Australian Guineas contenders

1 March 2024 Written by Michael Manley

The $1 million Group 1 Howden Australian Guineas (1600m) for the three-year-olds was first conducted in 1986 and has an honour roll featuring champions of the Australian turf. We take a look at the contenders for this year's edition.

History says...

Since the Australian Guineas was first run at Flemington in 1986, eight horses have won the CS Hayes Stakes (The Debonair) leading into the Guineas. They are Zabeel, Mahogany, Mouawad, Dash For Cash, Wandjina, Hey Doc, Grunt and Alligator Blood.

Riff Rocket will be looking to become the first horse since Mahogany, and only the fourth horse in history, to win the Australian Guineas after winning the VRC Derby in the spring (joining Hitotsu 2022, Mahogany 1994 and King's High 1989). Favourites have only won three of the last fifteen with Lunar Fox saluting in 2021 with a starting price of $301.

Fillies have won six of the 38 runnings of the race with the Jack Denham-trained Triscay being the first back in 1991 and superstar New Zealand filly Legarto being the most recent, bursting through late to claim victory.

While Damien Oliver has ridden the most Guineas winners with three, the training honours are shared amongst Colin Hayes, Lee Freedman and Mick Price with three each.


Speed map

They should run along quickly as New Zealander The Pendragon only knows one way to race and that’s to lead. If Hey Fat Cat jumps well from barrier one he will also push forward. Run Harry Run may also work across from an outside draw. Veight and Verdad should get ideal runs on the pace. A quick tempo will play into the hands of Riff Rocket and King Colorado who will charge home.


4:15pm - Race 8 - HOWDEN AUSTRALIAN GUINEAS (1600m)

Prizemoney: $1,000,000 - Group 1 - 3YO Set Weights

Final fields as at 12pm, Wednesday 28 February

TAB #   Form - Last 10 Horse Age/Sex Trainer Jockey
1 17x12121x1 Riff Rocket 3YO Gelding Chris Waller Craig Williams
2 14x1525x14 Veight 3YO Colt Tony & Calvin McEvoy Damian Lane
3 11x9740x22 King Colorado 3YO Colt Ciaron Maher Mark Zahra
4 42x128412x Apulia 3YO Colt Ben, Will & JD Hayes Luke Currie
5 43x11413x3 Zipaway 3YO Gelding Neville Parnham Steven Parnham
6 335x9732x6 Cap Ferrat 3YO Colt Chris Waller Joshua Parr
7 44x01112 The Pendragon (NZ) 3YO Colt Michael Moroney Jordan Childs
8 6111x9 Run Harry Run 3YO Gelding Michael Moroney Daniel Stackhouse
9 x52512413x Sunsets 3YO Colt Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young John Allen
10 12625x3 Verdad 3YO Gelding Robbie Griffiths & Mathew de Kock Jye McNeil
11 134x1 Snow Patrol (NZ) 3YO Gelding Mick Price & Michael Kent Jnr Blake Shinn
12 1129x22 Southport Tycoon 3YO Colt Ciaron Maher Ms Jamie Kah
13 114 Otago (NZ) 3YO Gelding Mick Price & Michael Kent Jnr Ben Melham
14 6086x11455 Hey Fat Cat 3YO Gelding Robbie Laing Ethan Brown
15 1x11x2214 Quintessa (NZ) 3YO Filly Mark Walker Michael Dee
16 91908x3 Vieste 3YO Filly Benjamin Smith Brock Ryan
17e x5167669x2 Mah Ali 3YO Filly Benjamin Smith Fred Kersley


Trainer: Chris Waller
Riff Rocket

Riff Rocket

3YO Bay Gelding

Sire: American Pharoah (USA)

Dam: Missile Coda (Smart Missile)

Barrier: 9

Jockey: Craig Williams

Career: 8:5-2-0

Prizemoney: $1,689,125

Flemington highlights: 1st  2023 VRC Derby, 2024 Colin Hayes Stakes, 2023 Super Impose Stakes

