HARNESS Racing NSW have announced on Wednesday an additional $100,000 Group 1 event for those who place in next year's TAB Regional Championships Finals across the state.
Bathurst played host to the Western region finals of the inaugural event this year, which was taken out in a stunning upset victory by Malcolm and Brett Hutchings' long shot Terryrama.
But not only will horses have the chance to race again in May 19's $100,000 Western regional finals at Bathurst, the top three will be given the opportunity to compete for the same prize purse at Menangle 10 days later.
Bathurst Harness Racing Club CEO Danny Dwyer said the change is certain to be a great boost for the region.
"It's an expansion of the TAB series last year and I think the general consensus among the participants was that finals in the regions was a far better way to spread the money around," he said.
"For them to now finish it off with a $100,000 final at Menangle, with the horses who qualify through the various other regional finals, gives them another chance to race for more Group 1 prizemoney. I think it's something that will be well received by all trainers."
The race only came to be this year after the originally planned event, the Million Dollar Pace, was unable to go ahead due to COVID-19 restrictions.
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But the new region-based event was a welcome consolation prize for trainers across the state - and its return plus a new race to round it out - indicates it likely has a strong future.
Dwyer said the benefits of the zoned finals were evident in the inaugural series.
"I think it empowers the regions too. It's something that came off the back of COVID, because trainers weren't able to race their horses in other regions, but that's strengthened regional areas and allowed trainers to cut down on travel that they'd have to endure to race for that better prizemoney," he said.
"The long hours and long kilometre get cut back and I think that's another incentive to have a horse you can set for this series. I really like it. With all the carnivals going on, it's another great series to look forward to in May.
"We have the Gold Crown Carnival in March, this in May and then the Breeders Challenge, wherever that ends up. It's nice having on in each month with good prizemoney. It's a great thing for the sport."
The Bathurst round of heats will be held on May 5 and 12, with the regional final worth $100,000 to race on May 19.
The metropolitan region heats get the series underway on May 4 while the Hunter and Riverina opening heats race on May 7.