If ever a provincial feature race has moved with the times to meet the expectations of modern racing, it’s been the Carlton Draught Murray Bridge Gold Cup.
Now one of the best provincial 1600m races in all of Australia, the Cup has taken on another challenge and moved to a Friday to accommodate the thirst for racing that comes with the spring.
This year’s listed $100,000 Carlton Draught Murray Bridge Gold Cup will be run on October 20, the day before the Caulfield Cup, providing the ideal entree to the biggest three weeks in Australian racing.
The country may be in carnival mode by then but this move is all about promoting the best racing SA has to offer.
Murray Bridge Racing Club secretary and manager John Buhagiar believes the move to Friday could have a major long-ranging impact for the local community, saying it will set Murray Bridge apart and could cement the race’s position as a major drawcard.
“We made the decision to move the Cup to Friday so it could be more inclusive for the town while keeping the corporate feel,” Mr Buhagiar says.
“Now that we’re running our Cup meeting on Friday, we have the chance to be a standalone as the feature race meeting across Australia.
“There are other advantages as well. We want to turn this race day into a major drawcard for the town, where in the future people make an event of it and come for the races and stay for the weekend.
“The possibilities around Murray Bridge mean that racegoers could come up on Friday and even spend the same night on a houseboat and make a holiday of it.
“It would be great to see businesses get right behind this in the future by making a half day of it or even letting workers off early to come to the races and watch the last and socialise with friends and workmates.”
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Races will be run over distances from 1000m to 2200m, with the Burke Urban Sprint over the flying five expected to attract the state’s best sprinters. The 1600m feature, of course, will bring in the best horses in SA as well as a few well-credentialed visitors.
The Murray Bridge Gold Cup meeting is now about more than just the top class racing, it has become a major social event for the entire district. The Rural City of Murray Bridge will even have an unofficial holiday, with many businesses closing for the day.
On-field entertainment and attractions are available for all tastes and budgets, including the Carlton Draught Marquee, the Crown Lager Clubroom and reserved private marquees. Racegoers will be bussed in from Adelaide, arriving before the first race and returning to the city after the last.
For those who just like to go to the races to study the horses, feel the atmosphere or find a winner, there’s also plenty on offer. There is of course a large assortment of delicious drinks and quality food on offer while walking the course or finding a perfect spot to lay out the blanket and relax. Gates open at 11am.
There will also be plenty to do throughout the meeting and after, with Adelaide legend Tony Modra a special guest, a Fashion at the Races event and the very popular Dash for Stash relay, while an after-party will be held with the band Mamboobies.
Modra is to judge the Dash
The home straight is almost always reserved for passionate jockeys atop thundering thoroughbreds.
But punters will have a chance to make their way down the final stretch of hallowed turf at the Murray Bridge racecourse as part of the Dash for the Stash relay competition at the Carlton Draught Murray Bridge Gold Cup on October 20.
The winning team will take home a pallet of Carlton Draught for their sporting club. Judging the winner will be Adelaide Football Club legend and SA Hall of Famer Tony Modra
“We have had fantastic nominations from all over the state,” said race organiser John Buhagiar.
“This includes Port Lincoln, Penola, Pinnaroo, Kingston, Nairne and the Murraylands as well as a good contingency from the Adelaide Metro area.”
The competition is open to all licensed sporting clubs in South Australia. Clubs must nominate three team members or representatives aged over 18 who are available to take part in the race.
10 teams will be selected at random to compete on the day. Each member of the selected teams will run a 50m leg of the relay.
The first two runners of each team must hurdle a keg and the final runner dressed in a Carlton Draught suit. All participants need to pass on a ‘relay baton’ with a difference – a pint filled with Carlton Draught.
The first team to cross the line with half a pint of beer still in their cup will be crowned the winner. Last year, Adelaide University Cricket Club won the event.
Even though they were fourth over the line they were the first team to over the line with at least half a cup of amber fluid.
Murray Bridge Chairman, Reg Nolan, said the competition was a great way to support sporting groups throughout the state and give them an opportunity to enjoy a day out at one of the state’s premier race meets.
“South Australia is home to hundreds of hard-working sporting clubs, from football to cricket to netball, lacrosse, hockey, baseball, soccer and everything else in between,” Reg said.
“We love to support grassroots sport and think this is a fantastic opportunity for the clubs to have a bit of fun and potentially earn a prize worth over $9,000 to the club, all while enjoying the atmosphere of the Carlton Draught Murray Bridge Gold Cup.”
Organisers are encouraging all to make sure they get on down to the track and support their favourite club as they compete.