Riff Rocket has a love affair with the Flemington track having had three starts here for three wins. His only loss from his past four starts was when he ventured to Caulfield where he ran second. He produced an extraordinary first-up win when he won C.S. Hayes Stakes bursting home over the last 200m to win a fast time. After the race Waller’s assistant trainer Charlie Duckworth suggested that although Riff Rocket had won the VRC Derby, he wasn’t necessarily a stayer. He has been following in the footsteps of star galloper Mahogany who won the 1993 VRC Derby and followed that with the C.S. Hayes Stakes and the Australian Guineas the following year.

Trainer: Ciaron Maher
King Colorado

King Colorado

3YO Bay Colt

Sire: Kingman (GB)

Dam: More Aspen (USA) (More Than Ready (USA))

Barrier: 12

Jockey: Mark Zahra

Career: 9:2-2-0

Prizemoney: $846,850

Flemington highlights: 2nd 2024 CS Hayes Stakes

Brilliant colt who came from well back to finish second to Riff Rocket in the C.S. Hayes Stakes. On face value he was beaten on his merits by Riff Rocket but he had covered more ground than Riff Rocket. There was only .75 lengths between them and King Colorado would be suited by 1600m. Ciaron Maher has given him two runs before this race compared to Riff Rocket who will be second-up in it. In last year’s Caulfield Guineas he covered ground and finished a creditable fourth.

Trainers: Tony & Calvin McEvoy


3YO Bay Colt

Sire: Grunt (NZ)

Dam: Neena Rock (Fastnet Rock)

Barrier: 6

Jockey: Damian Lane

Career: 9:4-1-0

Prizemoney: $1,248,740

Flemington highlights: 1st 2023 VRC Sires Produce Stakes

There’s little doubt he’s one of the best gallopers in his age group as he demonstrated with his second in last year’s Caulfield Guineas. His trainer Tony McEvoy believes he has returned to racing as a better horse this campaign. His two runs this time which produced a win in the Group 2 Australia Stakes at The Valley and a fourth behind Mr Brightside in the Group 1 C.F. Orr Stakes is evidence of that. McEvoy highlighted that Veight’s finish behind Mr Brightside was the best run of his career thus far. He is looking forward to him returning to compete within his own age group.

Trainers: Robbie Griffiths & Matt De Kock


3YO Bay Gelding

Sire: Justify (USA)

Dam: Whistle Baby (Magnus)

Barrier: 3

Jockey: Jye McNeil

Career: 6:1-2-1

Prizemoney: $279,625

Flemington highlights: 5th 2023 VRC Derby, 3rd 2024 CS Hayes

After winning his maiden at his debut at Sale, Robbie Griffiths and Matt De Kock have thrown Verdad into the deep end. Although he hasn’t won, he’s raced well at each start that included two Group 2 seconds at The Valley last spring, an unlucky sixth in the Caulfield Guineas and a fifth in the VRC Derby. He resumed from a spell with another great run when he finished third in the C.S. Hayes Stakes, held up at the 300m mark when the quinella of Riff Rocket and King Colorado had begun their sprint.

Trainer: Ciaron Maher
Southport Tycoon

Southport Tycoon

3YO Chestnut Colt

Sire: Written Tycoon

Dam: Ready to Rule (USA) (More Than Ready (USA))

Barrier: 7

Jockey: Blake Shinn

Career: 6:2-3-0

Prizemoney: $250,250

Flemington highlights: Yet to start at Flemington

Gifted three-year-old colt who doesn’t know how to run a bad race. Two runs this time have produced a second to Veight in the Group 2 Australia Stakes at The Valley and then second again in the Group 2 Autumn Stakes at Caulfield where he was run down late by another Australian Guineas chance in Snow Patrol. He endured a torrid run when he finished ninth in the Caulfield Guineas as he struck interference on two occasions in the straight.

