Launch party gets the fabulous Festival of Racing underway

A star-studded launch party in Melbourne’s South Wharf has kicked off the Festival of Racing, Victoria’s six-week summer and autumn showpiece that features elite racing action on the track, and first-class food, relaxed fashion and family-friendly entertainment off it.

Boasting prizemoney and bonuses of over $30 million, the Festival of Racing is headlined by nine Group 1 races and 13 country cups and will see many of the stars of the 2017 Spring Racing Carnival return in search of further glory.

The Group 1 action gets underway at Caulfield on Saturday with the Ladbrokes C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m), which was won last year by trainer Darren Weir, one of several stars of the turf present at this morning launch’s party held at the Common Lawn.

A trio of last-start Spring Racing Carnival feature winners, Tosen Stardom (Emirates Stakes, Darren Weir), Mighty Boss (Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas, Mick Price) and Shillelagh (Kennedy Mile, Chris Waller), are among the entries set to take on Weir’s defending champion Black Heart Bart in the nation’s first Group 1 race of 2018.

The $750,000 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington on 17 February, and Victoria’s premier two-year-old race, the $1.5 million Ladbrokes Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield one week later, continue the Group 1 action in February.

The Australian Guineas (1600m), for which prizemoney has been raised by $250,000 to $1 million this year, and the $1.5 million TAB Australian Cup (2000m) take centre stage at Flemington on the first two Saturdays in March, before The Valley rounds off its Ladbrokes Friday Night Lights season with the Group 1 Keogh Homes William Reid Stakes (1200m) on Friday, March 23.

In between times, 13 country clubs will stage their annual cup meetings, including the new two-day Wangaratta Racing, Food and Wine Carnival on the weekend of 3 and 4 March and the picturesque Jack Hirsch Memorial Yarra Valley Cup on Sunday, 18 March. The Ladbrokes Mornington Cup Day on Saturday, 24 March officially brings the curtain down on the Festival of Racing.

Racing Victoria (RV) Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, said: “The Festival of Racing is a fantastic opportunity for Victorians to see racing’s best in action in a relaxed atmosphere, with first-class food and entertainment on offer at a broad range of race meetings across the state.

“We’re delighted to see the stars of the Spring Racing Carnival return to the track, commencing with the Group 1 Ladbrokes C.F. Orr Stakes this Saturday at Caulfield, and we’re excited to unearth the heroes of tomorrow in the Ladbrokes Blue Diamond Stakes and the Australian Guineas.”

Racegoers are encouraged to wear relaxed attire and enjoy the late-summer atmosphere on the lawns, with an array of food and wine offerings and family entertainment planned at race meetings across the state.

The off-track highlights include The Valley’s Chinese New Year meeting (Friday 23, February), featuring an evening of traditional Oriental cuisine, performances and live music; the launch of the trackside Bondi Sands Pool Party at Caulfield on C.F. Orr Stakes Family Day, and the return of the Veuve Clicquot Lawn on Ladbrokes Blue Diamond Day (Saturday, 24 February); and Super Saturday at Flemington on 10 March, a prelude to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival which enables racegoers to sample some of Victoria’s finest produce in a cellar-door experience.

“Late summer and early autumn is the perfect time to gather your family and friends and head trackside to experience the thrill of a day’s racing. From the elite Group 1 race meetings at Flemington, Caulfield and The Valley, to picturesque country cup meetings at Yarra Valley and Wangaratta, there’s something for everyone to enjoy,” Mr Thompson said.“The Festival of Racing provides a great opportunity to get up close to the horses, enjoy a picnic on the lawns or sample the first-rate food and wine offerings trackside from leading restaurants and local providers.”

Today’s launch also saw the unveiling of the Festival of Racing ambassadors in trainer Archie Alexander and apprentice jockey Steph Thornton – both of whom spearhead the Festival’s marketing campaign. Stylist and fashion expert Lana Wilkinson, award-winning chef Adam D’Sylva and Geelong captain and racehorse owner Joel Selwood complete the set of Festival ambassadors.

For further information about the Festival of Racing, including a schedule of events, hospitality options and entertainment offerings, visit www.festivalofracing.com.au.