The traditional ANZAC Day Race Day meeting proudly held by the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) at Flemington for more than 60 years, will go ahead on Saturday 25th April without spectators due to the COVID-19 crisis.
VRC Chairman Amanda Elliott said it was important to honour this national day for service men and women past and present, despite the challenges the world faces at the moment.
“Racing at Flemington has continued for more than 180 years, through the depths of the Great Depression and both World Wars. We are privileged and honoured as always to be racing on ANZAC Day,” Mrs Elliott said.
“It will not be the same without our valued VRC Members and racing fans, but I encourage everyone to engage with the day off course via our dedicated broadcast partners in Racing.com and RSN, and via our social media channels.”
A wreath with be placed on Flemington’s famous Mounting Yard arch, race caller Matt Hill will lead a minute’s silence and the Last Post will be played for all essential racing participants on course and those watching at home.
“We understand many Melburnians would normally be attending ANZAC Day services on this significant day, so we felt it appropriate to conduct a tribute, as best we can, using staff already required on course,” Mrs Elliott said.
“The commemoration will respect all the necessary protocols, and we hope will go some way to fill the gap for the many who love to attend an ANZAC Day Service.”
Race names will pay tribute to front line health workers and servicemen linked to the club including Flight Lieutenant William Newton VC, Flight Lieutenant Peter Armytage and Mrs Elliott’s father and former VRC Vice Chairman Wing Commander Ian Bayles DFC.
Mr Bayles learnt to fly with the Oxford University Air Squadron while studying law. When war broke out in 1939, he was drafted into the Royal Air Force and became a decorated Spitfire pilot in the famous Battle of Britain. He was later posted to India and Burma to fly Spitfires, Hurricanes and Thunderbolts until the war ended in 1945.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his high level of courage and devotion to duty at all times.
Mr Bayles returned to Australia in 1947 with his wife and settled at Chatsworth Park, Tabilk, where thoroughbred racing, breeding and racing administration were an important part of his life. He spent 13 years on the VRC Committee and four years as Vice Chairman.
“My father’s war service is something my family is very proud of. He was one of ‘The Few’ as described by Winston Churchill in his famous statement following the victory of the Battle of Britain: ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,’ ” Mrs Elliott said.
“My father would be extremely honoured and humbled by this race name recognition on such an important day.”
This year marks the 163rd running of the VRC St Leger, the Classic Listed race run over 2800m for three-year-olds, worth $160,000. It is a race older than the Lexus Melbourne Cup, with the honour roll including past greats of the turf in Phar Lap, Comic Court and Tulloch.
VRC Ambassador Gai Waterhouse and her training partner Adrian Bott will attempt a VRC St Leger three peat with Sacramento. Waterhouse has won the race four times in the past eight years including in 2019 with Transact and 2018 with Runaway.
The William Newton VC Handicap (2600m), offers stayers an important entry point to next month’s Andrew Ramsden (2800m) at Flemington.
Last year’s Lexus Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare will attempt to take out the $108,000 race and earn his spot in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes, which offers the winner a Lexus Melbourne Cup ballot exemption. Lindsay Park have also entered a former Cup competitor in Ventura Storm.
Also on the card is the Flt Lt Peter Armytage Handicap (1700m) for three-year-olds, with the inform Russian Camelot set to line up for Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien. Russian Camelot is the market leader with TAB, followed by The Lifeline for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott and Betcha Flying for Chris Waller.
Access to Flemington Racecourse will be restricted to essential race day participants only, who will be temperature checked on arrival.
To donate and support veterans and their families during this challenging time visit anzacappeal.com.au.
A digital race book will be available at on the website later this week and VRC Members, owners and all racing fans are encouraged to share their at home experiences using our official hashtags #ANZACDay #Flemington on social media.