COUNTRY racing bigwigs, dissatisfied with the cash on offer at local meetings are calling on Racing Victoria to increase prizemoney to level the playing field between country and metropolitan horse racing.
As the Warrnambool Racing Club prepares for thousands of punters to attend the region's hallmark May Racing Carnival next week, those in the industry are calling attention to what they say is a shortfall in country racing - the cash up for grabs, or lack thereof.
Warrnambool Racing Club CEO Peter Downs said better prizemoney on offer at metropolitan level was luring strong competition away from quality country races.
"It's challenging to get really strong horses out here if they are targeting prize money," he said.
"You could find weaker races offering better prizemoney."
Mr Downs said the feature sprint race, the listed $175,000 Wangoom Handicap at Warrnambool next Wednesday had to compete with a $250,000 sprint race at Caulfield today.
"It might be a lower quality race, but if there's better prize money competitors go for that one," he said.
Mr Downs' sentiments were echoed on social media platform Twitter by prominent racing figures.
"There's no point going to the 'Bool. [You] can probably find a Saturday race worth much more that won't be that much stronger," Racing.com's Ben Asgari wrote.
Warrnambool trainer Daniel Bowman posted: "Why run [at Warrnambool] in an open 1400 for $40,000 when the BM70 is worth $35,000?"
Racing.com editor-in-chief Shane Anderson said the flat races over the carnival "deserve a cash injection across the board" and that "more should be on the agenda for the future."
Racing Victoria said 80 per cent of racing was conducted outside metropolitan Melbourne and that recent prizemoney boosts had ensured minimum prizemoney increased at all country TAB meetings.
"Prizemoney and bonuses on offer in Victoria have increased by $82 million since 2015, with the increases shared across all levels of racing from once a year picnic races to the Melbourne Cup," a spokesperson said.
"Thanks to 2018 prizemoney increases, there are now 170 country Victorian meetings annually which offer a minimum stake of $35,000."
"This year's Warrnambool May Carnival will offer over $2 million in prizemoney across the three days, an increase of 38 per cent compared to the 2014 carnival. Prizemoney for the two flat feature races in particular, the Warrnambool Cup and the Wangoom Handicap, have also increased by $50,000 and $25,000 respectively this year."
The TAB Warrnambool May Racing Carnival is one of the richest country racing events and prizemoney has gone up around 30 per cent from approximately $1.6 million last year to $2.1 million this year.
Warrnambool City Council says 30,000 people are expected to attend the May Racing Carnival this year over the three days, with 70 percent of them coming from outside of Warrnambool.
The carnival is expected to inject more than $13 million into the local economy.
"The May races have always been really competitive and prestigious; people set some good horses to get races down here," Mr Downs continued.
"It's a discussion we've had for a long time; we appreciate the support of Racing Victoria and are keen to have ongoing discussions about prizemoney increases."
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