Tasmania's two biggest harness races have been given a stakes boost that qualifies them for group 1 listings in 2022.
The Tasmania Cup in Hobart and Easter Cup at Mowbray will both jump from $75,000 to $100,000 which is the current minimum for a group 1 race.
However their rise in status looks like being short-lived.
Harness Racing Australia has announced that from 2023 only races worth at least $150,000 will be eligible for group 1 billing.
Nonetheless, it's a step in the right direction to restore the prestige of two races once considered among the best in the country.
The higher stakes have been made possible by the 4.3 per cent increase in the code funding allocation announced in late November.
Other harness features to benefit will be the Hobart Pacing Cup ($25,000 to $40,000), Devonport Cup ($30,000 to $40,000), George Johnson ($20,000 to $30,000), Tasmanian Oaks ($30,000 to $40,000) and Tasmanian Derby ($30,000 to $40,000).
The biggest beneficiaries in the thoroughbred code will be the Tasmanian Stakes, Tasmanian Guineas, Thomas Lyons and Mowbray Stakes which will all rise from $100,000 to $125,000.
The higher funding will also allow for stakes increases for all normal thoroughbred, harness and greyhound races, with details available on the Tasracing web site.
The Tasmanian Racing Appeal Board faces a busy time in the New Year, with seven cases still awaiting hearing dates.
The highest profile is Scott Brunton's appeal against a three-month suspension and $3000 fine for an arsenic offence.
The other cases involve thoroughbred participants Lane O'Shannessey, Ismail Toker and Bulent Muhcu, harness participant Barrie Rattray and greyhound participants Adam Whitford and Gary Greig.
Whitford's appeal is against a four-month disqualification resulting from the positive swab returned by Tasmanian Sprint Championship winner Trying Again.
The greyhound tested positive to caffeine after winning his championship heat and, as that made him ineligible for the rest of the series, stewards also stripped him of his win in the final and the $7000 first prizemoney.
Leading jockeys Siggy Carr and Anthony Darmanin will miss Wednesday's Elwick meeting through suspension.
Both fell foul of the stewards in the same race at Mowbray a fortnight ago in separate incidents involving the same horse.
Carr was found to have allowed Gee Gee True Story to cause interference to Red Letter Lady at the 400m mark of the Benchmark 76.
She was suspended for one meeting and allowed to defer the penalty for one week.
Darmanin was found to have allowed Miss Charlie Brown to cause interference to Red Letter Lady at the 100m mark and suspended for two meetings.
He also deferred his penalty for a week and will miss Elwick and Longford on Saturday.
The only two 'youngsters' in the field head the market on the $30,000 Winzenburg Quality at Elwick on Wednesday.
The Scott Brunton-trained First Accused opened outright favourite at $3.20 with Bet365 before easing to $3.40 while the Imogen Miller-trained Algernon has joined him at the top of the market after firming from $3.80.
Both are promising four-year-olds coming against a field of older horses that includes two nine-year-olds, an eight-year-old, seven-year-old and two six-year-olds.
First Accused is coming off a close third to Deroche and I'm Wesley in the Newmarket when he finished strongly from midfield with an inside run.
Algernon has been freshened since a fourth to And Beyond in the Goodwood Handicap on November 14 when he sat behind the leaders and battled on fairly.
First Accused also ran in the Goodwood, coming from well behind Algernon to beat him home by a length, and looks the one to beat on that form line.
Ben Yole's quest for the Australian trainers' premiership will be the focus of interest at the Carrick twilight harness meeting on Friday.
He has prepared 228 winners this season - two more than Queensland's premier trainer Grant Dixon who has won the national title eight times.
Yole has 32 acceptors at the season finale at Carrick, including six emergencies.
Dixon has runners in two races at Redcliffe on Thursday and is expected to be well represented at Albion Park on Friday.
The Carrick meeting, with nine races between 3.02pm and 7.35pm, is a great pipe-opener for a weekend of racing at the country venues.
Two of the best-attended meetings of the year will be held on Saturday, featuring the Longford Cup and St Marys Pacing Cup.
Six races have been programmed for Longford but one will be divided making it a seven-event program starting at 1.18pm with the last race at 5.08pm.
Entries for the $25,000 Longford Cup are headed by last year's winner Glass Warrior, although trainer John Blacker has indicated she is unlikely to run.
If she doesn't, the home-track trainer could still have a strong hand with Swoop Dog, Super Swoop and Argyle Beach also among the 17 nominations.
Fields for St Marys, a non-TAB meeting, won't be available until 5pm Wednesday. Seven races are programmed including the $14,000 cup.
As with all meetings, COVID rules will apply so those planning to attend should familiarise themselves with the requirements.
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