The 10 Best Races in Australia
Few countries have taken to horse racing more strongly than Australia. The sport has been hugely popular since its arrival in the 19th century and the industry’s adaptability has made it one of the healthiest in the world financially.
Here is a look at 10 of the best races in Australia, in chronological order.
Newmarket Handicap (G1)
1,200 meters (about 6 furlongs), 3-year-olds and up, Flemington, early March, A$1.5 million
The autumn sprint highlight of Melbourne racing since its establishment in 1874, the Newmarket Handicap is run down Flemington’s straight six furlong course. With up to 24 runners allowed this is a major betting race, and it’s been won by some of Australia’s greatest horses, such as Wakeful, Ajax, Bernborough, Placid Ark, Schillaci, Takeover Target, and the mighty Black Caviar.
Golden Slipper (G1)
1,200 meters (about 6 furlongs), 2-year-olds, Rosehill, late March, A$5 million
Australian racing is all about speed, early speed in particular, and no race personifies this more than the Golden Slipper. As a result this is the world’s richest race for 2-year-olds and Australia’s most important stallion-making race. Its greatest victors since its 1957 establishment include Todman, Vain, Luskin Star, Manikato, Tierce, Sebring, Sepoy, and Pierro.
Doncaster Mile (G1)
1,600 meters (about one mile), 3-year-olds and up, Randwick, early April, A$3 million
The big handicap race of the Sydney autumn carnival is the Doncaster Mile. First run in 1866, it’s been a popular race for owners and punters alike. Often attracting a full field of up to 18 horses, its honor roll is a distinguished one. Great winners include Wakeful, Chatham, Tobin Bronze, Gunsynd, Emancipation, Super Impose, Sunline, and the wonder mare Winx.
The T J Smith (G1)
1,200 meters (about 6 furlongs), 3-year-olds and up, Randwick, early April, A$2.5 million
First run in 1997, the T J Smith quickly rose to become Sydney’s biggest sprint race in its autumn carnival due to its weight-for-age status attracting the best sprinters in the country. Frequently it decides Australia’s champion sprinter, and on occasions, the Horse of the Year. Two horses have won it three times – the breathtaking closer Chautauqua (2014-16) and current world leading sprinter Nature Strip (2020-22), while the unbeaten Black Caviar won this in 2011 and 2013.
Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1)
2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles), 3-year-olds and up, Randwick, mid April, A$4 million
First run in 1851, this race has undergone a number of changes in name and conditions prior to settling on its current name and distance in 1986. It has always been a good race, but it rocketed to greater prominence in 2013 when its prizemoney was increased to A$4 million to become the richest race in the Sydney autumn carnival. Champion mare Winx won the race three times (2017-19), while English raider Addeybb won it in 2020 and 2021.
Caulfield Guineas (G1)
1,600 meters (about one mile), 3-year-olds, Caulfield, mid-October, A$3 million
If the Golden Slipper is the most important stallion-making race in Australia in the first half of the year, the Caulfield Guineas holds a similar position in the second half. Held around the tight Caulfield course, it requires speed and a sharp turn of foot. The honor roll is a distinguished one; winners include Ajax, Tulloch, Vain, Surround, Manikato, Red Anchor, Redoute’s Choice, Lonhro, and Starspangledbanner.
1,200 meters (about 6 furlongs), 3-year-olds and up, Randwick, mid-October, A$15 million
The huge boost in prizemoney in Australia in the past 10 years has seen a number of new races established, but none have had a bigger impact than The Everest, first run in 2017. Run along the same “slot” lines as the early years of the Pegasus World Cup, it is the richest race in the world on turf, and has quickly become the highlight of the Sydney spring carnival. Redzel won the first two editions, and the subsequent winners have been Yes Yes Yes, Classique Legend, and Nature Strip.
Caulfield Cup (G1)
2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles), 3-year-olds and up, Caulfield, mid-October, A$5 million
First run in 1879, this has long been an important race in itself and a most significant lead-up to the Melbourne Cup. Doubles on this and the Melbourne Cup have been a mainstay of Australian betting organisations for a long time, but it’s hard to win both races – the double has been completed just 11 times. Like all races at Caulfield, the event requires speed and sharp acceleration. Great winners of the race include Poseidon, Rising Fast, Redcraze, Tulloch, Galilee, Might And Power, and Northerly. Northern hemisphere horses have won the race six times since 1998.
Cox Plate (G1)
2,040 meters (about 1 1/4 miles), 3-year-olds and up, Moonee Valley, late October, A$5 million
First run in 1922, this race was an important prize for most of its existence but took off in the 1970s and was widely regarded as the greatest in Australia, the one which conferred champion middle distance status to its winners. The honor roll is a who’s who of Australian racing – it includes Phar Lap, Chatham, Rising Fast, Tulloch, Tobin Bronze, Strawberry Road, Bonecrusher, Better Loosen Up, Might And Power, Sunline, Northerly, and So You Think. Kingston Town created a record when winning the race three times in the early 1980s, a record surpassed by Winx with four victories (2015-18). Northern hemisphere runners have taken the race four times since 2014.
Melbourne Cup (G1)
3,200 meters (about 2 miles), 3-year-olds and up, Flemington, first Tuesday in November, A$8 million
Known as The Race That Stops A Nation, and for good reason. Run under handicap conditions, it has for most of its existence been the richest race in Australia. The champion Carbine carried a record 145 pounds to victory in 1890, while Phar Lap won in 1930 at odds-on despite being the subject of an assassination attempt three days beforehand. Other great winners include The Barb, Peter Pan, Dalray, Rising Fast, Galilee, Rain Lover, and Let’s Elope. It became a truly international race when Irish-trained Vintage Crop won in 1993, and it has now been won nine times by northern hemisphere-trained runners. Makybe Diva set a new benchmark when she won the race three times between 2004 and 2006, while Michelle Payne became the first woman to ride the winner aboard Prince of Penzance in 2015.