If there’s ever a question about the strength of square gaiting’s resurgence in Victorian harness racing, one glance at this weekend’s Redwood Carnival dispels any doubts.
The square-gaiting showcase starts with a nine-race opening day tomorrow (Oct. 28) at Maryborough, followed by an 11-race card, featuring two Group 1s, on the Sunday with more than 210 individual square gaiters lining up to strut their stuff over the two-meeting carnival.
Victorian Square Trotting Association president Nick Youngson says the only concern among trotting enthusiasts in the showcase week is that the industry structures aren’t evolving fast enough to keep up with the growth.
“The Redwood Carnival is what really started the resurgence of trotting in Victoria and I’m biased but I think it’s the biggest day in the State,” Youngson said.
“It’ll be great to have the crowds back again this year after COVID, and tell me what other day in harness racing gets a bigger crowd at the races? It’s an atmosphere day and it’s a prestige day – we’re all striving to win a Derby and we all want to win a Redwood,” he said.
“As important as this week is, though, what we really want is to be providing year-round pathways for our horses at all levels to be able to progress in the same way that pacers can, and we’re not quite there yet.
“We have a five-year plan in place, and our next goal is to get MO racing back for trotters. That would be a key step, because we want to create a system that once our horses qualify they can go around and be competitive right through their careers, competing at a level and in fields that are suitable for them.”
Youngson said the Redwood Carnival’s role as the pinnacle of the sport was demonstrated in enormous sponsor support for the two days.
“For a long time, we’ve run a stallion service raffle for the carnival – this year we’ve got two raffles and a total of $21,000 worth of services to be won,” he said.
“Our major raffle is for a service to On A Streak, valued at $4950, with tickets for $50 and in our Mega Stallion raffle we’ve got 10 brilliant stallions on offer, at $20 a ticket or 10 for $100, with the first drawn ticket holder to get the first pick and so on.
“We’ve had a huge response with people from interstate buying tickets this time. They’ll be available at the carnival, but people who can’t make it can contact us to have a chance to win.”
Stallions are: Bacardi Lindy $2200; Danny Bouchea (on farm only) $800; Great Success $800; Skyvalley $2000; Sundons Courage $1500; Kinvet Avenger $1500; Peak $2200; Tenotrump (on farm only) $1350; Zenith Stride $4400
The VSTA will also hold a free barbecue on both days and for the first time operate a hospitality area in conjunction with Yabby Dam Farms, with five percent of any stallion services sold over the Redwood Carnival going directly to the VSTA.
“We’re offering a membership for the rest of this year for $30, which will entitle you to entry into the hospitality area, Redwood bonuses, voting rights at the annual meeting, and all of our newsletters and information,” Youngson said.
“But most importantly members will be supporting the VSTA in our endeavours to keep driving the trotter forward – we all just love our trotters and want to keep progressing and improving things for all of us.”