7 March 2023

Saddle up for five days of festivities as Canberra Racing Carnival marks milestone

| Morgan Kenyon
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four people standing at Thoroughbred Park racecourse

A highlight of the national capital’s sporting and social calendar, the Canberra Racing Carnival, is on this week . Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

A must-attend on Canberra’s racing calendar since its opening in 2020, the Canberra Racing Carnival has rolled around again.

This year the Canberra Racing Club will hold an event a day from 9 to 13 March in celebration of the 50th anniversary of its signature Black Opal Stakes race.

The festivities kick off on Thursday, 9 March, from noon with the carnival’s barrier draw in the city centre next to the Canberra Carousel. Barrier numbers will be drawn for horses running in the John McGrath Auto Group Black Opal Stakes and TAB Canberra Cup.

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Next up, on Saturday, 11 March, is the Canberra Cup Calcutta. Held in conjunction with a special two-course dinner at the Canberra Southern Cross Club, Woden, the calcutta will set the tone for two massive days of the racing carnival. This event will be hosted by broadcaster Dave Stanley and race caller Luke Marlow.

The starting prize pool is a guaranteed $20,000, with tickets available for $5 from Thoroughbred Park and through reception at all Canberra Southern Cross Club venues.

Sunday, 12 March, is day one of the carnival and Canberra’s biggest racing event of the year – the John McGrath Auto Group Black Opal Stakes Race Day.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Thoroughbred Park’s signature race, and CEO Darren Pearce says his first carnival day at the helm will be one to remember.

Darren Pearce

Canberra Racing Club CEO Darren Pearce. Photo: Liv Cameron.

“Our 2023 carnival focuses on the 50th birthday of the Black Opal Stakes race. This historic event has attracted interest across Australia from trainers, racers, administrations, and fans alike,” he says.

“Lots of groups are also attending; there’s going to be a real party atmosphere on course.”

To mark the 50th anniversary, local distillery Underground Spirits has created a Black Opal Play in Colour gin.

“There was much excitement about the Black Opal gin at our Black Opal Stakes cocktail party on 2 March and we are very pleased with its reception so far. We are looking forward to offering it to thousands of people on race day,” Darren says.

Thoroughbred Park opens to patrons on Sunday, 12 March, at 11:30 am, with runners taking off for the Group 3 John McGrath Auto Group Black Opal Stakes around 1 pm.

Wrapping up the carnival for 2023, on Monday, 13 March, is the family-friendly Canberra Cup Race Day.

Gates open at 11:30 am, allowing plenty of time for fun before watching the Canberra Cup at 5.16pm.

Fashions on the Field will be a feature event on course on both race days. Host Kristen Davidson is keen to showcase Canberra’s finest outfits.

Claudia Roughley

Undergound Spirits CEO Claudia Roughley presenting the Black Opal Play in Colour gin. Photo: Liv Cameron.

“Fashions on the Field is an opportunity for Canberrans and visitors to get together, strut their stuff and have some fun,” Kristen says.

“Fashion is quintessential to a race day and we’ll be looking for the best-dressed adults at the Black Opal Stakes and the best-dressed kids at the Canberra Cup.”

Thoroughbred Park is also hosting the Hartley Hall Markets, donating $1 from every event ticket sold in support of Hartley Lifecare.

“This is the first time we have partnered with Hartley Hall Markets,” Darren says.

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“We think it is a perfect partnership for the family atmosphere of the Canberra Cup.

“Grease Monkey, Spit Shack, Grazing at Gundaroo and other local favourites will be ready to sate everyone’s appetites, along with more stallholders and a huge kids’ activities area to really bring the day to life.

“The Canberra Racing Carnival is about recognising the history of our club and those who have raced with us, fostering a really strong connection with our local community, and celebrating the spirit of Canberra.”

The carnival events run from 9 to 13 March.

To secure tickets or learn more about upcoming events, visit Thoroughbred Park.

For tickets to the Canberra Cup Calcutta, visit Canberra Southern Cross Club.


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