RQ change Weetwood Handicap to be spring feature

The Weetwood Handicap will headline a Queensland Spring Carnival in 2020 in a major change to the racing calendar.

With the Weetwood traditionally staged in April, the $150,000 feature and Toowoomba Cup will shift to September 26 next year to coincide with the city’s Carnival of Flowers festival and serve as a key feature of a new-look calendar in the Sunshine State.

In addition to the Weetwood, a series of listed races will be conducted across South East Queensland – both before and after - ahead of the major features in the southern states.

With hundreds of thousands of people drawn to the Darling Downs for the Carnival of Flowers each year, Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell said re-scheduling the Weetwood and Toowoomba Cup to coincide with the iconic festival would pay dividends for the entire industry.

“We’ve long coveted a spring carnival of our own and in 2020 we will have one,” Mr Parnell said.

“The Darling Downs plays such a pivotal role in our racing and equine breeding activities, and with the region in full bloom during the Carnival of Flowers, running the Weetwood and Toowoomba Cup in September will ensure they are showcased as one of the highlights of our own spring carnival.

“This will allow Queensland participants to campaign at home prior to heading south, but will also provide an additional avenue for those that attend our winter racing carnival to spell and resume in SEQ that hasn’t previously existed.

“It’s a concept that we look forward to growing and expanding.”

After agreeing to the calendar change late last week, Toowoomba Turf Club Chairman Kent Woodford said the decision to shift the Darling Downs’ premier race day to September would provide the opportunity to springboard the event onto the ‘national racing landscape.’

“Next September’s Weetwood will be featured in a new-look Queensland spring carnival – including other South East Queensland clubs,” Mr Woodford said.

“The Club has held consultation with Racing Queensland, Tourism and Events Queensland and the Toowoomba Regional Council, and is delighted to lock the schedule in for the second weekend of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers event in 2020.”

TTC CEO Blair Odgers said Racing Queensland’s proposal for a spring carnival was well considered and provided additional support in the new timeslot.

“We’ve secured a transition package and additional marketing support, which will ensure the long-term growth and sustainability of the region’s pinnacle racing event,” Mr Odgers said.

“The change will also provide the opportunity to grow our Weetwood Week of activities and link them with the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, to attract more visitors over the 10 days.”

RQ will make additional announcements in relation to the 2020 spring carnival ahead of the release of the next racing calendar.