BATHURST Paceway will play host to one of the new $100,000 Regional Championships Finals to replace the inaugural Million Dollar Pace, which Harness Racing NSW had to cancel due to the coronavirus.
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Racing has still been able to go ahead despite the virus but due to the recent regionalisation changes which came into affect on April 1 there is no way for trainers outside of the metropolitan zone to attend a meeting at Menangle, where the million dollar event would have been held.
As a compromise HRNSW created four separate Regional Championships to be held on the major track in each region - Bathurst (Western), Wagga (Riverina), Newcastle (Hunter) and Menangle (Metro).
It adds a Group 1 event to the Bathurst Harness Racing Club's calendar for the first time outside of the Gold Crown Carnival.
The Lagoon trainer Steve Turnbull was on board with the changes.
"It's a good solution. It's hard times we're going through. It was something to look forward to but that's just the way things are at the moment," he said.
"Even the gallopers are cutting their prizemoney down a lot. It's a shame but at least this series still gives people a hope of earning some money.
"We have a few horses we were looking at for the race but we'll still be giving it go and see what happens.
"It is a shame to lose the atmosphere you get at the track but we're pressing along and we're lucky that we're able to keep racing while this is all going on."
HRNSW chief executive John Dumesny said it was about giving trainers the chance to place their horses in a series, after having set them specifically for the now abandoned Million Dollar Pace.
"Whilst we have lost other races from the calendar because of the required regionalisation within NSW and the closing of State borders which limited opportunities for all horses these Regional Championships will deliver to our participants - owners, trainers and drivers," he said.
"The Championships dates have been held to the schedule previously set for the Million Dollar Pace so the training of horses specifically set for that race Series is not affected."
The original entry conditions for the event remain in place.
The series is still restricted to four-year-olds and above who must be both Australian-bred pacers and have had five starts in their region since February.
Each of the four regions will host two rounds of heats with a maximum of five heats per round. Prizemoney for the heats will be $9500.
Each Region will also run a $14,500 consolation event alongside of the Group 1 Finals on the same night.
Metropolitan heats will commence at Menangle on May 5; Western Districts heats at Bathurst commence on May 6; Riverina heats commence May 8 and the Hunter heats commence at Newcastle on May 9.
Bathurst will be the first track to host its final and consolation races, which are both set to take place on Wednesday, May 20.
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