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The face of summer racing is changing. The West Australian Turf Club (WATC) are no longer hosting the summer carnival known as the Sky Channel Summer Carnival or the Perth Racing Summer Carnival, they are hosting a festival.

The Festival of Perth Racing has already begun and will continue to thrill until January 1st when the festival closes with a bang and the BMW Perth Cup. The Festival of Perth Racing is the premier event in Western Australian Racing packed with high stakes racing and socialising.

The festival consists of five prominent feature races. The Carlton Draught Railway Stakes (1600M) 22nd November 2008,  the SGIO Winterbottom Stakes (1200M) 29th November 2008, the Go for 2&5 Kingston Town Classic (1800M) 6th December 2008, the CB Cox Stakes (2100M) 17th December 2008 and the BMW Perth Cup (2400M) 1st January 2009.

The most famous of the five feature races are the Carlton Draught Railway Stakes with $1 million in prize money and the BMW Perth Cup which is one of the biggest social events in Western Australia.
The festival officially opened with the Carlton Draught Railway Stakes. The 1600 metre handicap was run on Saturday 22nd November 2008. The race is described as ‘the pinnacle of Western Australian thoroughbred racing’.

The one million dollar race day is embellished with ‘entertainment’ and a ‘super big screen’ so you can see the action without being part of the crush. There was a post race concert featuring rocker Jimmy Barnes, last years race day concluded with a sunset concert by band Thirsty Merc.

Did someone forget about the horse racing?
Apparently not, the Railway Handicap is looking set to be come one of the richest handicap races in Australia and the World.  It was announced on the 16th August, 2008 that an extra $6 million will be injected into the Summer Festival over the next three years with the focus on making the Carlton Draught Railway Stakes the centre of the festival. Next years Railway Stakes will carry a prize pool of $3 million with an addition of $2 million more in prizes by 2011.

The prize money will almost match the $5.5 million prize money offered in the 2008 Melbourne Cup. With the boost in prize money the WATC is expecting to draw the best thoroughbreds from throughout Australia and overseas.  Could this race soon supersede Western Australia’s answer to the Melbourne Cup, the BMW Perth Cup?

The BMW Perth Cup has been held every year on New Years Day since 1887. It is said to be one of the toughest tests for thoroughbreds in Australian racing. Since 1972 the race has been run over 3200 metres, the distance for the 2009 cup has been reduced to 2400 metres.

The 800 metre drop may have been introduced so the race can attract top quality horses over a distance more uniform with the horses training. In previous years the horses have carried ratings no higher than 101 with an average rating of 93; which is not the 105 standard set for a Group 2 race.

But once again it is not the horses that draw a crowd. The BMW Perth Cup is one of the biggest social events of the year. You do not have to be interested in horse racing to enjoy this New Years party; you don’t even have to be trackside.  There is the Flame Tree Garden which is set up with bars, food court, live bands and a large screen set up so no racing action is missed. The Champagne Garden is the place to be if you are interested in fashion parades.

And there is ‘TentLand’. Throughout the day Ascot Racecourse is transformed into a party zone. The number of tickets to be sold this year has been limited to 14,000 for the 2009 event after an estimated 18,000 turned up for the 2008 cup. It’s a five hour binge of cocktails, fashion, gambling and New

Years cheer. To finish off an after the races concert; this year performed by band Kiss Chassy.

The 2009 TentLand is to include the Ace Vending Hollywood Marquee, The Las Vegas Tent, Liquid Marquee, Smirnoff Experience Marquee and the LoungeRoom. Doesn’t sound much like horse racing to me. I wonder if half the people who experienced ‘TentLand’ on New Years Day this year could remember what happened during running of the 2008 Perth Cup.
The $2.50 favourite ‘Cats Fun’ won the race which was marred by a five horse fall. The fall resulted in two horses being euthanized, leaving one jockey with a dislocated collar bone and another suspended for 10 weeks.

Only 11 of the 16 starters finished the race. The incident occurred about 300 metres from the start and resulted in five horses either falling or losing their riders. The West Australian Chairman of Stewards John Zucal said it was the first time he had seen a collapse like that in the Perth Cup.

One of the newest and most exciting things this year is the introduction of many race bonuses and challenges.

The Flemington-Ascot Sprint Challenge consists of the Patinack Farm Classic (1200M), the SGIO Colonel Reeves Stakes (1200M), and the SGIO Winterbottom Stakes (1200M). If any horse wins two legs in any combination they will receive a bonus $100,000 and automatic entry into the $1 million 2009 Singapore Turf Club Krisflyer Sprint.

The Carbine Challenge consists of the Go for 2&5 Kingston Town Stakes (1800M), the CB Cox Stakes (2100M) and the BMW Perth Cup (2400M). A bonus of $250,000 is awarded to any horse that can win all three.

The Crown Australian Mile Triple Challenge started at Flemington with the $1 million Emirates Stakes (1600M), then the $1 million Carlton Draught Railway Stakes (1600M) in Ascot and concludes with the Futurity Stakes (1600M) in Caulfield. Any horse who can win all three races wins $2.5 million in stakes and bonuses.

Just some of the horses that have been tipped to fly over for the Summer Festival and try to win these bonuses are Takeover Target, Apache Cat, Kiloton, Typhoon Zed, and Chasm and the list goes on.

With an extra $400,000 injected into the festival this year and millions more next year the West Australian Festival of Perth Racing is sure looking set to becoming one of the biggest race festivals in Australian racing and the world. There is such a large variety in races this year everyone can enjoy the festival.

Sure some people only go for the food and drinks but it is these people who are keeping festival racing alive. The Festival of Perth Racing this summer is surely a winner for all racegoers.

Note: With the constant sunshine synonymous with our most Westerly capital Perth, finding winners is easier here than at any other track in Australia. The conditions and excellent track surface lead to more consistent results with Winform finding 36% winners in the Top Two rated horses at better than $5.

The regular high prizemoney has already attracted more high quality horses. Winform has been providing many West Australian bookmakers and professional punters with their highly regarded speed ratings for over ten years.

Above: The running of the BMW Perth Cup, Photo Courtesy of WA Turf Club

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