There will be $1m in prize money available on TAB Melbourne Cup night in November and for defending Cup winner Aston Dee Bee and his trainer Seona Thompson, preparations to defend his crown are already underway.
As part of a suite of changes announced to its TAB Melbourne Cup night programme, the Sandown Greyhound Racing Club has introduced three new races and increased the prize money in seven others to create greyhound racing’s first ever million dollar night. The club’s flagship event – the TAB Melbourne Cup – is among the races receiving increased funding and will carry a record $630,000 in prize money, consolidating its position as the world’s richest greyhound race.
For Thompson, winning the 2017 TAB Melbourne Cup with Aston Dee Bee was a dream come true and is already turning her sights on the 2018 edition.
“I think it’s the pinnacle,” she said.
“To be perfectly honest I don’t think it’s really hit me until now. I was actually just thinking about it a couple of days ago, I was driving to the Meadows on Saturday night and it just came into my head, like ‘I won a Melbourne Cup, I’m a Melbourne Cup winning trainer!’
“It’s something that I’ll never definitely never forget. It’s the race that everyone dreams of winning. If you ask any trainer, that’s the one they want to win.”
The joy of winning a TAB Melbourne Cup is an experience shared between trainer and owner and their family and friends, and she believes that increasing returns to participants in the sport is vital to attract new owners to the sport.
“We’re very fortunate that we have some very good owners. They’re business people and greyhound racing is their hobby, their love.
“For them, winning the Cup is life changing, and much of the money they win goes back into the dogs. It’s the same for trainers – their share of prize money gets put back into their facilities to make things better for the dogs. It’s fantastic to see prize money continue to rise and give a greater incentive for more people to get involved in the sport.”
One of the new events on TAB Melbourne Cup night is the $35,500 Provincial Plate. A total of eight heats will be run in the series – two each at Cranbourne, Traralgon, Bendigo and Geelong – with the winner of each progressing to the final. The series is restricted to Victorian bred greyhounds with no city wins and will give more owners and trainers an opportunity to be involved in greyhound racing’s biggest night of the year.
“We all love new races to get involved with, especially if it involves young dogs. There’s always good young dogs coming through and if they can make their way to Sandown on Melbourne Cup night – it’s where everyone wants to be in November.
“Any opportunity for more people to be a part of Cup night is a good thing.”
As for her own Cup ambitions, Thompson has already begun planning her Cups campaigns and is hoping Aston Dee Bee will there to defend his crown.
“You start to look at the nice dogs in the kennel now, but preparations really start to wind up about 8 to 10 weeks our from the heats. Aston Dee Bee has had a few little niggly problems but he is close to being back to his best so hopefully he’s still going well later in the year and we can be part of the Cup again with him.”
In all, there will be eight feature finals on TAB Melbourne Cup night, and all races will carry a minimum of $10,000.
The TAB Melbourne Cup will be run on Friday 23 November.
Paw note: In November 2017, Greyhound Racing Victoria announced a $4m annual increase in prize money. There will be over $47m in prize money available in Victoria in the 2018/19 season.