FLEMINGTON CARNIVAL PREVIEW
The pinnacle of the Australian Racing Calendar is the four days of the Flemington Carnival. The world class event not only features the finest thoroughbreds but the best in entertainment, fashion and culinary delights that showcases the finest Melbourne can offer.
Day 1 of the Flemington Carnival is arguably the best days racing in Australia with a number of Group 1’s that feature out greatest thoroughbreds. The feature race is the Victoria Derby for the three-year-olds but capacity fields and quality racehorses ensure the day is littered with the best the turf can offer.
Day 2 is the “Race that stops the Nation”, the first Tuesday in November when they run the Melbourne Cup. Since its inception in 1961 the race has become iconic whether you are interested in the sport or not the race captures the imagination of young and old and will always be the country’s greatest horse race.
Day 3 is “Ladies Day” with the three-year-old fillies featured in the Oaks Stakes. The Thursday is not deemed a working holiday in Victoria but ladies make sure it is a day not to be missed and put on their finery in what has become a day of high fashion.
Day 4 is the final day of the Carnival and become known as “Family Day” but it is no less full of quality horses with the Weight-for-Age Champion Stakes being contested with many horses going on from the Cox Plate.
The $2,000,000 Victoria Derby is Group 1 set weights for the three-year-olds over 2500m at Flemington racecourse run on the first Saturday of the Flemington Spring Carnival.
Derby Day is full of Group races and features three Group 1 races on the day, The Derby, Coolmore Stud Stakes and Empire Rose Stakes.
The Derby showcases the best three-year-old stayers as they compete over the grueling 2500m many of them stepping out to this distance for the first time in their brief careers.
The first Victoria Derby was run on Wednesday November 7th, 1855 when the Hector Simson’s bay filly Rose of May proved victorious in 2:59.00 with rider Holmes doing the steering.
In 1869 the Derby was moved to New Years Day to coincide with the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh and was won by John Taits bay colt Fireworks.
When the race returned to its regular spot in the Spring of the same year Fireworks returned and he was triumphant again holding a unique position as a dual Derby winner.
Eighteen Derby winners have gone on to win the Melbourne Cup the last being Skipton in 1941.
Three horses have won the Derby on debut while in recent times three maidens Fire Oak (1990), Redding (1992) and Preferment (2014) have won their first races in a Victoria Derby.
Who can forget the 2020 Derby when it produced arguably the greatest story of the racing season when Dennis Pagan the former AFL premiership coach with the North Melbourne Kangaroos trained his first Group 1 winner with Johnny Get Angry with the apprentice rider Lachie King steering him to victory.
Lachie King emulating his father Steven King who won the Derby on Star Of The Realm back in 1991.
Last season saw the well supported Hitotsu demolish a class field beating Alegron by over a length.
MELBOURNE CUP DAY
There is no comparison to any raceday throughout Australia when it comes to Melbourne Cup Day. Since Archer triumphed in 1861 to win the first Melbourne Cup this race has “stopped the nation”.
The 2022 Melbourne Cup will be worth $7,750,000 over the 3200m at Royal Flemington on the first Tuesday in November.
The first Melbourne Cup was run on a Thursday 7th November 1861 with prizemoney of 710 sovereigns to the winner. A crowd of 4000 witnessed the running of the first Cup with 17 starters facing the starter for the two mile trip. Etienne de Mestre was one of Sydneys most distinguished Owner/Trainer of his time and he bought to Melbourne a 5yo Bay Horse named Archer and with him the leading Sydney rider of his time John Cutts. After being stabled at the site of the Botanical Hotel in South Yarra he went into the Melbourne Cup at nice odds of 6/1 and was dominant throughout winning by 6 lengths. The same team returned the following year as 2/1 favourite and again was victorious.
The Melbourne Cup moved to what would become its traditional date of the first Tuesday in November in 1875 when Wollomai was successful. The only time the race has moved from that date is three years during World War II (1942,43,44) when the race was run on a Saturday.
There has been five multiple winners of the Melbourne Cup starting with Archer (1861-62) followed by Peter Pan (1932, 1934), Rain Lover (1968-69), Think Big (1974-75) before the mighty mare Makybe Diva became the first horse to win three Melbourne Cups (2003-04-05).
Bart Cummings became known as the “Cups King” and holds the record with 12 Melbourne Cup wins (including training the quinella 5 times). Of the modern day trainers Lee Freedman is the most successful with 5 winners.
Damien Oliver and Glen Boss are the most successful modern day riders with 3 wins a piece. That leaves them one win behind the most wins held by a jockey with Bobby Lewis (1902,1915,1919 & 1927) and Harry White (1974,1975,1978 & 1979) holding the record wit 4 wins.
Michelle Payne created history on Prince Of Penzance (2015) when she became the first female rider to win a Melbourne Cup. The first female to ride in a Melbourne Cup was in 1987 when New Zealand rider Maree Lyndon rode Argonaut Style.
