Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series kicks off at Benalla

29 September 2023 Written by VRC

The dream of having a runner during Australia’s greatest race week, the Melbourne Cup Carnival, begins for some of Victoria’s smaller stables on Friday with the first heat of the $1.2 million Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series at Benalla.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series generates some of the best stories each year, providing an opportunity for stables to qualify for the $500,000 final at Flemington on Kennedy Oaks Day.

To be eligible for the series, horses must be with Victorian trainers who did not have more than 15 metropolitan winners during the 2022-23 season and must have been with an eligible trainer since the start of the current season on 1 August. Friday’s heat at Benalla, a Benchmark 70 handicap over 1406 metres, is the first of eight Series qualifiers, each worth $100,000.

Trainer Matthew Williams with Dean Yendall after his horse Toregene (NZ) won the Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Final at Flemington. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

Heats will also be held at Murtoa, Cranbourne, Hamilton, Horsham, Geelong, Sale and Bendigo, with the first and second placegetters in each heat automatically qualifying for the $500,000 Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series Final (1600m) to be held on Kennedy Oaks Day, Thursday 9 November.

Victoria Racing Club (VRC) Executive General Manager Racing, Leigh Jordon, said that the Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series played a significant role in the build-up to the Carnival.

“The $500,000 Final is one of the most popular races of the entire Melbourne Cup Carnival each year,” Mr Jordon said.

“It is the dream of every trainer and owner to have a runner at Flemington, let alone during the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series provides another pathway to achieving that ambition and the excitement builds with every heat as we get one step closer to Australia’s greatest week of racing.

“The series is a great celebration of country racing and we are excited to see who will win their ticket to Kennedy Oaks Day, beginning with the first heat at Benalla on Friday.”

The first heat coincides with Benalla Gold Cup Day, where the 2023 Lexus Melbourne Cup trophy trackside at the regional town’s feature race day on Friday 29 September.

The famous trophy, which has travelled far and wide both nationally and internationally in recent weeks as part of the Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour, arrives in Benalla from Hong Kong, having visited two previous Cup-winning trainers in David Hall and David Hayes earlier this week.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival begins with Penfolds Victoria Derby Day on Saturday 4 November. It will be followed by Lexus Melbourne Cup Day on Tuesday 7 November, Kennedy Oaks Day - featuring the Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series Final - on Thursday 9 November before culminating with TAB Champions Stakes Day on Saturday 11 November.



Friday 29 September


$100,000 BM70 Handicap 1406m


Saturday 7 October


$80,000 BM64 Handicap 1600m


Friday 13 October


$100,000 BM64 Handicap 1400m


Saturday 14 October


$80,000 BM70 Handicap 1600m


Sunday 22 October


$100,000 BM70 Handicap 1400m


Wednesday 25 October


$100,000 BM78 Handicap 1500m


Sunday 29 October


$100,000 BM70 Handicap 1400m


Wednesday 1 November


$100,000 BM78 Handicap 1400m


Thursday 9 November


$500,000 Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series Final

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit