendance at country Cup meetings grew by 5.1 per cent with Avoca, Ballarat, Bendigo, Dunkeld, Geelong and Wodonga all attracting at least 6000 spectators each.

Wagering continued to soar, with the sole negative stemming from Winx’s Cox Plate dominance of markets.

While Melbourne Cup Day saw an Australian record for turnover on an individual meeting with $ 334.5 million bet domestically — an increase of 2.2 per cent — Winx suffocated Cox Plate markets.

Figures showed wagering on Cox Plate day fell by 11.2 per cent, with generally smaller fields across the meeting blamed for the decline.

Domestic turnover on the Melbourne Cup topped $ 200 million for only the third time with $ 204.5 million invested, while there was 5.2 per cent growth around the Caulfield Cup carnival.

RV said improved track conditions and weather delivered significant wagering growth across a number of Country Cup meetings with Sale, Dunkeld, Hamilton, Geelong and Kyneton growing by as much as 49.5 per cent.

Participation rates were also up.

A total 1835 horses — up from 1769 in 2016 — competed 3190 times with an average field size of 10.5 starters.

Led by a formidable 22 overseas contenders, including Melbourne Cup winner Rekindling, a total of 269 horses, 112 trainers and 75 jockeys recorded individual wins at the 34 premier meetings.

RV chief executive Giles Thompson said the figures were “further positive news” for Victorian racing following the recent release of strong results for the 2016-17 financial year and major prizemoney increases announced for the 2017-18 season.

“The spring racing carnival has long been regarded as Australia’s pre-eminent racing carnival and these figures from 2017 solidify the importance of this event to the state of Victoria and more broadly to the sport of thoroughbred racing,” Thompson said.

“The spring racing carnival delivers over $ 700 million annually to the Victorian economy and plays a crucial role in bringing together the community, particularly in regional locations, to enjoy a memorable sporting and social occasion.

Thompson said preparations were well advanced for Victoria’s Festival of Racing, which runs from February 10 to March 24 and features the Australian Cup.

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