Murrumbidgee Turf Club (MTC) has received a $2 million carrot to dangle above its feature race just a fortnight out from the $200,000 Wagga Gold Cup (2000m).
The Wagga Gold Cup, along with the Snake Gully Cup at Gundagai and Albury Gold Cup, were named on Tuesday as official qualifying races for Racing NSW's new feature, the Big Dance.
The $2 million Big Dance (1600m) will be run annually on Melbourne Cup day at Randwick, with the field to be drawn from winners and second placed horses of 25 country cups across the state.
Just under half of the qualifying races were already run before this week's announcement but it has proven a timely one for the MTC, with the Gold Cup set for Friday, May 6.
The Wagga Gold Cup has traditionally drawn horses from the leading stables in the country and MTC chief executive Jason Ferrario expects this announcement will only enhance the club's ability to do that.
"Absolutely. Everyone was excited about the announcement of the Big Dance and now that the eligibility has been confirmed, the Murrumbidgee Turf Club is very happy to be on board and have the Wagga Gold Cup as one of the qualifying races," Ferrario said.
"From our point of view, the timing of the announcement couldn't be better. We're two and a half weeks away from our big race so for this announcement to be made at this time, without doubt, it's already a well-supported race by all the big stables and it just may further enhance the amount of big stables that will come and support the race."
Benchmark ratings at the time of final acceptances will be used to determine the field with winners of the eligible country cups to receive preference over second placegetters.
Gundagai-Adelong Racing Club secretary Len Tozer said they were over the moon to be included.
"That's excellent news. We were hoping we could be included in the list but only in our wildest dreams did we think it could happen," Tozer said.
Albury Racing Club chief executive Steve Hetherton believes it will only benefit his club in years to come.
"Ideally it would have been a nice lead-up to our Cup but it's a great announcement nonetheless and something I'm sure every trainer now will have on their calendar to at least look at, if not schedule around," Hetherton said.
"It will only improve the publicity and the hype around the race itself and hopefully reflect on our crowds and excitement levels on the day as well."
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