Awards won on the trot ahead of KI Cup

FUN TIMES: Toni Kempster and her crew at the 2020 SeaLink Kangaroo Island Cup Carnival, which broke records for attendance. Photo: Stan Gorton
FUN TIMES: Toni Kempster and her crew at the 2020 SeaLink Kangaroo Island Cup Carnival, which broke records for attendance. Photo: Stan Gorton

Coming off the back of two awards and a record smashing 2020 KI Cup, this year's premier horse racing event on the island is shaping up to take COVID-19 restrictions in its stride.

SeaLink Kangaroo Island Racing Carnival organisers have been working since October last year to ensure that the event could go ahead and still comply with strict COVID-Safe conditions.

Bouyed by recently receiving the Kangaroo Island Council's award for Event of the Year and Thoroughbred Racing SA's Most Outstanding Achievement Award by a Club Award, the Kangaroo Island Racing Club was determined to continue to improve the race-day experience.

Kangaroo Island Racing secretary Greg Miller said it had been a long haul leading up to the event, which kicks off on Thursday February 18.

"We're at the pointy end now," he said.

The restrictions have meant that the committee had to halve the number of marquees and reduce admissions to about 2500 people, but Mr Miller said the team had tried to look at the bright side.

"We have been able to look at how we manage everything in the current circumstances," he said.

"It has just been an exercise in almost going back to basics and then working from the ground up and asking, 'how can we do this better?'

"Everything that we have done we have looked at to see how we can improve it or make it easier for both he punters and the staff."

One exciting new addition to the carnival will be a Garden Area where Kangaroo Island Spirits will be serving cocktails alongside local and Adelaide-based wineries and breweries.

Fashions On The Field will be making a welcome return with a collection of fantastic prizes up for grabs in both the men's and women's competitions.

Another change this year has been the mandatory pre-ordering of tickets online, designed to reduce lengthy queues on race day.

Online ticket sales have revealed that 34 per cent of tickets went to people on the island while 57 per cent were sold to those from mainland SA and the remaining 9 per cent were interstate visitors.

Mr Miller said this split was exactly what they had been hoping to achieve all along.

"We want to make it an event for locals but we also want the island to benefit from having people visit us as well," he said.

Despite COVID-19's travel limitations, Mr Miller told The Islander that they had received the highest ever number of horse nominations - partly thanks to the committee's decision to double the jockey and trainer challenge prize money.

"We are seeing a lot of trainers who haven't been over here for a long time starting to come back and bring horses across," he said.