The only winner that started odds on favorite was in 1930 when Phar Lap saluted at 8/11. Of the long shots there has been four winners who have started at 100/1. The Pearl (1871), Wotan (1936), Old Rowley (1940 and Prince Of Penzance (2015).
The traditional lead up for runners into the Melbourne Cup has been the Caulfield Cup. There has been 11 horses to complete the double but no winner since Ethereal (2001).
Last season saw the first winner for Chris Waller and James McDonald when the classy mare Verry Elleegant drove away last 200m for impressive win.
The Victoria Racing Club Oaks is the premier test for three-year-old staying fillies during the Spring. Contested over a grueling 2500m on the third day of the VRC Spring Carnival it has produced an honour roll of outstanding fillies of the Australian turf. It has become synonymous with fashion and rightly holds the title as “Ladies Day”.
The name Oaks can be attributed back to our British ancestry. In 1779 the Oaks was run at Epsom named after the estate of the 12th Earl of Derby. There is conjecture about when the first Oaks Stakes was conducted in Victoria but records show that on Thursday 10th November 1859 the Victoria Turf Club conducted an Oaks Stakes over 2400m for 150 sovereigns making it two years older than the Melbourne Cup. The race was to be contested between two fillies Dollarina and Birdswing but prior to the race Dollarina was withdrawn and Birdswing was declared the winner by walkover. The first Oaks under the guidance of the new Victoria Race Club was held Friday 4th November 1864 when Illumination defeated Mary Jane under the riding of the top hoop of the time in Joe Morrison.
One of the early winners of the Oaks Stakes was Briseis in 1876. A brown filly by Tim Whiffler (GB) out of an outstanding juvenile mare Musidora. Briseis ran on all four days of the Spring Carnival of 1876. On the first day she won the Victoria Derby in a canter before taking on the older horses in the Melbourne Cup with 12yo rider Peter St. Albans aboard and ran a record time in winning by 2 lengths. She fronted up again on the Thursday to win the Oaks and completed a treble that is unique in Australian racing. Unfortunately she could only finish second on the Saturday.
The best guide to the Oaks Stakes for punters is clearly the Wakeful Stakes which is run on Derby Day with 37 fillies completing the double the most recent 2019 when the Danny O’Brien trained Miami Bound won both races. Other lead up races include the MRC Thousand Guneas (17 winners), VRC Edward Manifold Stakes (17 winners).
There has been two Oaks winners to have gone on and won the Melbourne Cup the following Spring. Evening Peal (1955) and Light Fingers (1964).
Two trainers hold the record with 9 winners. James Wilson senior who was the trainer of Briseis and the legend Bart Cummings. Of the current trainers Lee Freedman has trained 4 winners.
The Hall of Fame jockey Bobby Lewis has ridden 7 Oaks winners but Damien Oliver is closing rapidly having made it 6 Oaks winners when he piloted Personal to a win last season. Female riders have conquered the Melbourne Cup, Victoria Derby and Cantala Stakes during the Spring but ironically have not been able to salute on “Ladies Day” in the Oaks Stakes.
Gai Waterhouse became the first female to train an Oaks Stakes winner in 2017 when Pinot outstayed them. Stephen Baster steered the daughter of AJC Oaks winner Dizelle to clear win.
DARLEY SPRINT DAY
The premier sprint race of the VRC Spring Racing Carnival run down the famous straight six (1200m) course at Royal Flemington on the Final Day. Between 1960 to 2006 it was run on Derby Day as a handicap but from 2017 until present is run under Weight-for-Age conditions on the last day.
Cigarette company W.D. & H.O.Wills took over the early sponsorship of this race in the 1960’s. First run in 1960 as the Hallmark Stakes the Kiwis proved too strong with a 4yo mare Karina jumping from barrier 26 in a field of 27 and under the guidance of Billy (W.A.) Smith came down the outside rail to win by a short half head. The race gained traction when renamed the Craven ‘A’ Stakes and when Vain (1969) demolished a field by 12 lengths running the 1200m in 1:09.80 the race had a moment that will stay in Spring Carnival folklore.
The Sprint Classic has a history of Australia’s finest sprinters on its honour roll. The Bart Cummings trained Century won in 1973 then the recognizable white face of Scamanda was too slick for them winning in 1974.
The Bob Hoysted trained River Rough (1983-84) became the first dual winner followed by Planet Ruler (1989-90) before Black Caviar (2010-11) dominated in her two Spring Carnival victories in this race.
No surprise that Bart Cummings leads the way on the trainers table with 6 wins. Of the current trainers Peter Moody has been successful on 3 occasions.
Robert Heffernan is the leading rider with 3 wins. With a big list of riders having 2 wins including Damien Oliver and Kerrin McEvoy.
In recent years this race has been a launch pad for Australian sprinters to travel overseas and show there class particularly at the Royal Ascot meeting with Takeover Target (2004), Miss Andretti (2007) & Black Caviar (2010-11) all travelling to England and being successful.