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Ad Cause For Concern winning on VRC Members Race Day at Flemington. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

Coursing History – Aurie’s Star Handicap

4 August 2023 Written by Brad Bishop – Racing & Sports

The Spring Carnival has different starting points, depending on who you talk to.

Officially, in Victoria, it begins on Memsie Stakes Day, but the first Group 1 of the season – the Winx Stakes – is run in Sydney two weeks earlier, the same day that a sprinkling of Cups and Cox Plate fancies generally stretch their legs in the Group 2 P B Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield.

Before those events is the $200,000 Group 3 Aurie’s Star Handicap, which will be run at Flemington this Saturday, and for many it is the race that highlights that spring is just around the corner.

Bart Cummings can take much of the credit for the race’s status, with the training legend identifying it as suitable Cups launching pad when it was just a run-of-the-mill midweek event with no Black Type status.

Hyperno contested one of the early editions of the Aurie’s Star en route to his Melbourne Cup win in 1979, while 20 years later Rogan Josh kicked off his Cup-winning campaign in the 1200-metre event.

But as the Cummings Melbourne Cup pre-requisites, which included a mandatory 10km in lead-up runs, became outdated so too has the status of the Aurie’s Star Handicap as a Cups springboard.

In the past decade, the only horse to contest the Aurie’s Star and Melbourne Cup in the same spring was Johnny Get Angry in 2021, while it has not produced a Caulfield Cup or Cox Plate runner in that time.

The Aurie’s Star Handicap is now more likely to throw a Group 1 sprint winner than a Cups contender.

Hey Doc completed the Aurie’s Star/Manikato Stakes double in 2017, a year before Voodoo Lad won the Winterbottom Stakes in Perth after claiming the Aurie’s Star.

That will be music to the ears of this year’s Aurie’s Star Handicap field, most of whom are sprinters.

The race lost its best-performed runner in the race, dual Group 3 winner and multiple Group 1 placegetter Ingratiating, who was scratched on Thursday and will run at Rosehill, which leaves a field of 10.

The leading fancies in Ingratiating’s absence are Cause For Concern, It’sourtime and General Beau, who all will be having their seventh run of the campaign.

Three of the past 10 winners were first-up, but most others raced through autumn and winter.

Sooboog (2016) had contested eight earlier races in the campaign, last year’s winner Sirius Suspect was seventh-up, Broken (2013) and The Astrologist (2021) were sixth-up, while Voodoo Lad and Home Of The Brave (2020) were fifth-up.

Punters have done well concentrating on horses towards the head of the market in that time with eight of the 10 winners starting $6 or shorter, although only Tiger Tees and Shiraz were favourite.

As of Friday morning, Cause For Concern headed TAB’s market at $3.80, ahead of It’sourtime ($4) and General Beau ($6).

Whoever does win on Saturday can be followed with confidence with seven of the eight winners who raced on in the campaign in the past decade finishing top three at their next start, including winners of a Group 2 Winx Stakes (Tiger Tees), Group 3 Concorde Stakes (Shiraz) and Listed Carlyon Stakes (Broken).