Flemington to enter twilight zone

4 min read

By Bren O'Brien

Flemington will play host to Sunday twilight meetings from next season, with the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) looking to broaden the appeal of one of Australia's premier racecourses.

The VRC has already flagged its interest in the twilight time zone and is looking at the possibility of shifting the timing of VRC Oaks Day, on the Thursday of the Melbourne Cup carnival, to later in the afternoon.

But club CEO Neil Wilson has confirmed that it wants to push the twilight concept in other times of the year as well and it is in the process of planning at least two Sundays next season to host race meetings.

"We want them to have a new experience and attract a new audience." - Flemington CEO, Neil Wilson

"Part of increasing the number of race meetings, which we have been working on for some time, we are planning for next season that there will be two Sunday twilight meetings," Wilson told RSN's Racing Pulse.

The VRC are already promoting that timeslot by opening up the new Club Stand and its world class facilities to the public on non-racing Sundays as part of its 'Sunday Sessions' this year and the natural extension of that was to host meetings in that timeslot in the future.

The Club Stand at Flemington

"Part of our Sunday session activity is to get our eye in on exactly how that would work," he said. "Obviously on the Sunday afternoon, we can have racing at Flemington and line it up with some of the other racing activity going on locally and globally. It would line up with Hong Kong, normally the Sha Tin meeting is on the Sunday."

The plan would be to host five or six races per meeting on 30-minute intervals and combine it with dining and entertainment experience.

"We want them to have a new experience and attract a new audience," he said.

Straight races only

Wilson said that it is likely that the race meetings would only feature races down the straight, with a view to rolling out the concept at other times of year, where lights will be required.

"The reason we are thinking about straight racing is because we are thinking about lights on the straight only as our initial investment, so that we can continue that format into the winter months as well," he said.

The winter afternoon concept would be something that the VRC would look to implement in the 2020-21 season .

"We'd hope it would be within two years. There's a lot to go through." - Neil Wilson

"That then becomes a different experience. Where it is not about the sunny day and the twilight, it becomes a cosy winter experience on a Sunday afternoon," he said.

Bleu Roche taking the lead on Oaks Day

"We'd hope it would be within two years. There's a lot to go through, we've got a lot of stakeholders to work through with that. But it's not something that is just a bullet point, it’s something we are working on."

The VRC is also working on developing a second track at Flemington within a decade, which would allow facilities such as the Club Stand to get much more use and give much more value back to Members. The second track would likely have lights for night racing.

Wilson said they see the Sunday evening racing concept as a logical stepping stone to that.

"We think it is more of an experience aspect and providing people who like going to the races with a different format on a Sunday afternoon, where they can do other things on Sunday and still go to the races," he said.

Opening up to the public

One of the other strategies undertaken by the VRC under chairman Amanda Elliot and Wilson as CEO, has been to make the facilities at the course more accessible to the public.

"We are trying to position the Flemington racecourse and the VRC brand about being not just about the membership. We want the public to feel like that is a place for them as well," he said.

"The Sunday Session is an example of the things we will do, whereas from 12-8 on Sunday, the rooftop will be open, the bars and the food with public access, with music and entertainment, with the landscape of the city available to you on a Sunday afternoon in summer."

Wilson said the club will look into running trials on these days in order to keep racing in the forefront of the public's mind.