Countdown to new jumps season
Racing Victoria is in a race against the clock to start the jumps season in early April.
The final program for the jumps season will be released within a week while RVL continues to consult with the Australian Jumping Racing Association on its requirements for modified obstacles.
RVL chief executive Rob Hines said the board last week endorsed plans for a reduced jumps racing program of 64 races between April and August.
The first scheduled meeting is at Warrnambool on April 6.
Hines said it was hoped that the jumps industry designed modified jumps would be ready by early next month but there were no guarantees.
He said RVL appointed engineers and risk assessors needed to approve the new jumps and a prototype was in the process of being built and costed.
The new jumps, which resemble the old Mark II jumps, are being funded by jumps racing and could cost up to $500,000.
“They haven’t got the solid metal A frame and are pinned at the back so as to have give in them if a horse hits them,” Hines said.
He said the jumps also had thicker and longer pads, would be lighter and waterproof, and the brush on top would be brown instead of yellow.
A slot design would enable to jumps to be converted from hurdles to steeplechase fences.
Hines said that horses would need qualify over the new jumps before they started in a race but it would be at the discretion of the stewards whether horses needed to school over them more than once.
He said horses could start the qualification process over existing hurdles now before getting their ticket over the new jumps.
The Jumps Review Panel has also been reconstituted and will take a harsher approach.
Steward James Williams will chair the panel which also comprises fellow steward Rob Montgomery, Risk management manager Bob Gilpin, former jumps jockey Ron Hall and racing operations manager Paul Bloodworth.
Hines said 64 jumps races would be programmed in a shorter season but added that field sizes would determine if all 64 races would be held.
“We could merge or reschedule races to get field sizes up,” Hines said.
He said prizemoney allocation would also be reduced from more than $3 million last year to between $2.25 million and $2.5 million in 2010.
All feature jumps races will be run at Sandown and Warrnambool.
Moonee Valley’s signature jumps event, the Hiskens Steeplechase, will not be run again with Moonee Valley retaining the name.
Jumps racing will no longer held on the track for occupational, health and safety reasons.
Hines said the reduction in prizemoney was, in part, because of the industry needing to fund flat races in place of the old jumps races at Moonee Valley.
“It is not going to be the best season for prizemoney, but this season is about the survival of the sport,” Hines said.
By Robert Windmill