There is to be a significant reconfiguring of the Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival, South Australia’s premier jumping meeting, which in 2018 will be run on 31 March and 2 April.
For the first time in more than a century, the $160,000 Great Eastern Steeplechase will not be run on Easter Monday but instead will take place on Easter Saturday on the first day of the Carnival. The $100,000 Harry D Young Hurdle, first run in 1878 and the biggest hurdle race in SA, will also be held on Saturday. Easter Monday will still, however, feature both an Open Steeplechase and a Restricted Hurdle, so there will nevertheless be the traditional complete weekend of jumps racing.
A further major announcement to come out of the Oakbank Racing Club is that the SA’s other time-honoured chase, the $100,000 Von Doussa Steeplechase, will take place at the meeting two weeks prior to the Carnival on Sunday 18 March (along with an Open Hurdle race), rather than being run on Easter Saturday as has hitherto been the case.
While this will mark a major change to the traditional jumps racing calendar in SA, South Australian Jumps Racing sees a number of positive opportunities for owners and trainers in the move.
Winning both the Von Doussa and the Great Eastern Steeplechase is a unique double in Australian racing, but as these two premier races are traditionally run early in the Australian jumps season, it has proved increasingly challenging for horses to compete in both in the space of three days.
The gap of thirteen days between these two demanding races will, however, give owners and trainers a greater opportunity to be a part of history by completing this double, as the moving forward of the Von Doussa Steeplechase will enable more of Australia’s best jumping horses to back up and have a chance of winning both of these prestigious titles.
Another potential positive is that horses who in previous years have come to Oakbank for the Prelude meeting to compete in a $42,000 steeplechase will now have the chance to race for $100,000 in the Von Doussa. This has the potential to raise the calibre of the race and gives owners and trainers the chance to race for a more substantial purse during the run up to Easter.
The change in scheduling will also create an opportunity for lesser-known chasers to win a race at the prestigious Oakbank Easter Carnival in Monday’s Open Steeplechase. Previously, with the Von Doussa and Great Eastern the only steeplechases at the Carnival, there was no race available for chasers who aren’t in the upper echelons. However, having an Open Chase on Monday will provide an opportunity for horses who aren’t of the calibre to win either of the premier chases to run in a competitive race at Oakbank. This will also be the case with Monday’s Restricted Hurdle.
We think owners and trainers should therefore welcome this chance to bring a bigger string of hoses to Oakbank and for some of their lesser lights to get a chance on the big stage.
Therefore, while this change in the calendar will no doubt be an upheaval for some, and may well present some challenges as we all adjust to the new schedule, South Australian Jumps Racing sees a number of potential positive outcomes resulting from the move, not the least of which is that it provides elite chasers with a better chance of winning a truly unique double. It will also mean that a greater spread of horses can compete at the Easter Carnival, and so hopefully this should encourage owners and trainers to bring more horses across to Oakbank each year as there will be more opportunities for chasers and hurdlers of all standards to run.