The Valley came alive on another perfect summer’s Friday night as it celebrated the second annual Australian Chinese Jockey Club Chinese New Year celebration. More than 6000 people descended on the track to welcome in the Year of the Rooster and were treated to a hive of culture and colour.
The most popular man on course for the evening was Hong Kong-born jockey Matthew Poon, who was flown over from Adelaide for the night. Poon holds a cult-figure status in Australian racing circles, so many fans were thrilled that he was available to take photos and sign autographs while riding the Brad Cole trained Red’s Sister Rosie in the final race.
The Mandarin speakers in the crowd were made to feel right at home with race books printed in their native language, a Mandarin speaking MC and Mandarin race caller Jamie Pi broadcasting Race 6 across the entire course. After starring in last year’s event Jamie was also called upon by RSN to call every race in Mandarin for their Carnival app.
“While the evening is renowned for its cultural activities off the track, we thought it was important to roll this theme out into the racing aspect of the evening as well – both Matthew and Jamie’s involvement was very well received and added an extra dimension to the evening,” MVRC CEO Michael Browell explained.
All horses wearing the number eight could be identified with a special marked saddlecloth to make these runners identifiable – eight is a lucky number in the Chinese culture and indicates prosperity, wealth and success. It didn’t take too long to strike either, with the Darren Weir trained Mrs. Gardenia striding away to win Race 2, the ACJC Happy New Year Plate.
Other highlights on the track included a double to 19-year-old hoop Beau Mertens, while Magnatti kept her winning run in tact remaining undefeated from three starts with a nail biting win in the feature Cathay Pacific Cup.
It was also thanks to our great partners at Cathay Pacific, that one lucky racegoer would walk away with a chance to win a return Business Class airfare to Hong Kong. Congratulations to Dean Castiglieugu, who was the lucky name drawn out of the barrel in the lead-up to a magnificent fireworks spectacular across the racecourse.
Entertainment was in abundance on the main stage throughout the evening and proved a popular spot for racegoers to take in the night’s cultural performances.
Hong Kong superstar Det Dik had the crowd buzzing with a phenomenal display of singing and dancing. Other great acts on the main stage that had everyone in awe were the lion dancers, a magician, a contortionist, drummers and other traditional acts.
Also on course to celebrate the New Year were the Gods of Fortune and the giveaways of rice and red envelopes were proving popular with racegoers of all ages. The Burston Lawn was busy with the Asian food trucks serving a delicious range of treats including spring rolls, pork buns, dumplings and much more. Meanwhile, Melbourne City Football Club brought their inflatable pitch and goals which were a big hit with the kids and kept many entertained well into the night.
“It was fantastic to celebrate the Chinese New Year at The Valley yet again to welcome in the Year of the Rooster, with the racetrack abuzz with people enjoying not only the racing but cultural entertainment and food on offer,” Browell explained.
“The evening would not be possible without the hardworking Australian Chinese Jockey Club committee and a big thanks must go out to Teresa Poon and her team for delivering another fantastic event.”
Focus now shifts to the 2018 event which will see the Chinese community welcome in the Year of the Dog.