STAR jockeys and record prize money are set to contribute to massive betting turnover when the Warrnambool May Racing Carnival kicks off on May 3.
Warrnambool Racing Club CEO Tom O'Connor said all the stars are aligning for a big carnival.
With prizemoney for the carnival lifting $400,000 to a record-breaking $2.64 million and the appearance of top Sydney-based jockeys Hugh Bowman and Chad Schofield to join the riding ranks of high profile Victorian hoops, including Damien Oliver and Jamie Kah, should see betting turnover go through the roof for the carnival. Last year's three-day carnival experienced a record total of $62.12 million in wagering turnover, an increase of 19 per cent on 2019.
O'Connor said the combination of top jockeys and big prizemoney attracts leading trainers and good horses, but he'll have a close eye on the weather patterns.
"It's all coming together really well," O'Connor said. "There's a lot of hype about the carnival, with news that Hugh and Chad will be riding and then you put the likes of Damien and Jamie in the mix and other high profile Victorian jockeys - t's going to be a huge event. I would think having the high profile jockeys riding at the carnival will see some big betting, as punters love following the big name jockeys.
"Our membership base has jumped significantly this year to more than 2080, which is the largest of any regional racing club in Victoria and I would expect that number to increase before the carnival starts next Tuesday. We've got the weather to contend with but that's out of our control."
Minimum prize money for races has jumped to $50,000, making it equivalent to mid-week metro racing, while the Warrnambool Cup lifted from $250,000 to $300,000 and the Wangoom is now worth $200,000 after a $25,000 hike.
"The prize money on offer is excellent," O'Connor said. "We've come a long way from 2020 when we were forced to run the carnival over two days and have no crowd on course because of COVID. It'll be just great seeing big crowds enjoying everything the carnival brings."
The early weather forecasts for next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday show temperatures around 20 degrees, with little rain predicted.
Group one Warrnambool winning trainer Daniel Bowman is keeping his options open regarding his two-year-old filly Bubble Palace after she scored an impressive debut win at Ballarat on Sunday.
Bubble Palace won the 1100 metre race by more than three lengths.
"We'll see how she pulls up after this outing before making future plans," Bowman said. "There's the VOBIS Gold Strike race on the opening day of next week's Warrnambool Carnival and a listed two-year-old race at Morphettville to consider. Our other option is to send her to the paddock. We've always had a good opinion of her. I really don't want to rush her because she's a big strong filly and will be better as a three-year-old."
Bowman paid $180,000 for Bubble Palace at the 2021 Inglis Classic Yearling Sale.
Meanwhile, Bowman will accept with Fortunate Kiss in this Saturday's $500,000 group one Australasian Oaks over 2000 metres at Morphettville. Fortunate Kiss ran fourth at her last start at Caulfield earlier this month.
"Fortunate Kiss has trained on well from her last start," he said. "The big question for her is to see if she can run out the 2000 metres, but you never know if you don't have a go. A few of the other horses in the race may also be doubts at running out a strong 2000 metres."
From her 10 starts, Fortunate Kiss has won two races and earnt more than $168,000 in stakemoney for her connections.
One for the trivia buffs. Winslow training export Ciaron Maher has trained hundreds of winners in his career but one race that has eluded him is the Warrnambool Cup. Maher, who has a burning ambition to train the cup winner, appears to have his best chance with Grandslam this year. The former Emmanuel College student has only had seven runners in the cup since he started training back in 2006. His cup runners were 2008 (Brough Superior), 2012 (Mr O'Ceirin and Black Oak, 2014 (Moudre), 2019 (Sopresso and Azuro) and 2021 (Heart Of Pussiance). His best effort was Heart Of Puissance, who ran second last year but that may all change when Grandslam runs in the 2022 cup on May 5.
More than 80 horses will have been put through their paces in the jumps trials at Warrnambool on Wednesday in the lead up to next week's big May Carnival. Local trainer Symon Wilde has 10 horses entered, including Under The Bridge, Vanguard and American In Paris, while veteran jumps trainer Eric Musgrove will have 12 horses taking part in the hurdle and steeplechase trials.
Ciaron Maher, who has trained five Grand Annual Steeplechase winners, saddles up three horses, including Big Blue, Bit Of A Lad and Heberite. A restricted hurdle trial over 2400 metres starts the day at 9.30am.
Jockey Mitch Aitken will be on the sidelines for eight meetings after pleading guilty to a whip infringement at Werribee on Friday. It was found Aitken used his whip eight times prior to the 100-metre mark - three times more than permitted. His suspension started at midnight on August 23 and ends midnight April 29.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.