Racing NSW has announced the addition of a ninth race to metropolitan Saturday programs restricted to country-trained gallopers.

The initiative will provide a regular point of entry for country-based horses to compete for increased prizemoney.

The purse will be $40,000 which is equivalent to that of a midweek metropolitan race.

Coined the ‘Highway Handicap or Plate’, the race will be introduced from December 1 under the following conditions:

  • Restricted to bona fide country-trained horses and domiciled horses
  • Races programmed at Class 2 or 3 level, with a mix of handicap and set weight races
  • Run over a variety of distances between 1000 metres and 1800 metres inclusive
  • Run at approximately 40 Sydney Saturday meetings

“Initiatives like the Highway Handicap have only become possible given the NSW State Government announcement on Wagering Tax Parity,” Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said.

“This represents an important further step by Racing NSW to build the vibrancy of racing in this state by featuring our crucial country sector.”

Popular Canberra-based trainer Matt Dale was full of praise for the ‘ninth race’ concept.

“It’s a positive move,” he said. “It will be a massive boost for country horses.

“Programmed for Class 2 and Class 3 horses should attract up-and-coming gallopers. I would expect a full and competitive field each week, and it provides the opportunity for great exposure for country participants.

“The $40,000 prizemoney appears very fair and what it will also encourage is for country trainers to look at the rest of the program and perhaps put two horses on the float, especially with the increased country concession weight relief.

“And that will increase the field sizes in town which is what Racing NSW is trying to do.”

The news follows the introduction of the inaugural ‘Country Championships’ earlier this year which had its final conducted at Randwick on April 6.

The nine-race model is similar to the one adopted by Victoria in June of last year which has its extra race worth midweek level prizemoney but open to horses trained on all circuits.