One of the biggest and most popular events on the Riverina social calendar is fast approaching a noteworthy milestone.
The long-running Wagga Gold Cup will celebrate 150 years as horses and jockeys battle it out for top honours this year.
The two-day carnival kicks off with the Iron Jack Wagga Town Plate over 1200 metres on Thursday, while the Raine and Horne Wagga Gold Cup over 2000m will run on Friday.
The first two past the winning post in the cup are also eligible for The Big Dance worth $2 million, to be run on November 7 at Royal Randwick.
It is the second running of the cup for Murrumbidgee Turf Club (MTC) CEO Jason Ferrario at the helm.
Mr Ferrario has, however, enjoyed the renowned atmosphere of the "cup that stops a region" for many years.
Three decades before taking on the top job, he worked as a bookmaker's clerk at many Wagga Gold Cup race days.
Mr Ferrario said prizemoney, the listed status, and the race's prestige bring city trainers and jockeys to the Riverina.
"For the city-based trainers who visit, we've got two listed races two days in a row," he said.
"The prizemoney on offer, which is $200,000 for both the Town Plate and the Gold Cup, is obviously an attraction, along with the prestige of winning both the Town Plate and the Gold Cup, especially the cup - it attracts very strong fields each year.
"Not forgetting that we always have a good mix of local horses, trainers and jockeys who make the carnival what it is."
"There's no doubt the Town Plate is getting better every year as well."
The Murrumbidgee Turf Club was formed in 1849 and staged the first Wagga Gold Cup in 1873.
The inaugural race was won by Mountaineer, ridden by the jockey known only as J. Layton.
In February, a statue of a horse and rider was unveiled in front of the MTC to celebrate the 15-year milestone, by club president Geoff Harrison and Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack.
Aleas won last year's cup from Chris Waller's Warwick Farm stable and was ridden by jockey Chad Schofield in front of a 10,000-strong crowd of racegoers.
Mr Ferrario is expecting the same bumper crowd once again this year.
"Where Wagga Wagga is situated between Sydney and Melbourne makes it an attractive destination. If you are driving, it is only five hours from either place," Mr Ferrario said.
"There is plenty to do in Wagga Wagga - people realise they can come here and have a great time. There are plenty of pubs, clubs and restaurants they can go to after the races.
"The atmosphere of the Wagga Gold Cup is due to many factors - it's to do with the 33 marquees we have on the lawns, the quality of the horses, trainers and jockeys.
"For some race meetings, we might have 200 people here, but when you start talking about the town plate, it is 4000 and 10,000 on cup day."
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