THOROUGHBRED racing will return to the Yarra Valley Racing Club next month, more than two years after the picturesque track was forced to shut down to undergo urgent repairs.
The club had been aiming for a return in December. It has now announced its first two race dates: the first on February 17 before the renowned Yarra Valley Cup meet on March 17.
During the closure, the club missed upwards of 18 meetings, which would have generated more than $1 million in on-course revenue.
Its last race day had been on December 30, 2010.
The impact of the forced closure could not be measured purely in monetary terms, Yarra Valley Racing Club chief executive Brett Shambrook said.
"We were race club of the year three years in a row and had a fantastic reputation with punters, trainers and horse people," Shambrook said.
"Our race meetings attract in excess of 45,000 people a year to the area, which benefits other industry with accommodation and the wineries and business."
Bob Curtis, who owns Yileena Park Winery and is a past president of the Yarra Glen Chamber of Commerce, said the main benefit of the return of thoroughbred racing was creating awareness of what the area had to offer. "It's very good for the local town and it brings people to the valley," he said.
The track hosted a trial last Monday-week with several prominent Victorian and interstate trainers sending horses and giving the green light to the facilities, which have been upgraded to the tune of $4.1 million.
The club has spent more than $2.6 million on track works, with the entire track rebuilt and the drainage upgraded.
Shambrook said the club was yet to secure a naming rights sponsor for the $100,000 Yarra Valley Cup.