FORGET the Melbourne Cup, the culmination of Sydney’s Autumn Racing Carnival, simply titled The Championships, is the richest racing series in Australia.
Billed as the grand final of racing, the event, first run in 2014, features 12 races across two Saturdays in April, with a massive $20 million in prize money, as well as coveted trophies, which are encrusted with emeralds and designed by renowned Sydney jeweller Cerrone. Jockeys, trainers and owners each get a trophy – and a share of the spoils.
The timeless Royal Randwick track is the setting for The Championships, which aim to separate the best from the rest across a variety of age and distances.
The event, modelled on the US Breeders Cup doesn’t discriminate. The best horses Australia has ever produced go head to head with the cream of the crop of international raiders for the huge prize purse.
The Doncaster Mile (1600m) is the key event on day one, while the Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m), Australian Derby (2400m) and TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) makes four group one races on the card, giving owners, trainers and jockeys a bite at an $8.5 million prize pool
On day two, the $4 million Group One Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) – Australia’s richest weight for age race – is the key event.
The Australian Oaks (2400m), Queen of the Turf Stakes (1600m) and Sydney Cup (3200m) bring round out the day two group one events, with a prize pool totalling $7.6 million.
Racing New South Wales chief executive officer Peter V’Landys said the Championships were a the pinnacle of Australian racing.
“Realistically, it is a grand final,” V’Landy’s said.
“In every sporting event, the pinnacle of that event, of that sport, is its grand final.
“The AFL has the highest ratings and the highest attendance at the grand final of the AFL.
“The NRL, same thing; whatever competition you have, the grand final is the pinnacle.
“We have all the sports against us, but what we have that the other states don’t have is the capacity to have it as the grand final.
“That’s what’s important to us, and that’s what we’re going to build on.
Here’s a look at the events throughout The Championships and an insight on the best bookies to place your bets with.
Who to bet with
The Championships inspire punters across Australia – and the world – to chase the dream of backing a winner in one of racing’s marquee events.
And that means the bookies have to keep up.
We’ve sifted through the best Aussie online bookmakers to pin down the best of the best.
The face of the Australian online sports betting market, sportsbet.com.au is renowned for the widest selection of markets across a variety of sports and racing, both locally and internationally. SportsBet.com.au provides markets for all the major races across The Championships, with plenty of specials available. In previous years, the bookie has offered money back specials, up to $100, if your horse runs second in the race.
Crownbet is the relative new player in the market, having transitioned from BetEasy. But Matthew Tripp – the man who helped develop Sportsbet into the juggernaut it is today, knows what punters want and that’s the piece of mind you get from wagering with his mob. CrownBet has given back a bonus bet of up to $50 to punters who back a horse to win, only to watch them be second or even third past the post. That’s one of the better specials you’ll find on The Championships.
The United Kingdom’s big boy, William Hill has forged its way into the Australian market by acquiring other local online bookmakers, like Centrebet and Tom Waterhouse. One of the biggest betting agencies in the world, William Hill offers a full range of markets on The Championships, with futures markets giving you the opportunity to lay a bet well before the event. William Hill offered a similar money back special in the first year of The Championships to Sportsbet.com.au, paying back more than $150,000 to punters who backed horses that finished second in their races.
If Samuel L Jackson tells you to do something, you should probably do it. Similar to the Sportsbet crew, these guys are master marketers. And they love to have the movie star spruik their wide variety of racing markets. Bet365 has the world at its feet as a relative new comer to the Australian circuit. They have some funky little deals and solid markets on most group ones. The Championships are no exception.
You can’t have a marquee racing event with that sort of prize money without a huge truncheon of top quality races, featuring some of the strongest fields in the world.
Here’s a run down of some of the feature races throughout the event.
Queen Elizabeth Stakes – The Weight for Age Championship
The richest weight for age race in Australia, The Queen Elizabeth Stakes, is worth more than $4 million in prize money. Naturally, the huge prize pool makes it the best weight for age race in Australia, attracting the cream of the crop. Raced over 2000 metres, the event was first run way back in 1851 and was once called the Queens Plate, but had its name changed in 1954 to mark the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to our shores. The best gallopers to ever race in the country have won this race, headlined by the superstar Tulloch, which took it out three times – 1958 and then back to back in 1960 and 1961. The champ Might And Power took it out in 1998 and hero horse Lonhro owns the 2003 running of the event.
Race Record: 2-01.22 INTERGAZE 1997
2015 Winner: Criterion (NZ)
2nd: Red Cadeaux (GB)
3rd: Royal Descent
Time/Track: 2:05.35 (Soft)
Doncaster Mile – the Mile Championship
Watch out for 1600m of pure horse power. The Doncaster Mile is one of the most famous races on the New South Wales circuit and was first run in 1866. The best mile horses in the world converge on Royal Randwick for the running of this prestigious race. They call it the mile championship of Aussie racing because it basically crowns the best mile horse in the country. It’s the mile answer to the Melbourne Cup. The great Sunline won the race twice in 1999 and 2003 and Super Impose went back to back in 1990 and 1991.
