The TAB clubs in the Northern Rivers Racing Association have combined - with the great assistance of Racing NSW - to promote a series of staying races through the upcoming spring racing season.
The Series gets underway on Ballina Cup Day (Thursday 6 September) with a Benchmark 66 Handicap over 1900m on the program. Almost every week from then until December 2 at Grafton, a staying race will be programmed on most weeks.
The idea is the brainchild of Ballina Jockey Club's CEO, Matt Bertram, who a few years ago decided to promote a 2650m race on the Monday prior to the Melbourne Cup.
The issue, as is so often the case, is there was a distinct shortage of suitable lead-up races, however, this year that has been well and truly managed with some innovative programming over the region in the lead-up to the Ballina event and importantly somewhere to go after it.
Clarence River Jockey Club's CEO, Michael Beattie, said: “Matt has been bullish about making sure the staying event at Ballina in early November was successful and the other clubs were keen to come on board and support it with suitable programs.
"In reality, it is a step back in time when the set-weight staying races, the Country and Rural Stakes, were the norm on every program in country NSW.
"There were many high-class country stayers that were developed as a result.
"I really hope this concept is a huge success and then we can then work to promote more staying races across the whole racing season.
"There is no doubt it requires a combined approach but you need a club to step up and take the first step and in this case, Ballina Jockey Club has done exactly that."
The full list of NRRA distance races are:
Ballina - September 6 (BM 66, 1900m)
Grafton - September 13 (BM 58, 2200m)
Bowraville - September 22 (C1&M, 2200m)
Grafton - September 25 (BM 58, 2350m)
Ballina - September 30 (Cl 2, 1900m)
Grafton - October 12 (BM 66, 2350m)
Murwillumbah - October 16 (BM 58, 2020m)
Lismore - October 22 (Cl 3, 2100m)
Grafton - October 30 (BM 66, 2350m)
Ballina - November 5 (BM66, 2650m)
Coffs Harbour - November 6 (Cl 2, 1900m)
Grafton - November 7 (C1&M, 2200m)
Murwillumbah - November 16 (C1&M, 2020m)
Grafton - November 19 (BM 66, 3120m)
Bowraville - December 1 (BM 45, 2200m)
Grafton - December 2 (BM 66, 2200m)