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VRC keen to implement a sixth local Melbourne Cup ballot-exempt race

In the week leading up to Australia’s only Melbourne Cup ballot-exempt race run outside of the Spring Carnival, the Victoria Racing Club has revealed its ambition to implement another as soon as next season.

VRC executive general manager of racing Leigh Jordon on Wednesday said the club was keen to make the Listed Roy Higgins Quality (2600m) a sixth local ballot-exempt race.

The Roy Higgins has been flagged as a potential ‘golden ticket’ race in the past, but plans are more advanced than ever with the VRC awaiting confirmation from Racing Victoria on what the 2022/23 calendar will look like before endorsing the plan for 2023.

“We’re investigating another extra ballot-exempt race at Flemington,” Jordon said.

“It’s probably reinvigorating the Roy Higgins, we’d like to do that and have that as another ballot-exempt race.

“We’re obviously waiting on race dates and prizemoney to come from Racing Victoria and we’ll soon find out.”

This year’s Roy Higgins Quality, which carried $160,000 in stakes, was run on March 5 and was won by Crystal Pegasus.

The Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, Hotham Handicap, The Bart Cummings and Andrew Ramsden Stakes, which will be run this Saturday, are the Australian races that carry a Melbourne Cup ballot exemption.

The Andrew Ramsden became a ballot-exempt race in 2019, when it was reduced from 3200m to 2800m and restricted to three, four and five-year-olds. It is now worth $500,000 and a significant prizemoney increase would be attached to the Roy Higgins should it obtain a ballot exemption.

Since 2019, the Andrew Ramsden has been won by Steel Prince (2019), who ran ninth in the Melbourne Cup, Oceanex (2020), who ran 11th in the Cup, and Realm Of Flowers, who did not contest last year’s Melbourne Cup.

What A Nuisance is the only horse to have won the Ramsden Stakes and Melbourne Cup, having won what was then known as the Duke Of Norfolk Stakes in 1984 before winning the Cup in 1985.

The year’s Andrew Ramsden field attracted a field of 13, including 2019 VRC Derby winner Warning, Kris Lees-trained import Luncies, the Lloyd Williams-owned Point Nepean, last year’s St Leger winner Through Irish Eyes and Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained pair Splendiferous and Zoumon.

There have been suggestions this week the race could be strengthened by opening it up to horses aged six and older but Jordon said that was not on the VRC’s radar.

“I don’t think we’re really missing anything there (aged six or older) and I think our theory of the three, four and five-year-olds has worked well in the first three years and I think we’d stick with that at the moment,” he said.

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