By Mark Brassel
The countdown is on with a mere fortnight to go until the first of the $150,000 Country Championships is rolled out for 2017.
Clarence River Jockey Club will open the curtain on the 2017 Country Championships by staging the first qualifying event on Sunday 12 February.
Grafton will stage this year’s initial $150,000 qualifier with first and second heading to Royal Randwick on Saturday April 1 to compete in the $400,000 Country Championships Final (1400m).
The Grafton meeting is one of Racing NSW’s highly-successful Showcase programs that offers minimum prizemoney of $30,000 for each race.
“The Country Championships is only into its third year and has provided a tremendous boost to country racing,” said Racing NSW’s Chief Executive, Mr Peter V’landys AM. “And we expect even greater interest this year with each of the seven qualifying races carrying an additional $50,000 prizemoney.”
Grafton’s ‘The Championships Blues, Brews and BBQ’s Raceday’ offers hot blues artists, International craft beer, gourmet BBQ food and free kids entertainment. Blues artists performing live on the lawn include Phil Emmanuel, Hussy Hicks, Minnie Marks and Slim Jim & the Boney Hardmen.
“The interesting thing about the third year of the Country Championships is the increasing number of trainers setting horses for the event many months beforehand,” said CRJC’s CEO, Michael Beattie.
“As a consequence, the qualifying races have created even more interest and the concept just seems to get bigger each year. It’s a real winner for racing in this State.”
Grafton’s raceday will be followed by Goulburn (18 February), Dubbo (19 February), Taree (26 February), Scone (5 March), Wellington (12 March), Albury (19 March) and Muswellbrook’s ‘Wild Card’ (26 March).