IT is already the largest racing carnival in regional Australia, but the Bathurst Harness Racing Club now aims to make the Gold Crown Carnival into a million dollar event over the coming years.
Since it was first run in 1987, the Gold Crown Carnival has become one of the highlights of the harness racing calendar as it attracts not only hopefuls from New South Wales, but interstate challengers and international raiders.
While the two-year-old feature series - the Gold Crown and Gold Tiara - have culminated in $100,000, Group 1 deciders since 2005, the past two years it has been the same case for the three-year-old Gold Chalice and Gold Bracelet finals as well.
That increase in prize money and rise in status from Group 3 to Group 1 finals for the two three-year-old features makes the Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival the largest racing event in Australia outside the metropolitan regions.
"It is one of the few remaining carnivals, there are not too many other states that have a carnival that runs the length of time that the Gold Crown does," BHRC chief executive officer Danny Dwyer said.
"I think with the introduction of four Group 1 races now, I don't think there's any code of racing that I know in a regional area that conducts four Group 1 races as well. Even in the gallops there isn't a country meeting that holds anything close to four Group 1 races."
I don't think there's any code of racing that I know in a regional area that conducts four Group 1 races as well.Bathurst Harness Racing Club CEO Danny Dwyer
As proud as Dwyer is of what the club has achieved with the carnival, he wants to see further growth in the coming years.
Specifically he'd love to see it offer one million dollars in prize money across its five meetings in two weeks.
"The other part of the carnival, which doesn't get promoted that often, is the amount of prize money over the carnival is around about $850,000. That is a lot, but over a period of time we'd love to get it up to a million bucks," Dwyer said.
"That would be massive, that would be another addition to it being a carnival with four Group 1s.
"That is something I was thinking of, when we got that additional $200,000 prize money from Harness Racing New South Wales that bolstered it up enormously to get us to that point where maybe over time, the club can put some more prize money into the carnival ourselves and into the support races.
"That is what we are planning to do, if we can get the two-year-olds and three-year-olds up to $125,000 that would get us pretty close to the million mark."
The 2020 Gold Crown Carnival, which ran in March, was one of the few big sporting events which went ahead globally at that time given the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it was very different to past editions - namely no spectators were permitted and it was reduced by one meeting - Dwyer was still proud to see it go ahead and what unfolded over the rest of the year at the club.
"It was a strange one with only a handful of people on grand final night - there was no-one in the clubhouse - it was a bit weird," Dwyer said.
"But the best part of it was at that time of the year we had no idea if we could keep racing, if we were going to close, so to get the meetings running even though it was without crowds, it was good because it was still a goal of the club to have the carnival go ahead and not have to run it later.
"That lifted the spirits of everyone up to be able to continue with the carnival. We lost that Wednesday meeting and had to push the consolations into the next week, but we still went ahead.
"I think we ended up for the calendar year about 70 meetings because we picked up some meetings from Parkes and Dubbo when there was only one club running in each region.
"So it was a busy time, but it was just important for the club to stay compliant and keep racing so we could keep getting some money to the owners and keep the trainers going."