The Stawell Racing Club hosted its first meet of the new racing season on Monday with nearly more than double the amount of attendees than last year’s first race.
More than 450 trainers, jockeys, industry professionals and punters filled the grounds at Stawell including racing figureheads such as Melbourne Cup winning jockey Michelle Payne and premier horse trainer Darren Weir.
Stawell Racing Club operations manager Mark Percival said he was pleasantly surprised with the amount of people in attendance.
“I think it went really, really well,” he said.
“Last year on our first day of racing we had about 260 people we nearly nearly doubled that this year.
“I was a little surprised by the numbers that showed up. It is great to see people traveling to Stawell.
“The committee worked hard to prepare for the meet and we also had some good support from the council.”
It is great to see people traveling to Stawell- Mark Percival
Having the likes of Payne and Weir in attendance spiked the interest in the first meet, which is generally one of Stawell’s quieter race days.
Eight races were run on the day, with Payne riding a winner trained by herself.
Payne rode Jukila to victory in the 1600 metre Melbourne Parkview Hotel Maiden Plate in the third race of the day.
Jukila was Payne’s first winner in a jockey for the 2017-18 season.
Percival said having racing “celebrities” at the track helped boost interest.
“On course wagering was up on the day and people were saying the crowds were comparable to what you would see on a Wednesday or Thursday country meeting,” he said.
It was a good day for Stawell trainers, with Dane Smith claiming two second placings and Terry and Karina O’Sullivan one third placing. The track was harder than hoped, with a rating of a good 3 given on the day.
“We were expecting a bit of rain to soften up the track on the weekend which didn’t come unfortunately,” Percival said.
“It was a bit unlucky with the weather but the track ended up racing really well.”
Preparations are now underway for Stawell Racing Club’s next race day.
The next event is the Gift Hotel Christmas Races on Saturday, December 9.
“We are really excited for the Christmas Races,” Percival said. “Anyone interested in coming should start booking their packages now.”
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