Racing at Flemington (Image: Racing Photos)
Suggestions that trainers would avoid Sunday's Flemington meeting February Twilight Race Day have been quashed by the release of nominations on Tuesday, with 328 entries across the seven scheduled races.
Flemington will host its first Rapid Raceday on Sunday where seven of Melbourne's best riders will be pitted against seven jockeys who are stars on Victoria's country circuit, in an inaugural team-riding event - the Reximax Group Jockeys Challenge Trophy.
Races will be held exclusively down the Flemington straight between 1000 and 1200 metres on Sunday, with the first race at 4pm (AEDT) and races held at half-hour intervals, culminating with the last event at 7:30pm.
Horses participating at the meeting will carry at least 57kg, with a random ballot to determine the rider of each mount in capacity 12-horse fields with four emergencies.
Trainers and owners have voiced concerns about the concept, aggrieved they don't have a choice in selecting their rider and suggesting they may withdraw horses from the meeting if unhappy with the random choice of their jockey.
However, the lure for connections of restricted-class horses racing for $50,000 - standard mid-week city prizemoney - at the headquarters of Victorian racing appears irresistible for many.
A Benchmark 78 handicap over 1200m at Pakenham worth $35,000 on Thursday received 29 nominations and 12 acceptors while the Flemington equivalent a few days later attracted 45 nominations.
Similarly, a Benchmark 64 handicap over 1100m at Bendigo also worth $35,000 on Wednesday received 65 nominations with 10 acceptors. The Flemington Benchmark 64 sprint has attracted 72 nominations.
Acceptances for Sunday's seven-race card, and the random selection of jockeys, will be released on Thursday morning.
The metropolitan jockeys team features Craig Williams, Damien Oliver, Dwayne Dunn, Ben Melham, Linda Meech, Mark Zahra and Luke Currie while the country team comprises Dean Yendall, Jye McNeil, Daniel Stackhouse, Damien Thornton, Jarrod Fry, Dean Holland and Jason Maskiell.
FLEMINGTON (Sunday) - Number of Nominations
30 - Super Vobis Two-Years-Old No Metro Wins Plate (1000m)
30 - Super Vobis Three-Years-Old BM64 Handicap (1000m)
43 - Super Vobis Three-Years-Old BM64 Handicap (1200m)
72 - BM64 Handicap (1100m)
52 - BM70 Handicap (1000m)
45 - BM78 Handicap (1200m)
55 - Fillies and Mares BM70 Handicap (1200m)