Some of the stars of Australian racing have been on hand to help launch this year’s Victorian spring racing carnival which begins with the Memsie Stakes meeting at Caulfield.
Champion trainer Gai Waterhouse and Melbourne Cup-winning jockeys Michelle Payne and Damien Oliver were a few of racing’s stars at the launch in Melbourne on Friday.
Payne will begin duties with Network 7 from Saturday’s Memsie Stakes meeting.
The spring carnival comprises 136 meetings across the state with 21 Group One races and 26 country Cups, running through to Ballarat Cup day on November 25.
Saturday’s $1 million Group One Memsie Stakes has a star-studded field of 12 including nine individual Group One winners.
Champion jockey Craig Williams rides the Memsie favourite, Vega Magic.
“We work 365 days a year to hopefully have great success over this important time of the year,” Williams said.
“And we can’t do it without our team we have around us and most importantly, the thoroughbred that runs for us.”
Payne, who created history by becoming the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup aboard Prince Of Penzance in 2015 and now also holds a trainer’s licence, said she was lookking forward to being part of the television coverage.
“It’s something that I feel has come at the right time, because obviously a lot has happened in the last two years but I just feel I’m much more confident now and obviously racing is what I love and am passionate about,” Payne said.
“So to be a part of the Channel 7 team is something I’m really looking forward to.
“It isn’t going to be easy because I am training and I do intend to ride, so there’s a lot to take on. But I’m really happy with the situation because I’ve got a lot of great staff at home and people around me help me be able to get through that.”
Victoria’s racing minister Martin Pakula officially launched the carnival.
“It is our premier racing event, not just here in Melbourne but right across the state,” Pakula said.
“And the $1 million Memsie Stakes tomorrow really signals the start of it.”