Ladies and Gentlemen:
As you all have received a link to the 2019 / 20 Moonee Valley Racing Club Annual Report, I propose to take the Chairman’s Report as read.
I’d like to take this opportunity to provide an update to Members on a number of important developments over the past few months from both the Club and Industry perspective.
Last month, we celebrated the historic milestone of the 100th running of the W.S. Cox Plate – with Irish import Sir Dragonet adding his name to the illustrious Honour Roll of champions to have won ‘The Race Where Legends Are Made’.
Purchased by an Australian syndicate that includes some of our biggest owners from Coolmore, Sir Dragonet provided trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace with their first Cox Plate victory, and champion jockey Glen Boss with his fourth. Glen now sits alongside fellow Cox Plate Legends such as Brent Thomson and Hugh Bowman as a four-time Cox Plate winner.
In the year that we celebrate the 100th running of our great race, it was extremely disappointing to see the Cox Plate run in front of an empty racecourse! COVID has impacted our lives in every possible way since March, and with Melbourne experiencing a full lockdown since July, we weren’t able to welcome members and spectators to The Valley this year for our Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival.
It was a surreal atmosphere without a crowd on-course, but I’m sure that all members enjoyed the telecast of the Carnival on both Channel 7 and Racing.com. The Cox Plate telecast numbers were up 40% this year with over 650,000 people tuning in on Channel 7.
Despite COVID and the travel restrictions that are in place, we were heartened to see five international runners amongst the 15 final acceptors for this year’s Cox Plate. The Club continues to invest significant effort in building relationships with the key international racing stables, and to attract such a high calibre of international runners this year is testament to the stature of the Cox Plate.
I also congratulate Hey Doc on his second win in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes. Hey Doc won the 2017 Manikato Stakes but has since had an injury interrupted career. All credit to trainers Tony and Calvin McEvoy and jockey Luke Currie on Hey Doc’s Manikato victory.
In a year where the Club’s operations have been severely impacted, we have had to rely on two key sources of revenue – commissions from wagering turnover and sponsorship fees. One upside of the pandemic has been greater interest and awareness of racing as it was the only sport that continued through the first wave. Racing increased its audience and engagement levels grew which has resulted in higher wagering turnover over the past 7 months.
Wagering across the two days of the 2020 Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival was a record $166.3m – up $26.4m or 16%. This is a new record for wagering turnover on our Carnival.
The support from our sponsors has been fantastic throughout the pandemic, with the majority continuing to support the Club and honour all existing agreements. Pleasingly, we have recently completed a number of long-term contract extensions with a number of our valued partners, including CUB and Drummond Golf. I thank our Principal Partner Ladbrokes for their continued support of the Club and racing here at The Valley.
When the pandemic arrived in March, we moved quickly to ensure we could deliver both the Alister Clark Stakes and William Reid Stakes meetings at the end of our night racing season. Racing has continued without spectators throughout the pandemic, but we welcomed the announcement last week that owners could return to the races. This is an important first step, and we hope to be able to announce a return date for members over the coming weeks.
In light of the conditions that were implemented preventing members from attending the races, the MVRC was proactive in July in announcing that Membership renewals would be deferred until November and that the Club would extend the 2019 / 20 membership until 31 December.
The renewal notices will be sent at the end of this week for a new calendar year membership program which will commence on 1 January. The Club has a number of events, promotions and initiatives planned to welcome our members back to the track over the coming weeks.
Changes to the Race for Awards program and the bonus points applied to each membership have been communicated to members. We greatly appreciate the loyal support we receive from Club members.
Over the coming months, we look forward to the build-up to the 3rd running of the All-Star Mile here at The Valley on Saturday 13 March. This $5m feature over 1600 metres is the only race in Australia where the field is determined by popular vote. We look forward to seeing Australia’s best milers lining up at The Valley in March.
Our hospitality business has been significantly impacted as a result of COVID, with all operations effectively suspended on March 23. Thankfully, we reopened our three gaming venues last Monday and welcomed back our customers. We also hosted a number of non-raceday events at the Club last week which is encouraging as we move towards a COVID normal operating model.
We are finalising raceday hospitality arrangements based on the most current advice and restrictions in anticipation of members returning to the races in December.
Shortly, Michael will provide an update on Master Plan activity. It has been pleasing to see works commence at the Club with the commencement of construction of the first release of townhouses and the recent completion of Tote Park.
Members will be excited to see the incredible transformation of the main entrance at McPherson Street. Tote Park is a 5000m2 open park for the benefit of Club members, future Moonee Valley Park residents and the broader local community.
The Club has retained a strong connection and racing presence within Tote Park. The magnificent WINX4 statue is a beautiful feature of the park and welcomes all guests to the racecourse. Sculptor Louis Laumen has delivered a wonderful statue of Winx and jockey Hugh Bowman as the crossed the finishing line in the 2018 Cox Plate.
Manikato’s remains have been retained in Tote Park with a new brick horseshoe marking his final resting place.
We are excited with the opportunity to convert the historic tote building into a new high-quality hospitality venue that will be owned and operated by the Club.
TOTE – Bar and Dining will operate 7 days a week and will be a destination venue within the local community. I’m sure we will see many members enjoy a pre or post raceday meal or beverage in TOTE once it open mid 2021.
In closing, I thank my fellow Committee members and the staff here at the Club for their efforts in guiding the Club through a very difficult and challenging period. The Club has weathered the storm well and we are well placed as we start to come out of the pandemic.
Again, I also thank our loyal Moonee Valley members for your continued support, and I look forward to welcoming you back to the track over the coming weeks.