Race Record: 1-33.70 BELMURA LAD (NZ) 1979
2015 Winner: Kermadec (NZ)
2nd Real Impact (JPN)
3rd Royal Descent
Time/Track 1:37.61 (Soft)
TJ Smith Stakes – The Open Sprint Championship
It takes a lot of endeavour to win the 1200m TJ Smith Stakes and that’s probably why it was once known as the Endeavour Stakes. This is a relatively young race, first contested in 1997. The race is run in honour of legendary Sydney trainer Thomas John Smith and was renamed to reflect that in 1999. The superstar trainer won the Sydney Trainers’ Championship a ridiculous 34 times and boasts an amazing 279 group one winners. He counts some of the all time greats among his stable, including Kingston Town, Tulloch and Gunsynd. Black Cavier – perhaps the greatest Australian sprinter of all time – is a winner of the race, that attracts the fastest horses in the world. It was Black Caviar’s last ever race, the mare setting a record that will take some serious beating. The uber popular Takeover Target also counts the TJ Smith among its many victories.
Race Record: 1-08.71 BLACK CAVIAR 2011
2015 Winner: Chautauqua
2nd Lord of The Sky
Time/Track 1:11.04 (Soft)
Australian Derby – The three year old Classic Championship
Once known as the AJC Derby, The Australian Derby’s new name reflects its national standing as the best race for three year olds in the country. Another old stager, the Derby has been run and won since 1861. Like the races we’ve previously mentioned, this one, too is steeped in history, with the likes of superstar all time great Phar Lap (1929), Peter Pan (1932), Tulloch (1957), Kingston Town (1980), Bonecrusher (1986) and Octagonal (1996) claiming the spoils of this rich race.
Race Record: 2-28.41 OCTAGONAL (NZ) 1996
2015 Winner: Mongolian Khan
3rd Volkstok’N’Barrell (NZ)
Time/Track 2:37.10 (Soft)
Sires’ Produce – The two year old Championship
The likes of Octagonal (1995), Luskin Star (1977) and Ajax (1937) have stormed home to take victory in this legendary race. The first ever Sires’ Produce was way back in 1867 and the race is still going strong today as the second leg of what is known as Sydney’s two year old triple crown. That triumvirate is made up of the two group ones, the Golden Slipper and the Champagne Stakes. Only six horses have completed the triple crown, with Pierro the most recent In 2012.
Race Record: 1-21.47 PIERRO 2012
2015 Winner: Pride of Dubai
2nd Odyssey Moon/Rageese (Dead Heat)
Time/Track 1:25.72 (Soft)
Sydney Cup – The Stayers Championship
Royal Randwick’s answer to the Melbourne Cup might not quite stop the nation, but it is still one of the most gruelling races on the Australian calendar. The 3200m race is a test of both jockey and mount and is the only other group one race over that distance in the country. A select few horses can handle the two mile tripe, among those the great Makybe Diva (2004), Carbine, which went back to back in 1889 and 1890, Galilee (1967), Kingston Town (1980) and another back to back winner in Tie the Knot.
Race Record: 3-19.00 JUST A DANCER (NZ) 1991
2015 Winner: Grand Marshal (GB)
2nd Who Shot Thebarman (NZ)
3rd Like a Carousel
Time/Track 3:24.70 (Soft)
Australian Oaks – The three year old Fillies Classic Championship
Light Fingers is perhaps the most revered winner of this popular race for three year olds, way back in 1965, but a host of great thoroughbreds have been first past the post after the 2400m trip. Only the best three year old fillies can stand the 2400m test, with it being known as the pinnacle event of its kind in the country.
Race Record: 2-28.80 SERENADE ROSE 2006
2015 Winner: Gust of Wind (NZ)
3rd Candelara (NZ)
Time/Track 2:32.40 (Soft)
Queen of the Turf Stakes – The Fillies and Mares Championship
Every girl wants to be the Queen of the Turf and this race makes it official. Over 1600m, The Queen of the Turf Stakes is a battle of the best of the best fillies and mares. First run in 1972, the race was once a handicap event held at Rosehill Gardens over 1500m. But it became a handicap race in 2005, attracting better fields, and was later moved to Royal Randwick and extended to 1600m in 2014 to be part of the inaugural running of The Championships. The recent great winners have added to the prestige of the race, with gun horses like Typhoon Tracy (2010) and Appearance (2013) among the winners. But More Joyous, which won consecutive races in 2011 and 2012 is considered perhaps the best of those.
Race Record: 1-35.85 DIAMOND DRILLE 2014
2015 Winner: Amanpour
3rd Nobel Protector (GB)
Time/Track 1:37.77 (Soft)
Three Year Old Sprint – The three year old Sprint Championship
Nineteen seventy nine was the first year this great race was run and back then it was known as the Royal Sovereign Stakes. It is another race that has been shifted to be a part of the prestige of The Championships, as it was once run as a lead up to the Autumn Carnival, rather than being part of it. Lonhro (2002) is the star winner of this race, but winners also include the popular Exceed And Excel (2005) and Shoot Out (2010). As the name suggests, it involves the quickest three year old sprinters in the land and provides a great barometer to decide which horse is the best in that group.
Race Record: 1.08.90 IMA CARPENTER 1989
2015 Winner: Delectation
2nd Bring me The Maid
3rd Rekindled Power
Time/Track 1:11.71 (Heavy)
Percy Sykes Stakes – The two year old Fillies Championship
This one is for the young ladies, the two year old fillies, just making their way in the racing world. The race, over 1200m, gives the fastest girls in the land a chance to get off the bit. Once known as the Keith Mackay Handicap, the Percy Sykes Stakes was changed to a group three race in 2013.
Race Record: 1-09.67 SNAPSHOTS 1997
2015 Winner: Ottoman
3rd Lake Geneva
Time/Track 1:12.44 (Heavy)