Interesting Spring Group 1 Races
Group 1 is the top category of Australian thoroughbred flat racing.
To qualify, a race must offer at least $350,000 in prizemoney. There are over 60 Group 1 races in Australia at the moment. Victory in one of these is the outright goal for horses, jockeys and trainers who have never done so. For the group that has won, the mark of distinction from winning multiple Group 1 events is one criterion that ranks horses, jockeys and trainers and often results in induction into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
Tommy “T J” Smith leads the trainers with 282 Group 1 wins, although many of his wins came before the current classification system came into play in 1979. Many of his wins were classified as Principal Races, which later came to be called Group 1.
Chris Waller won 13 Group 1 races last season and he has led the way every season since 2012 – 2013. His current tally stands at 84. He won 15 in 2015 – 2016. Generously assuming he can match that every season; he should catch and pass T J Smith sometime in 2031. That would put Waller somewhere around the age of 59, so we may be watching history unfold before our eyes.
For the gallopers, Winx has won 18 Group 1s and looks a lock to make it to at least 20 this spring, so we are definitely seeing history being written. The Sydney Super Mare also holds the mark for most Group 1s in a single season beginning with the 2015 – 2016 season.
George “Cotton Fingers” Moore is the leader among the jockeys at 119. Damien Oliver is 10 behind. Oliver is 46 and could catch Moore with some good fortune. He last won at Group 1 level in the 2018 Champagne Stakes, so he is still getting the rides.
Important Group 1 Races for 2018-19
With that bit of background, here are some of the important Group 1 races upcoming for the 2018 – 2019 season. For the record, the last Group 1 race of the season ending July 2018 was the T J Smith (1600 m) at Doomben in early June.
First up for the new season is the Warwick Stakes, although it will now be called the Winx Stakes, in honour of that mare. She is in the race, so it will be closely followed, not just by punters and racing industry sorts, but by everyone in Australia and quite a few in other countries as well.
Less anyone be concerned; do not be, as we have no intention of making you read about every Group 1 race for the season, just a few of the compelling ones for the spring carnivals.
Once racing gets underway in September, the Group 1 calendar starts to get a little crowded. Metro tracks Flemington, Caulfield, Rosehill, Randwick and Moonee Valley will all have Group 1s.
September launches with the Memsie Stakes. Things go quiet for a spell, with the next Group 1 race being in the middle of the month, the Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington. Prior to 2007 and Makybe Diva’s three Melbourne Cup wins, the race was known as the Craiglee Stakes.
There are eight more Group 1 races in September following the Makybe Diva Stakes and if we were forced to choose, we would say that the George Main Stakes, the Golden Rose, the Epsom Handicap and The Metropolitan are the “must see” races.
October is simply rotten with major Group 1 races, nine of them, with the primary jewels being the Caulfield Cup and the W S Cox Plate.
In the middle portion of the month, the October 13 meeting at Caulfield has four Group 1s on the day. That same day, up Sydney way, The Everest offers the second largest prizemoney haul of any race in the world, trailing only the Pegasus World Cup in Florida.
The Cox Plate on October 27 is a “Do Not Miss” race, as the world will watch to see if Winx can win for a fourth time and set a mark for future generations of thoroughbreds to chase. The level of interest for that race is off the charts by such a degree that additional charts may have to be created.
Like October, November offers nine Group 1 races. The Victoria Derby (2500 m) at Flemington is one of the few remaining Group 1s for the stayers, but that November 3 day has three others on offer, basically duplicating the goings on at Caulfield in October.
That meeting is the prelude to the following Tuesday, when the Melbourne Cup will be run, featuring racers from around the world intent on capturing some of the $7.3 million in prizemoney, a boost of $1.3 million from 2017.
Flemington has another stayer’s race on November 8, the 2500 metre VRC Oaks, and the Emirates Stakes, at 2000 metres, is the rough equivalent of the Cox Plate and will be run on November 10.
Ascot gets in on Group 1 racing near the end of November with the Railway Stakes (1600 m) and some of the winners there will be heading east to seek fortune. Kingston Town was the most notable example of this.
Things quiet down in December, and it is hard to call that month part of the spring season, as it is truly summer, but Ascot is host to the last two Group 1s of 2018 with the Winterbottom Stakes (1200 m) and the Kingston Town Classic (1800 m).
The Kingston Town appeals to those milers looking to step up in distance, while some of the stayers will race there as well, especially those from the longer races who like to be on the speed.
Spring racing in Australia is probably the most lucrative in terms of prizemoney, as compared to autumn. The bulk of the action is in Victoria, but New South Wales does not take a backseat entirely, especially now that The Everest has the top spot in terms of prizemoney.
Now is the time for punters to start following the form closely.
Maybe one or more will discover the next Prince of Penzance lurking.