Trainers: Ben, Will & JD Hayes


3YO Bay Colt

Sire: Fiorente (IRE)

Dam: Giannarelli (High Chaparral (IRE))

Barrier: 15

Jockey: Luke Currie

Career: 9:2-4-0

Prizemoney: $777,875

Flemington highlights: 2nd 2023 G2 VRC Sires Produce, 2nd 2023 Victoria Derby

Ben Hayes didn’t necessarily have the Australian Guineas on Apulia’s radar, but recent good jump-outs have persuaded him to have a go at it. He only needs to look back to last year’s Victoria Derby that he can match it with Riff Rocket as he went down to him in a photo. Hayes acknowledges Apulia is a Derby colt and he’s being set for interstate Derbies, but they thought his record was good enough to warrant a first-up tilt at the Australian Guineas. Hitotsu won the Australian Guineas first-up two years ago after winning the Victoria Derby.

Trainer: Mark Walker


3YO Bay Filly

Sire: Shamus Award

Dam: Chaquinta (NZ) (High Chaparral (IRE))

Barrier: 8

Jockey: Michael Dee

Career: 7:4-2-0

Prizemoney: $431,479

Flemington highlights: Yet to race at Flemington

The Melbourne stable of Te Akau are still on a high after the successes of stable star Imperatriz. Quintessa brings an impressive record herself winning four of her seven starts and follows in the footsteps of her stablemate Imperatriz as a past winner of the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m). She then acquitted herself well against the older horses last start in the Group 1 BCD Sprint (1400m) and was only beaten a couple of lengths. Her sire Shamus Award won this race after coming back from a spring campaign in which he won the W.S. Cox Plate, his first win. 

Trainer: Mick Price & Michael Kent Jnr


3YO Chestnut Gelding

Sire: Ocean Park (NZ)

Dam: Steel Stilettos (Hussonet (USA))

Barrier: 5

Jockey: Ben Melham

Career: 3:2-0-0

Prizemoney: $112,125

Flemington highlights: 1st 3YO BM70 Hcp, 4th C.S. Hayes Stakes

He suffered his first defeat at his third start when he finished fourth in the C.S. Hayes Stakes but it was an effort that more than matched his wins at his first two starts. He stretched out strongly in the concluding stages and raced more tractably than in his wins and just missed third spot. He still looked a bit inexperienced in the closing stages so he’ll benefit a lot from that run. Mick Price has won the race three times and he’s not without a chance of making it a record fourth with this exciting form Kiwi.

Trainer: Chris Waller
Cap Ferrat

Cap Ferrat

3YO Bay Colt

Sire: Snitzel

Dam: C'est Beau La Vie (Bernardini (USA))

Barrier: 2

Jockey: Josh Parr

Career: 10:0-1-3

Prizemoney: $465,450

Flemington highlight: 6th C.S. Hayes Stakes

He’s obviously Chris Waller’s number two seed behind Riff Rocket, but judging by his run in the C.S. Hayes Stakes he’s not without a chance. He finished strongly, running the second fastest last 200m of the race in 11.60 seconds which was only bettered by his stablemate in 11.47 seconds. His best run last spring was a second to Tom Kitten in the Spring Champions Stakes at Randwick. He would create history if he won as he would be the first horse to break his maiden status in the Australian Guineas.

Trainer: Robbie Laing
Hey Fat Cat

Hey Fat Cat

3YO Brown Gelding

Sire: Rubick

Dam: Keep de Rose (NZ) (Keeper)

Barrier: 1

Jockey: Ethan Brown

Career: 9:2-0-0

Prizemoney: $106,625

Flemington highlight: 5th C.S. Hayes Stakes

This tough gelding will be in action for the fourth consecutive Saturday. Two starts ago he set a hectic pace in the C.S. Hayes Stakes and was grabbed with 150m to go and fought on strongly to finish fifth. He then took on the older horses in the Futurity Stakes and ran another credible fifth, but this time he settled back in the field and finished off nicely. He’s bound to run another cheeky race.

