Update: Marong Cup meeting set to start early after all

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UPDATE: Racing Victoria is expected to today announce an 11.40am start for Saturday's Marong Cup meeting at Bendigo Racecourse.

The peak racing body's decision to move the traditional Marong Cup meeting to a 3pm start this year had caused controversy, particularly with the Catholic schools community who use the event as their major fundraiser each year.

Pleas from the community for Racing Victoria to change to an earlier starting date had been rejected.

But forecasts for a hot day on Saturday will see Racing Victoria move the meeting back to an earlier start.

The state's main racing meeting at Caulfield has already been altered to start at 11am.

Racing Victoria is expected to announce an 11.40am start for the Marong Cup meeting with the last race at 3.04pm - the former scheduled starting time for the meeting.

More to come...

EARLIER: THE MARONG Racing Club say they were given little notice to reorganise next week's Marong Cup, which has been changed to a twilight event.

The Cup has traditionally been held during the day but this year's event will run from 3pm to 6.30pm.

Marong Racing Club president Pat Sheehan said the club were only informed of the time change last week.

He said it usually started about 1pm, which was more family-friendly.

"It's a bit of a concern changing it at short notice," he said.

"We didn’t dream of it happening. It’s something the racing body want to experiment with. It would have been more practical had we known three months in advance."

Mr Sheehan said the time change had created a number of issues and difficulties with arranging volunteers.

He said the day was dedicated as a fundraiser for eight Bendigo Catholic schools.

"It has created some challenges because it’s run by a lot of volunteers and many of those are from the schools. Hopefully it’s still a successful day."

He said doors would open at midday next Saturday at the Bendigo Jockey Club and there would be children's activities, and food and drink stalls set up prior to the first race. He said volunteers would be split up throughout the day, running BBQs and other stalls.

It would have been more practical had we known three months in advance - Pat Sheehan

The decision to make the Cup a later meeting was announced by Country Racing Victoria, the body in charge of regional race meets.

Bendigo Jockey Club chief executive Ian Hart said the decision was about making the races more accessible to TV audiences.

He said more people would be able to watch SKY racing and bet on the horses if it was pushed back.

"Racing Victoria have been trialing one of the two Victorian race meetings starting at a later time. It’s purely to attract greater wagering revenue," he said.

Mr Hart said the event usually drew about 2500 to 3000 people, and he was hopeful for a similar turnout next week.

Mr Sheehan said last year's Cup raised more than $48,000 - which gave each school about $6,000.

"It's always a great event and works well for the schools," he said.

St Joseph's Catholic school principal Nic McTaggart said parents would still be volunteering during the day and would help run the school relay challenge. 

"I'm not sure how the later start will affect people," he said. "It's one of our biggest fundraisers for the year. I'm sure it will be a great day."

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