Cash injection for Keith Nolan Classic

HORSE RACING

Kembla Grange's richest race just got a lot bigger with the Illawarra Turf Club agreeing to raise prizemoney for the Keith Nolan Classic (1600m) to $200,000.

In a major boost for the three-year-old fillies feature, the $35,000 increase in the overall prize purse will elevate the Keith Nolan Classic to one of the richest Group 3 races in Australia.

A formal announcement on the stakes boost is expected today.

It comes as Racing NSW's The Championships prepares to splash more than $18 million in prizemoney across two Saturdays at Randwick in April.

The Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m), one traditional path for fillies graduating from the Keith Nolan Classic, will offer an extra $200,000 in prizemoney three weeks after Kembla's flagship race.

ITC chief executive Peter De Vries said his board thought it imperative to match the stakes on offer in that Group 3 race if the Keith Nolan Classic was to keep growing.

"We feel it's important that particular race is increased in prizemoney so it maintains its standing for horses making their way to the classic races, including the Australian Oaks," he told the Mercury.

"And because of what's happened with The Championships we really felt we needed to keep it at the same level as the Adrian Knox. They've increased $25,000 to $200,000 and we thought we couldn't be any less than that."

The race has carved a reputation for producing some of the finest fillies in Australia, particularly in recent times.

Victoria Oaks heroine Brazilian Pulse won her last race in a Keith Nolan Classic, while Appearance's win 12 months later launched a career that has already reaped three Group 1 wins.

Chris Waller's Royal Descent was a narrow second in last year's event before romping to a 10-length win in the Australian Oaks.

It's enough to convince De Vries an upgrade to Group 2 status in the future is not out of the question.

"We'll push for something like that [in the future], but we'll have to increase the prizemoney even further."

Prizemoney for the Keith Nolan support races - including the Bert Lillye Memorial Handicap ($70,000) and Kembla Grange Stayers Cup ($40,000) - will stay at their current levels.

This year's Keith Nolan Classic is on March 23.

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