By David Nagel
A new ‘Super Club’ in Melbourne’s south-east is set to become a powerhouse of Victorian racing after the Cranbourne Turf Club (CTC) and Pakenham Racing Club (PRC) reached an in-principal agreement to merge.
The merger – supported by Racing Victoria (RV) and Country Racing Victoria (CRV) – will take place subject to a members’ vote and regulatory approvals.
The coming together of two of the most progressive race clubs in Victoria would affirm the region’s standing as a focal point for thoroughbred training and racing in Australia.
The CTC and PRC committees believe that the merger would further strengthen racing in the region and create significant additional benefits for members, participants, racegoers, commercial partners and local communities.
The completion of the merger is subject to a vote by both CTC and PRC members that is expected to occur in late 2023, early 2024.
CTC CEO Neil Bainbridge said the potential of the merger was enormous.
“The Cranbourne committee and Pakenham committee have agreed to explore a merger between the two clubs, which is very exciting, and the intent is to create a ‘Super Club’ in South East Melbourne,” Bainbridge explained.
“It’s a club that will race 61 times a year; train 1500 horses on a daily basis; run four further venues and employ more than 500 people in the Casey-Cardinia region.
“It has the potential to be an exciting and powerful entity.
“Both clubs have agreed to go to their members, because there needs to be a vote of the members to approve the merger…in accordance with the constitutions of each club.
“Each club has written to its members to provide an update, and there will be ongoing updates to the members about the benefits associated with the merger.
“Both clubs are obviously recommending that this is a great opportunity for racing in the south east; a great opportunity for our members, for our participants in the training ranks, to come together and do something exciting that will deliver significant benefits for the region.
“This new club will be a powerful force in racing in Victoria.”
Information regarding the vote will be shared by each Club with its members over the coming weeks.
If the merger proceeds, the new Super Club will engage directly with RV (in place of CRV) into the future on matters such as funding, operations and programming.
The direct working relationship with RV has been tabled as one of several agreed benefits that would provide significant racing and financial benefit for the new Super Club.
A name for the new Super Club is yet to be determined by the CTC and PRC committees and will be the subject of further consultation.
From an organisational stand-point, the ‘Super Club’ would have one board that will run racing throughout the area; with one CEO and an executive team under that.
“Given the vast nature of what we do, I only see opportunity for staff and I think this will be an organisation that will continue to grow,” Bainbridge said.
“I think there is significant job security for all staff across both clubs, who do a wonderful job across all areas.
“We have a unique opportunity to combine the strengths of both Clubs to promote racing in the south-east, leverage collective assets, and achieve improved commercial outcomes.
“Together we can deliver a more effective and efficient operating model through sharing expertise and equipment between the Clubs’ facilities, which can only benefit racing in the region and Victoria more broadly.
“We encourage all our members to support the merger between Cranbourne and Pakenham and look forward to engaging with them, local trainers and our commercial partners in the weeks ahead on this exciting opportunity.”
PRC Chief Executive, Blair Odgers, agreed it was an exciting time for racing in the south-east corridor of Melbourne.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved in racing in the south-east with Pakenham and Cranbourne both having undertaken significant developments over the past decade,” Odgers said.
“We both operate first class racing and training centres, 40km apart, in a rapid growth area and we have the opportunity to become a powerful combination in Victorian and Australian racing.
“The creation of a Super Club means that memberships can be spread across both tracks and over 60 race meetings annually, while creating opportunities to share training facilities.
“We’ll be writing to our members in the coming weeks and encouraging them to support our shared vision of creating a Super Club in Melbourne’s south-east.”
RV Chief Executive, Andrew Jones, said both clubs should be congratulated on their shared vision.
“RV applauds Cranbourne Turf Club and Pakenham Racing Club for pursuing this merger,” Jones said.
“We fully support their vision for a racing and training powerhouse in Melbourne’s south-east.
“The combination of these two great Clubs will deliver increased benefits for members, participants and the industry and is a brilliant economic decision.
“Racing Victoria commends the merger and we hope Club members do likewise.”
CRV Chief Executive, Scott Whiteman, said the merger would support an already booming local community.
“CRV supports this merger because it’s in the best interests of the Clubs, their members, their local trainers and Victorian racing as a whole,” Whiteman said.
“The south-east corridor has experienced huge population growth and these Clubs are very much a part of Greater Melbourne these days.
“We’re proud of the incredible progress each Club has made over the past decade and know that together they can capitalise on a bright future for racing in Melbourne’s south-east.”