Victorian Racing Minister and well known jumps racing supporter Denis Napthine has thrown his weight behind the continuation of steeplechase events across the state.
He has recommended that Racing Victoria get behind steeplechasing for at least the next three to four years to bring it into line with the support given to hurdle racing.
Napthine said jumps racing results over the past few months proved that the sport deserved to be sustained by Racing Victoria.
Steeplechasing is currently working off a one year deal which was put in place amid plenty of controversy at the end of last season.
Napthine says over that period the racing had been a success and it was showing constant signs of improvement.
“We’ve had some competitive, high-quality steeplechase races and so I will be urging RVL to continue steeplechases and give a real commitment to jumps racing in this state,” Napthine said.
Chief executive of Racing Victoria Rob Hines said any decision would come down to how the sport measures up with the key performance indicators.
The main indicator is the number of fatalities per runner, if that level were to be reached a review would be held immediately.
As it stands though this season is still well below that limit and the amount of interest in the sport also appears to have picked up.
Any decision about a further extension though would not be made until a board meeting in November at the earliest.
Napthine said he was content with the future of the sport relying on the key performance indicators and that there was an ongoing need to increase safety.
He says that’s something that goes across all codes of racing though not just jumping.
“I think the performance of jumps racing has been outstanding and needs to be recognised with a real commitment to the future,” he said.
He described the past few months as a ‘rebuilding season and said the sport could only hope to improve further into next year.
Napthine also released a new set of figures which will further boost the money on offer jumps winners.
As a joint partnership between the government and Racing Victoria there will be a 30 percent prize money increase with minimum stakes of $20,000 for any jumps race.
They will also offer a $10,000 bonus for a horse that wins their maiden event over the obstacles.
The three feature events on the jumps calendar, the Grand National Hurdle, the Grand National Steeplechase and the Warrnambool Grand Annual will all have a quarter of a million dollars on offer.
“The most important thing is that in April this year we had 73 horses ticketed to jump and now we have 222,” Napthine said.
“It augurs well for a great future for this industry.”
Like many Napthine has taken plenty of confidence out of the rise of Black And Bent who he feels can further open up the sport to the mainstream racing public when he runs in the 3900m Grand National hurdle this weekend.
“He’s well worth travelling miles to see and I urge all racing fans to come to see him on Sunday,” Napthine said.