Sydney Carnival 2022: Triple Crown on the line

April 15th, 2022

Sydney’s high-class and ridiculously wet autumn carnival effectively comes to a close Friday, April 15, ET (Saturday afternoon, April 16, Sydney time), with a little extra excitement than usual. Unusually, there’s a Triple Crown at stake in the Champagne S. (G1).

The card also includes a feature for older horses, the All-Aged S. (G1). Though racing continues all season in Sydney, this is the effective end of the carnival as the Champagne and the All-Aged are the final final Group 1 races of 2021-22 in Sydney.

Let’s have a look at some of the features.

Race 4 – Champagne S. (G1), 1,600 meters (about one mile), two-year-olds

Triple Crowns are a huge part of world racing. U.S. readers know how big a deal their own Triple Crown is, and many fans will be able to rattle off the names of all 13 winners. It took its lead from the original Triple Crown in England of the one-mile 2,000 Guineas, 1 1/2-mile Derby, and 1 3/4-mile St Leger, which has been won just 15 times in its 200-year plus history; for a variety of reasons, few even attempt it these days.

The Triple Crown concept – generally for three-year-olds – has been extended around the world and there are local, popular versions in Japan, Canada, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Ireland, and other countries.

In Australia… not so much. The closest thing to it for three-year-olds is the Sydney trio of the Randwick Guineas, Rosehill Guineas, and Australian Derby, held in autumn. It’s only been won five times, the most recently by It’s A Dundeel in 2013, but it doesn’t carry anything like the same prestige as the U.S. version.

Arguably, Sydney’s two-year-old Triple Crown is a bigger deal. It’s not so surprising given that no country places more prizemoney and importance on juvenile racing – the most important stallion-making race in Australia is the first leg of this Triple Crown, the 1,200-meter (about six furlong) Golden Slipper (G1), the richest two-year-old race in the world.

So a horse that can add the remaining two legs, the 1,400-meter (about seven-furlong) ATC Sires Produce S. (G1) and the 1,600-meter (about one mile) Champagne gets extra kudos.

The Crown has only been available since 1957, the year of the first Golden Slipper. Six horses have won the Triple Crown, though it was a different test when first won by Baguette in 1970 as the Champagne was still six furlongs at this stage. After the Champagne was increased to a mile in 1972, the five winners have been Luskin Star (1977), Tierce (1991), Burst (1992), Dance Hero (2004), and Pierro (2012).

This year’s potential candidate, #5 Fireburn, is unusual in international terms: she’s a filly. Despite Australia’s emphasis on juvenile racing, there are no separate Group 1 two-year-old races for fillies, and they take on the colts for the big prizes. Fillies have won about half of the Golden Slippers, but only one filly, Burst, has won the Triple Crown.

Few will bet against Fireburn becoming the second. She was so dominant in the Golden Slipper and the Sires' Produce that only five horses are opposing her in the Champagne. As always, there is a question mark over stamina. But Fireburn certainly gives the impression she will get a mile, and her distaff pedigree is full of staying names like So You Think, Zabeel, and Vaguely Noble. Champagne placegetters #1 Let’srollthedice and #6 She’s Extreme look the best of the others.

  • $40 win: #5 Fireburn

Race 5 – Carr S. (G3), 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs), three-year-old fillies

The early favorite in Australia is #2 Espiona, third in the Surround S. (G1) two starts back. She has the benefit of James McDonald but the odds may be shorter than they should be. The horse for value may be #4 Cap Estel; she ran well in the Carbine Club S. (G3) April 2 and may appreciate the step back to 1,400 meters.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #4 Cap Estel

Race 6 – Hall Mark S. (G3), 1,200 meters (about six furlongs), three-year-olds and up

Form isn’t that easy to find here, barring #3 Big Parade, second to iron horse Shelby Sixtysix in the Galaxy (G1) last start. The one for value looks to be #7 Quantico; don’t be put off by the 0 in his formline at his last start as it was in the highly-competitive Newmarket H. (G1) in Melbourne and this is much weaker. Wet track form is his biggest worry but he has McDonald in the saddle.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #7 Quantico

Race 7 – JRA Plate (G3), 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles), three-year-olds and up

The best horse in the race is #1 Icebath, though she is running for the third consecutive week after thirds in the Doncaster (G1) and Queen of the Turf (G1). She has yet to race at 2,000 meters but shapes as if she should handle it. #2 Polly Grey has her supporters, but the one to watch may be #7 Marroni; he was two lengths behind Polly Grey in the Sellwood S. March 26 and meets her on 5.5kg (about 12 pounds) better terms.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #7 Marroni

Race 8 – All-Aged S. (G1), 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs), standard weight-for-age

An outstanding field contests the final Group 1 race of the Sydney season. A number of horses make their first or second appearance of the carnival, and there are questions about the wet track form of Melbourne visitors who would otherwise be great chances such as #9 Tofane and #10 Sierra Sue. Many will support #8 Forbidden Love, who will probably appreciate returning to 1,400 meters after running fourth in the 1,600-meter Doncaster two weeks ago. But the one to beat may be #1 Mo’unga, a class horse who has freshness on his side and who likes wet ground.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #1 Mo’unga