ENGLAND cricket legend Ian Botham will help launch the third annual greyhound racing Gippsland Carnival.
Botham will attend the carnival tonight in Warragul, along with AFL games record holder and Victorian greyhound racing ambassador Brent Harvey and race caller James Van de Maat.
The Gippsland Carnival is Australia’s biggest regional racing series and consists of four country cups.
The carnival begins on Boxing Day, December 26, with the running of the Sale Cup.
The action continues with the Warragul Cup on January 12, Traralgon Cup on Australia Day, January 26, and the Cranbourne Cup on February 9.
The series spans seven weeks and aims to increase competition and interest in the sport of greyhound racing in Gippsland.
Greyhound Racing Victoria chief executive Alan Clayton said the Gippsland Carnival had quickly become a staple of Australian greyhound racing.
“Gippsland has long been a traditionally strong greyhound racing area and this carnival has seen the sport go to a new level in Victoria’s east,” he said.
“In just three short years, the Gippsland Carnival has grown to be a prominent event on the Gippsland sporting calendar and we are thrilled to have it back once again.”
Last year’s overall winner, Monster Fish, took home $14,000 in prize money by earning 66 points in six races throughout the Gippsland Carnival; this included two first place and three second place finishes.
The first leg of the carnival on Boxing Day incorporates the 650 metre Sale Cup and the Gippsland Carnival Launch (440m). The $75,000 to-the-winner cup will bring out an excellent field for the distance race.
This could include one of the best racing greyhounds in the country with superstar stayer Rippin’ Sam on target to return from injury in time for the Gippsland Carnival’s headline event.
Rippin’ Sam hasn’t raced since September, but the group one winner returned to training in late November, and trainer Robert Britton was optimistic he would make a timely comeback for the Sale Cup.
The Sale Cup promises to be a big event with local politicians, leaders and sports stars expected to attend on Boxing Day.
Star Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn will be cheering on the dogs trackside at the Trackside Party Paddock. He will also be spinning the wheel for one lucky person to win $10,000 or a car.
The following cups in Warragul, Traralgon and Cranbourne also have lucrative $47,000 purses, and Collingwood champion and 2011 Brownlow medallist Dane Swan will be at the three sprint events.
All four of the Gippsland Carnival cups have free admission and family entertainment.