Flemington straight

The distinctive Flemington Straight Six.

Looking straight ahead

“Flemington’s straight six ... is a true sprint test of a champion.” The late Bart Cummings.

Each of the world’s most illustrious racecourses has a distinctive feature that sets it apart from other tracks and adds a unique appeal for horse, rider and spectator. In the case of Flemington’s famous pear-shaped course, that special element is the Straight Six. A six furlong – or 1200m – length of wide, straight track, the Straight Six gives horses the chance to come from well back in the field to make it first past the post, offering both a challenge for jockeys and a thrilling sight for patrons.

This thrill is set to be elevated with the introduction of Rapid Racing on February Twilight Race Day on Sunday 9 February. It will feature a card of seven straight-course races run over distances ranging from 1000m to 1200m, with a condensed program and 30-minute gaps between races. Set to ignite team spirit, VRC Chief Executive Officer Neil Wilson said Rapid Racing was exciting territory for the VRC to enter.

“It is a brand new race day, one that will offer a unique experience for those enjoying the day on course as well as those watching from home on Racing.com,” Mr Wilson said. “A shorter, punchier program and a team challenge featuring some of Victoria’s most popular jockeys will elevate the vibrant atmosphere that summer racing at Flemington is known for.”

Adding to the thrill of the day is a jockeys challenge where fourteen of Victoria’s leading riders will do battle for the first Resimax Group Jockeys Challenge Trophy, under the guidance of two coaches. Points will be awarded to the first four placegetters in each race and double points are on offer in the last race of the day. Members of the winning team will receive a $10,000 hospitality prize courtesy of Resimax Group, while the top scoring jockey and trainer will each receive two nights’ accommodation at Adelphi Hotel.

The new format gives fans a chance to cheer on their favourite riders, and has been designed with the support of the Victorian Jockeys Association. Featuring two teams of jockeys: a metropolitan team and a country team, the minimum riding weight will be 57kg to ensure a more even playing field for competitors.

Jockeys for each team were selected based on their respective premiership standings at the end of the day on Wednesday 1 January.

AFL premiership-winning coach and budding racehorse trainer Denis Pagan will lead the metropolitan team while former AFL player, talent manager and broadcaster Liam Pickering will look to steer the country team to victory.

The metropolitan team is headlined by 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup-winning rider Craig Williams with Damien Oliver, Dwayne Dunn, Ben Melham, Linda Meech, Mark Zahra and Luke Currie.

The country team stars Harry Coffey, young gun Jye McNeil, Daniel Stackhouse, Damien Thornton, Jarrod Fry, Dean Holland, and Jason Maskiell.

Denis Pagan is looking forward to stepping back into the coach role, and is thrilled by the calibre of his team. “They are all superstars in their own right. I won’t be telling them how to ride, but I can help with some motivation. I believe that the best coach for individual improvements is yourself,” Pagan said. “The Rapid Racing program is a unique idea, and will no doubt be really exciting to watch.”

Champion country jockey Damien Thornton is also looking forward to a good day. “It should be a lot of fun,” he said. “Even though it’s just another day at work for the jockeys, Rapid Racing is something different and new. The riders are all very familiar with the straight, but with each race being between 1000-1200m it should be a quick and fast-paced meeting.” While he is looking forward to being part of the team, Damien is also staying competitive. “We are still out to win it for ourselves, but winning points for the team will be great.”

Flemington straight

Jockeys Damien Thornton and Luke Currie will compete in the Resimax Group Jockeys Challenge on February 9, Twilight Race Day. Credit: Vince Caligiuri

Trainer Troy Corstens echoes the sentiments of Pagan and Thornton, and believes it is an important step in the evolution of racing. “I think it is a fantastic concept. Racing needs to evolve, and coming up with new ideas like this is the way forward. Obviously the set-up needs to be tested, but if we leave things the way they are, we get left behind as a sport. The VRC has the best facilities of any race track I have been to, and an idea like this allows them to be utilised the way they should be. I hope it is a program that is embraced, and I will be supporting it as much as I can.”

The innovative new program looks to be an exciting and true test of a horse, for in the words of champion jockey Hugh Bowman about the famed Flemington straight: “The best horse wins  there's nowhere to hide.”

For more information visit Rapid Racing