Season 21 of Night Racing at The Valley and the inaugural season of Ladbrokes Friday Night Lights was another success on and off the track with many highlights and memories for the 74,000 patrons who came and enjoyed the entertainment trackside.
The running of the Group 1 Keogh Homes William Reid Stakes on March 23 provided a spectacular finale, with the Darren Weir trained galloper Hellbent making amends after finishing a narrow second in the 2016 edition of the race. The win was a fitting end to his 23-start career, with the son of I Am Invincible to stand at stud at Yarraman Park.
The excitement didn’t end there on the night, with a knock-out win from Sunday Escape in the final heat of the Ladbrokes 55 Second Challenge giving hobby trainer Andrew Murray the $55,000 cheque from Ladbrokes and a brilliant performance from Spanish Reef in the Ascend Sales Trophies Sunline Stakes. It was a perfect finale to 128 races under lights which offered over $9 million in prizemoney across 16 race meetings.
Racegoers continued to embrace Australia’s premium night racing venue with 74,449 patrons walking through the turnstiles, a 5.2% increase YOY highlighted by a record attendance of 11,805 on Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes night on October 27.
Wagering and field sizes on Ladbrokes Friday Night Lights also continues to grow, with the 2017/18 season providing a 6% increase on wagering YOY and a 1.8% rise in field sizes.
For the second consecutive season the might of the Darren Weir stable rang true again as he took out the Night Racing trainer’s premiership clocking up a total of 20 winners, 10 wins clear of the Lindsay Park racing team. Amazingly, 65 individual trainers found the Winner’s Circle over the 2017/18 season.
A new star was born in the riding ranks with 19-year-old Stephanie Thornton taking out the Night Racing jockey premiership after riding at a 20% strike-rate to win 12 races, two wins clear of star hoop Craig Williams.
Two of the MVRC’s premier sprint races also featured in the Longines World Best Horse Race rankings with the Group 1 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes (1200m), won by Tony McEvoy’s Hey Doc, ranked equal 86th and the Group 1 Charter Keck Cramer Moir Stakes (1000m) coming in at equal 149th place, which was taken out by Gary Portelli’s She Will Reign.
“It is pleasing to see all our key measures trending the right way at the conclusion of a successful inaugural Ladbrokes Friday Night Lights Season,” said Michael Browell, Moonee Valley Racing Club CEO.
“Night Racing at The Valley is in a strong position and after 21 seasons continues to evolve since the club became the first metropolitan venue to launch night racing on Australia Day in 1998.
“Our aim is to continue to develop the night racing product and make sure season 22, launching in September with the Group 1 Moir Stakes, will attract new and existing racing fans to the racetrack”.
The Valley’s 2018/19 Ladbrokes Friday Night Lights Season will commence on Friday September 28 coinciding with the AFL Grand Final Eve Public Holiday and consists of 16 meetings, concluding on March 22, 2019 with the running of the Group 1 Keogh Homes William Reid Stakes.