Planning is underway for a new high-stakes, marquee race in Australia that would make it the richest harness race in the world.
With a working name of The Pinnacle, the race will follow a buy-in format with a purse topping $2 million.
Inspired by the outstanding success of Australian Thoroughbred racing's $15 million Everest, the concept of a Down Under harness version of the slot race was recently proposed by Harness Racing Australia (HRA) as part of the organization's stimulus plans to support the long term health of the industry.
The $2 million Pinnacle will be restricted to 10 Australian-born three and four-year-olds over a middle distance with plans to be held in late March or early April each year. The buy-in format means owners or syndicates will purchase slot licenses priced at $100,000 each for the 10 starting spots behind the gate. The purse would include additional funding from other industry sources.
"A new major event, a pot of gold, if you like," said Andrew Kelly, HRA Chief Executive, of the proposed race in an interview with Harness.org.au Insider. "Something that the industry has certainly been asking for. A major event with cut through across all racing codes but also the entire world as it would become the richest harness racing event in the world. Two-million dollars is an ambitious target. It's something that the HRA executives are really keen to see get off the ground. And from that perspective, it's important to note that there will be contributors to this from right across the industry. Two-million dollars is the prize money tag, but to do this right, we need to be able to market it right, we need to promote it right, we need free-to-air television, we need all the bells and whistles to be right in place from the word 'go' to make this the event that the industry deserves."
HRA will retain the naming rights sponsor properties, with racing clubs encouraged to bid for the hosting rights, which will be granted for three-year terms.
The purse would be comprised of a $1 million investment under the HRA's Advance Australia Prizemoney Strategy -- matching slot license holders on a $1 for $1 basis, plus bonuses. Ten three-year slot licenses would be purchased by suitably reputable people or syndicates for $300,000 each ($100,000 per slot per year). Slot licensees can enter their own horses or make their own arrangements with eligible owners to start a horse in their slot.
The prize money breakdown would be as follows: $1 million for first-place, $400,000 for second, $200,000 for third, $100,000 for fourth, $45,000 for fifth through 10th, and a $30,000 welfare contribution. A total of $100,000 in additional bonuses would be awarded as follows: $50,000 for the first colt past the post, $25,000 for the fastest last mile of the race (each horse clocked), and $25,000 for the fastest first quarter.
"This is about creating something new," said Kelly in regards to creating a slot race rather than putting funds towards other established events like the Inter Dominion. "This is about a 'line in the sand' moment for the industry to create something from scratch. The Inter Dominion is a pinnacle event, there's no doubt about it. It's a brand that is renowned around the world and is already run for a decent sum of prize money. That won't leave us, we're welded onto the tradition of the Inter Dominion in terms of that brand and making it to be the best race and series that it can be every given year. But this is a new opportunity, a new leaf. This will be an event that will [attract] new people to our sport. This will bring syndications on the back of it. That's something that a slot race provides that nothing else can. And, while yes, in some people's eyes, this might seem like an elite event and there will only be a select number of people that have the wherewithal to buy a slot, they're only buying a slot. Where the money ends up and where the money flows to from a breeding perspective, an owner's perspective, a trainer and driver perspective, is at the negotiation table with those slot holders. So, this is bigger than 10 people at the end of the day. This will reverberate right down and across the industry."
The earliest possible date the race could launch at this time would be 2024, according to Kelly.