Victoria’s premier pacing and trotting races will be celebrated on the same night in 2024 with Harness Racing Victoria uniting the A. G. Hunter Cup and Woodlands Stud Great Southern Star on one glorious February evening
Fresh off the back of a star-studded Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup, HRV CEO Matt Isaacs revealed February 3 would become the ultimate 'save the date' with two Group 1 classics.
"Our greatest events deserve the biggest exposure and so I am rapt that our richest pacing and trotting races will next year be able to be enjoyed on one fantastic night at Melton Entertainment Park," Isaacs said.
"Not only will the A. G. Hunter Cup and Great Southern Star be huge drawcards to fans, but having them share the card also means we can expose our best talent to a much wider audience."
Isaacs said the night would carry more than $1 million in prizemoney and the move would further ensconce its place on the calendar as a premier celebration for Australasian harness racing, helping to lure the best talent from Australia and New Zealand to compete.
"We want the southern hemisphere's greatest horses battling on our tracks for our biggest honours and a night like this will help ensure they make the trip and put on a show for fans of elite sport," he said.
It will be the first time the A. G. Hunter Cup is held on the same night as the Great Southern Star when the latter is run in a heats-into-final Elitloppet-style format.
"It's going to be terrific drama, with the best trotters battling across two heats to earn places in the $300,000 final, which follows the all-important barrier draw," Isaacs said.
"In the middle of that activity will be the $500,000 A. G Hunter Cup, undoubtedly Australia's heavyweight pacing championship, as well as the 4YO Bonanza, which may well feature the likes of The Lost Storm and Petracca."
In addition to Sky Racing, the night will be broadcast on Racing.com's free-to-air channels 68, 78 and 7plus, coverage that will be simulcast on TrotsVision.
"It was great to have so many tune in to the Victoria Cup to watch Act Now win a race for the ages and we want to see that replicated on February 3, not just for the premier pacers but also the trotters," Isaacs said.
"The coverage on Racing.com's free-to-air channels helps widen the sport's footprint and drive growth. We also celebrate the outstanding coverage via our broadcast partner Sky Racing, with Brittany Graham always providing such terrific insights pre and post races."
Isaacs said turnover on Victoria Cup night was in line with year-on-year softening market trends - which has been seen across all codes - but pleasingly the Cup itself defied that and produced an increase on the 2022 staging.
"It was a clear reflection of the outstanding talent in the Cup and the great support the night received by wagering service providers, in particular our partner TAB," he said.