A revamped partnership between the Canberra Racing Club and the Raiders is set to provide a major tourism boost for the ACT in March as round one of the NRL coincides with Thoroughbred Park's annual two-day carnival.
Canberra's season opener against the Cronulla Sharks kicks off a massive weekend in the capital, which also includes the $200,000 Group 3 Black Opal Stakes (1200m) on Sunday, and the $200,000 Listed Canberra Cup on the public holiday Monday.
More than $1m in prizemoney will be dished out across 16 races at the eagerly anticipated two-day carnival, set to bring millions of dollars worth of tourism revenue into the ACT.
Punters will be able to purchase a $50 super sporting weekend ticket through a joint initiative between the race club and the Raiders, which will admit entry to the round-one clash against Cronulla and both days at Thoroughbred Park.
Additionally, a Calcutta will be held on Saturday night at the Canberra Yacht Club for the first time which will be hosted by racing personalities Dave Stanley and Luke Marlow.
"Tourism was always one of the key elements behind the driving force to develop our carnival, we've seen the success the Wagga region has had with the Raiders playing over their carnival," Canberra Racing Club chief Andrew Clark said.
"We see it as a positive into the future for having a Raiders game and our carnival on the one weekend, to look to attract more and more people to the capital. There's a lot of synergies between horse racing and rugby league, we'd like to further explore those additional opportunities."
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As part of the revamped partnership with the Canberra Racing Club, the Raiders will host their 40th year anniversary celebration and season launch at Thoroughbred Park in February.
The two clubs will also combine to put on a four-day corporate hospitality package across the carnival, which would offer catering at the Raiders-Sharks game, the Calcutta, and both days of the racing carnival.
Racing resumes at Thoroughbred Park on Wednesday with a bumper nine-race card including the Federal Handicap (1400m) where Queanbeyan mare Girls Are Ready looks set to start favourite after a dominant win at the track in November.
No additional COVID restrictions have been introduced ahead of the meeting, despite a recent surge in Canberra case numbers.
"It won't impact us as it stands at the moment, we'll be following all the protocols," Clark said.
"We'll be watching closely to see what happens with a view to the carnival, and what happens with events like Summernats.
"We'll be looking to learn from those as we lead into our carnival to ensure it's run in a COVID-safe environment with as many people as possible."