PUNTERS wagered a sizzling $13.5 million on Warrnambool’s May Racing Carnival through the TAB — up nine per cent on last year’s figure.
And with on-course bookies and corporate booking agencies also well supported, the total wager could be closer to $18m. With $10m of the TAB Sportsbet punt coming from off-course gamblers, it proved the annual south-west showpiece is growing in national status.
Racing Minister and local MP Denis Napthine said the rise in TAB figures for the May carnival was bigger than the prestigious Melbourne spring carnival last year.
“Particularly given the current tighter financial climate, this support for Warrnambool is huge,” he said.
“It shows massive approval throughout Australia as a pivotal part of the racing calendar and puts jumps racing on the front foot.”
Thursday’s feature program with the 5500-metre Grand Annual Steeplechase and 2350m Warrnambool Cup lured the biggest TAB following with $5.4m, up 6.5 per cent. Tuesday’s $3.48m was up 10.5 per cent and Wednesday’s $4m was up 10.2 per cent.
Thursday’s 14,416 strong crowd was by far the biggest, surpassing the combined 12,600 for the first two days.
They pumped $3.5m into the on-course TAB system plus big dollars into other betting avenues.
Rails bookie David McLaughlan told The Standard racing writer Tim Auld he thought overall betting for the carnival was higher than last year.
Warrnambool Racing Club chief executive John Green said there was increasing interest in the carnival and efforts to secure quality fields and safety had paid dividends.
“We had $1.456m in prizemoney plus bonuses and many great racing highlights.
“Our membership is from far and wide including Melbourne and interstate.”