Trainer: Neville Parnham


3YO Bay Gelding

Sire: Playing God

Dam: Boutique (Discorsi)

Barrier: 10

Jockey: Steve Parnham

Career: 9:3-1-3 

Prizemoney: $646,850

Flemington form: No starts

Star Perth colt who had a tough run at his eastern states debut when he still held on to finish third in the Autumn Stakes behind Snow Patrol. He was first-up after he completed the Perth carnival in style with a win in the Western Australian Guineas followed by a third in the Group 1 Northerly Stakes behind the older horses Dom To Shoot and Zaaki.

Trainer: Mike Moroney
The Pendragon

The Pendragon

3YO Bay Gelding

Sire: U S Navy Flag (USA)

Dam: Kerre (IRE) (Pour Moi (IRE))

Barrier: 14

Jockey: Jordan Childs

Career: 7:3-1-0

Prizemoney: $378,940

Flemington form: Yet to start at Flemington

Kiwi galloper who had his final start before this event in the same race as fellow New Zealander Legarto last year, the Karaka Magic Millions 3YO Classic. He finished second in front of Legarto’s fourth. He’s in the astute Moroney stable and likes to lead, so should run a bold race.

Trainers: Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young


3YO Bay Colt

Sire: Dundeel (NZ)

Dam: Waterloo Sunset (Fastnet Rock)

Barrier: 13

Jockey: John Allen

Career: 9: 2-2-1

Prizemoney: $351,365

Flemington form: 2nd Victoria Derby Trial Stakes, 3rd  Victoria Derby, 4th Super Impose Stakes

He kept improving with every run that culminated in a third in the Victoria Derby. He carries the same colours as Hitotsu and he’s trying to emulate his performance winning the Australian Guineas first-up two years ago after he won the Victoria Derby, a race this stayer finished third in.

Trainers: Mick Price & Michael Kent Jnr
Snow Patrol

Snow Patrol

3YO Bay Gelding

Sire: Contributer (IRE)

Dam: O’Rocker (O’Reilly (NZ))

Barrier: 7

Jockey: Blake Shinn

Career: 4:2-1-0

Prizemoney: $218,790

Flemington form: 4th 3YO BM64

Under Mick Price, who has claimed victory in this race three times before, Snow Patrol displayed promise last spring. His recent win in the Autumn Stakes at Caulfield was impressive, and history shows that five horses who won that event went on to win the Australian Guineas.

Trainer: Mike Moroney
Run Harry Run

Run Harry Run

3YO Chestnut Gelding

Barrier: 16

Sire: Written Tycoon

Dam: Maybe Markle (Denman)

Jockey: Dan Stackhouse

Career: 5:3-0-0

Prizemoney: $407,900

Flemington form: 9th CS Hayes Stakes

Blotted his copybook in the CS Hayes Stakes after putting three wins on end together at the end of last spring. He was slow to begin and also suffered some interference in the straight so the run was better than it looked. Untried at 1600m.

Trainer Ben Smith


3YO Brown Filly

Sire: Maurice (JPN)

Dam: Blazing Dragon (Pendragon (NZ))

Barrier: 17

Jockey: Brock Ryan

Career: 6:1-0-1

Prizemoney: $32,800

Flemington form: 13th Wakeful Stakes

Kembla Grange-trained filly who has shown the odd glimpses of potential. She’s likely to start at a price close to that of Lunar Fox who won this event in 2021 when ridden by Mick Dee at $301.

Trainer: Ben Smith
Mah Ali

Mah Ali

3YO Bay Filly

Sire: More Than Ready (USA)

Dam: Demanding Miss (Commands)

Barrier: 11

Jockey: Fred Kersley

Career: 10:1-1-0

Prizemoney: $68,275

Flemington form: 6th Carbine Club Stakes, 6th Springtime Stakes

She was unlucky last start when she finished second in a Benchmark 64 at Canterbury in a race where her stablemate finished third. That hardly reads as good form for a Group 1 race.