Warrnambool’s May Racing Carnival is over for another year. But the memories and impacts will be long-lasting.
The event injected $10 million into the city’s economy – accommodation venues were at capacity, restaurants and bars reported brisk business.
The carnival gains international exposure through the Grand Annual Steeplechase. Warrnambool City Council included impressive promotional footage of the city and our attractions at key times during television broadcasts. The council hopes it encourages more tourists to the city not just for the carnival but at other times of the year.
Racing Minister Pakula again talked up the carnival, saying it was unique and the envy of every regional city in Australia.
Mr Pakula announced $50,000 for another racing event – the Jericho Cup, a marathon event on the flat in December.
The carnival’s popularity is as strong as ever. More than 31,500 people – last year’s record – filed through the turnstiles this week despite wet and windy conditions for the public holiday Thursday.
Warrnambool Racing Club needs to be congratulated for running the massive event. The congratulations extend to patrons too, with police revealing racegoers were the best behaved in years. Given the number of people and the temptation to over-indulge in the party atmosphere, it was most pleasing.
Jumps racing officials were pleased too. The sport, which has battled at times to survive because of horse and jockey safety issues over the past decade, appears to be safer. The sport will always have its detractors but changes introduced to better educate jockeys, trainers and horses have had a positive impact on the track.
Whether it was a great day or three out with friends, dressing up for the fashions or backing a winner, everyone left with memories.
Who will ever forget the finish in the Grand Annual? After 5500 metres and 33 fences, it took a photo to separate the winner Gold Medals and runner-up Zed Em. The roaring crowd’s delight was reduced to a disappointed sigh, followed by an eerie silence. Then came a mighty roar when Gold Medals was proclaimed the winner. The sight of Warrnambool trainer Symon Wilde leaping into the air and being smothered in hugs underlined the raw emotion the race elicits. Job well done and pats on the back all round.