If ever a provincial feature race has moved with the times to meet the expectations of modern racing, it's been the Murray Bridge Cup. Now one of the best provincial 1600m races in all of Australia, the Cup has taken up another challenge and moved to a Friday (October 20) to accommodate the thirst for racing that comes with the spring.
This year's Listed $100,000 Carlton Draught Murray Bridge Gold Cup will be run the day before the Caulfield Cup, providing the ideal entree to the biggest three weeks in Australian racing. The country may be in carnival mode by then but this move is all about promoting the best South Australian racing has to offer, with a race day that has grown in popularity every year for the past decade.
Murray Bridge Racing Club secretary/manager John Buhagiar believes the move to Friday could have a major long-ranging impact for the local community. He says the fact it will set Murray Bridge apart can become a positive factor that cements the race's position as a major drawcard.
"We made the decision to move the Cup to Friday so it could be more inclusive for the town while keeping the corporate feel," Buhagiar says. "There are quite a few advantages to a Friday Cup Day. Run on a Wednesday, we had to share the day with a feature race meeting like the Thousand Guineas from Caulfield and that had the potential to take away the spotlight from us. Now that we're running our Cup meeting on Friday, we have the chance to be a standalone as the feature race meeting across Australia.
"There are other advantages as well. We want to turn this race day into a major drawcard for the town, where in the future people make an event of it and come for the races and stay for the weekend. The possibilities around Murray Bridge mean that racegoers could come up on Friday and even spend the same night on a houseboat and make a holiday of it.
"It would be great to see businesses get right behind this in the future by making a half day of it or even letting workers off early to come to the races and watch the last and socialise with friends and workmates.
Races will be run over distances from 1000m to 2200m, with the Burke Urban Sprint over the "flying five" expected to attract the state's best sprinters. The 1600m feature, of course, will bring in the best horses in South Australia as well as a few well-credentialed visitors.
The Murray Bridge Gold Cup meeting is now about more than just the one very good race - or several good races. It has become a major social event for the entire district. The Rural City of Murray Bridge will even have an unofficial holiday, with many businesses closing for the day to support one of the great local events.
On-field entertainment and attractions are available for all tastes and budgets. There will be the Carlton Draught Marquee, the Crown Lager Clubroom situated trackside, while racegoers will have their own reserved private marquees. Racegoers will be bussed in from Adelaide, arriving before the first race and returned to the city after the last.
For those who just like to go to the races to study the horses, feel the atmosphere or find a winner, there's also plenty on offer. Beer, wine and soft drinks are available around the ground, as are pies, pasties, hot dogs, hamburgers and an assortment of quality food to eat while walking the course or finding a perfect spot to lay out the blanket and relax.
There will be plenty to do throughout the meeting and for a few hours afterwards. Adelaide Football Club legend Tony Modra will be a special guest of the club, there will be a Fashion at the Races event and the very popular Dash for Stash relay event for enthusiastic patrons, while an after-party will be held with the band Mamboobies playing through until 8.30pm.