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submitted by Sydney Morning Herald on 20.04.2014

Racing NSW boss Peter V'landys praises 'visionary' Barry O'Farrell

Sydney Morning Herald, April 16, 2014

Chris Roots

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys is confident the $10 million funding for The Championships is secure, despite losing its biggest supporter when Premier Barry O’Farrell resigned on Wednesday.

The first day of the rich, government-backed, meeting last Saturday attracted almost 25,000 patrons in dreadful conditions and expectations are the crowd will be closer to 30,000 this Saturday.

V'landys worked closely with the former premier to secure funding for a flagship event for racing.

"Sydney needed a racing event and Barry O'Farrell helped make that happen," V'landys said. "He wanted to make the event like we have and was a visionary.

"He was a strong supporter of racing and without him, The Championships would still be only an idea. He had vision and courage to put events on in Sydney, including The Championships, that are world class.

"The Championships have been an extraordinary success, and there is no doubt, whoever takes over will see what an event we have established in a short period of time and appreciate it."

The Championships only had a one-year deal on $10 million funding from the government and needed to hit performance targets for continued support. The signs are good with the crowd and betting turnover up for the first day, and better conditions are expected for Saturday.

Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club are confident the event will grow with the chance to promote it around the world for the next year. The club was able to attract international runners Hana's Goal and Gordon Lord Byron this year, but there is strong belief that those numbers will grow.

"I believe, on four months notice, to have the resounding success that we have now is a credit to all involved,'' V'landys said. ''Even the harshest nark would find it hard to argue that this event shouldn't be here to stay.

"It has proved an economic driver for NSW and is a world-class racing meeting that can only get better.

"We will sit down at the completion of this Saturday's meeting and do a full review with the government and hopefully we can get assurance that we have the funding in place for the next year.

"We have shown what we can do in four short months and given a chance to promote it through the year, it can only go from strength to strength."

ATC commercial and sales executive general manager Tony Partridge said the good weather should help Saturday's crowd after slower ticket sales than the first day.

"We have sold most of the corporate areas but the ticket sales as a whole are a couple of thousands behind where they were last week," Partridge said.

"It is a tough weekend to sell, being Easter and the fact a lot of people are leaving Sydney but, given good weather, we are expecting the walk-up crowd to be a lot better."

The Championships' targets were for total crowds of between 50,000-60,000, which was a 40 per cent increase on 2013; a 10 per cent rise in wagering, a mark was easily met on the first day; and to have tourist impact for Sydney, which will only be measured after the two meetings.

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