Many of the world’s most talented thoroughbreds head to Victoria each year to compete in the world-famous Spring Racing Carnival. It could well be the greatest event in the entire global racing calendar, thanks to the heritage, the prestige and the eye-watering prize money on offer. You can enjoy dozens of exciting races during the Spring Racing Carnival, but these are the most important ones to look out for:
The $2 million Caulfield Guineas is the first feature race of the Spring Racing Carnival. It is held on the second Saturday of October each year at Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne. The Group 1 Caulfield Guineas is limited to three-year-olds, and it has long served as the breeding ground for some of the greatest champions of all time. It takes place over 1600m with set weights, and it marks the pinnacle of the season for three-year-olds.
Lonhro, Manikato and Tulloch are among the big names to salute in this race over the years. Lonhro went on to be named Australian Racehorse of the Year after winning the Caulfield Stakes, and he was later the leading sire in Australia before being inducted into the Hall of Fame, which shows you the calibre of runners. The Caulfield Guineas marks the start of the three-day Caulfield Carnival, which also features three exciting Group 1 races: the Caulfield Stakes, the Thousand Guineas and the Toorak Handicap.
The $5 million Caulfield Cup is one of the three biggest races of the Spring Racing Carnival. It is actually one of the world’s most important races for stayers, and you always see an elite field of superstars lining up to compete. The Caulfield Cup was historically the key lead-up race to the Melbourne Cup, but very few stayers pull off a Cups double nowadays.
The race is held the weekend after the Caulfield Guineas. It will take place on October 17 this year, featuring all manner of luminaries from across the globe. More than 200 stayers are nominated, and the field will be whittled down to the best 18 by the time the race goes off, so you are all but guaranteed an intense battle. The Group 1 Caulfield Cup is run over a distance of 2400m under handicap conditions. Mer De Glace, Best Solution, Boom Time, Jameka, Mongolian Khan and Admire Rakti have all triumphed in recent years. Dunaden won the race in 2012, following his victory in the Melbourne Cup the previous year.
The $5 million W.S Cox Plate is Australia’s premier middle-distance race. It is run over 2040m at Moonee Valley Racecourse each year, a week after the Caulfield Cup. The Cox Plate is Australia’s richest weight-for-age race, and the prestige associated with securing victory is huge, so the race typically receives between 150 and 250 nominations and only the very best make it onto the final ballot.
The wondermare Winx dominated this race between 2015 and 2018, surging to a record-breaking four consecutive victories and cementing her status as an all-round superstar. She retired last year after extending her unbeaten streak to 33, and that finally gave her rivals a chance to win the Cox Plate. Japanese raider Lys Gracieux gleefully seized the opportunity. We should be in for another exhilarating race in 2020.
The Victoria Derby was first held all the way back in 1855, when Queen Victoria ruled Australia and infamous outlaw Ned Kelly was just a newborn. The race is still going strong to this day, and it remains one of the feature races of the Spring Racing Carnival. Derby Day is a huge deal in Australia, and celebrities including Oscar winner Hilary Swank, supermodel Naomi Campbell, Spice Girl Mel B and Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria have converged upon Flemington to watch the race in recent years.
It takes place over 2500m, so it requires an abundance of pace, stamina and determination from the leading three-year-olds in the business. The Victoria Derby is a Group 1 race with prize money of $2 million. It marks the start of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, and Derby Day is the only race day in Australia on which every single race has Group status, making it arguably the biggest event of the year.
The Melbourne Cup is the biggest race of the year in Australia, and arguably the world. The organisers claim it is watched by some 750 million people across the globe, which would mean it even surpasses the Grand National, the Kentucky Derby and other famous races. It has a prize purse of $8 million and it is extremely prestigious, so the best trainers from Ireland, the UK, Japan, the US, New Zealand and elsewhere bring their best stayers to Melbourne to compete. You can find out more information on the runners, who are all elite stayers with multiple famous victories under their belts.
The race takes place over 3200m and it is known as the richest two-mile handicap in the world. It has been held every year since 1861, and there have been all manner of iconic moments during that time – Bart Cummings winning a record-breaking 12th Cup, Makybe Diva winning for a third time in a row, Michelle Payne becoming the first female jockey to salute aboard 100/1 roughie Prince of Penzance, the list goes on and on. All trainers want to win the Melbourne Cup, so it is fiercely competitive and full of excitement. There are more big races in the Carnival – the Oaks is a notable example – but the Melbourne Cup is definitely the main event.