Home » Leading players warn of potential Saturday night racing toll

Leading players warn of potential Saturday night racing toll

Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Sam Freedman has railed against a push for Saturday night racing as dangerous and unnecessary.

It comes as Southside Racing — Cranbourne and Pakenham — has reportedly sought Racing Victoria’s approval to host four Saturday night meetings in late December and January to trial the timeslot.

Thursday and Friday night meetings scheduled at Pakenham and Cranbourne would be pushed back 24 hours to accommodate the trial.

If successful, it could lead to Saturday triple headers with the existing country and city meetings during the day and a new night session.

RV last trialled Saturday night meetings in late 2019.

Freedman urged administrators to consider the burden on Victorian stable staff and jockeys already under strain.

“I don’t think you’re going to get Mark Zahra to Cranbourne after Flemington, but you will get the jockeys that are hungry and want to do it and they ride there and there,” Freedman said.

“All it is going to take is a car accident or a fatigue injury or a fall, they’re (jockeys) in a better position to judge, but it’s going to take something to happen for people to go ‘OK we’re doing this too much’.”

Emerging and fringe jockeys would be most enticed to ride day and night to make ends meet.

Freedman conceded stables would be forced to target the races, as an obligation to racehorse owners who pay the bills.

“You’ve got to look after your staff,” Freedman said.

“To be asking staff to go to Cranbourne to strap horses on a Saturday night … feels wrong and feels like we’ll be robbing them of time off, time with their family.”

Mark Zahra after winning the Australian Oaks on Autumn Angel.

Freedman also questioned the punters’ appetite for Saturday night Victorian horse racing.

Queensland is the only jurisdiction to regularly host Saturday night horse racing, at Toowoomba, around a smorgasbord of Australian greyhound and harness races.

“I haven’t seen punters say give us a Saturday night meeting, I think they’re more than happy with the Saturday premier meeting, and I think that’s successful,” Freedman said.

“Friday nights at The Valley work well, Thursday nights, I’ve got to be honest, if we’re in the last race there’s a chance I’d be asleep … you got to look after your own preparation (for the next day) and mental health.

“It ends up like a greyhound race, people wait for the next one, wait for the next one.”

Zahra, a 29-time Group 1-winner including the past two Melbourne Cups and last Saturday’s Australian Oaks, echoed Freedman.

“It’s OK for me, I’ll never go to that (Saturday night) meeting but for the jockeys that have to go it becomes a fair old workload for the week,” Zahra said.

“It’s all right for the top jockeys, we get to pick and choose, but some of them don’t get to pick and they have to do it, and they also have to go in the morning (track work) to keep the ride.

“You got to burn the candle at both ends, it’s becoming a bit much I reckon.”

Southside Racing F&M BM64 Handicap

Stellar Mofeed ridden by Beau Mertens wins at Cranbourne.

Rising star and Group 1-winner Beau Mertens admitted he could not be as selective as the established top class jockeys.

“You can say ‘you choose to go there or not’, but at the end of the day I ride for trainers that will be going there,” Mertens said.

“It’s going to have to be an option, after riding in town on a Saturday.”

Mertens has to ride work, jumpouts, track work and races weekly to maintain links with trainers, owners and horses.

But Cranbourne trainer Michael Kent said a Saturday night trial was “worth a go”.

“I prefer Saturday night to Friday night,” Kent said.

“The one thing about Saturday night is you don’t have to be at trackwork in the morning.

“From a trainers’ and staff perspective, if you were going to have a race meeting off it would be Sundays.”

The latest Saturday night trial proposal is subject to RV board approval.