Entries open for Flemington's Autumn features

10 January 2022 Written by VRC

Entries for the Victoria Racing Club’s three autumn Group 1 features – the $1.5 million TAB Australian Cup (2000m) and the $1.5 million Newmarket Handicap (1200m) and the $1 million Kennedy Australian Guineas (1600m) – are now open, with Australia’s best horses setting their sights on Flemington’s Autumn Spectacular in March.

Nominations close on January 31 for all three races, with first declarations closing on February 22.

The TAB Australian Cup is one of the country’s most historic races and will be contested for the 160th time in March. Run at weight-for-age over 2000m since 1987, it often features a clash between established stars and emerging talents looking to graduate to the highest level.

With the last three winners – Homesman, Fifty Stars and dual victor Harlem – now retired, there will be a new name on the TAB Australian Cup honour roll in 2022. They will join some of the greats of the turf, with winners over the last four decades including Bonecrusher, Vo Rogue, Better Loosen Up, Let's Elope, Veandercross, Saintly, Octagonal, Dane Ripper, Northerly, Lonhro, Makybe Diva, Zipping, Shocking and Fiorente.

Last year’s winner Homesman managed to complete an emotional victory, mere days after the death of part-owner Michael Gudinski, capping a career that had seen him win a number of stakes races in Ireland and Australia.

Since it was first run in 1874, the Newmarket Handicap has stood as Australia’s ultimate test for a sprinter. In its first 100 years, horses like Melbourne Cup winner Malua and middle-distance champions Wakeful, Heroic, Gothic Ajax and Bernborough managed to defeat the best sprinters around to take the spoils.

In recent years, it has taken a top sprinter to defy the handicap, with such top-class winners as Razor Sharp, Placid Ark, Shaftesbury Avenue, Schillaci, Exceed And Excel, Alinghi, Weekend Hussler, Hay List, Lankan Rupee, Redkirk Warrior and Bivouac.

It has also been a springboard to international success, with Takeover Target, Miss Andretti, Scenic Blast and Black Caviar winning on the world stage after capturing the Newmarket.

Twelve months ago, the Flemington-trained Zoutori joined a select group of horses – including superstars Hay List and Black Caviar in the last decade - to win the prestigious handicap as topweight.

Both the 160th TAB Australian Cup and the Newmarket Handicap will be run on Super Saturday, March 12, the middle leg of Flemington’s Autumn Spectacular.

A week earlier, the best three-year-olds in the land will head to the 1600m start at Flemington for the Kennedy Australian Guineas.

First run in 1986, the Kennedy Australian Guineas has quickly established itself as Melbourne’s premier three-year-old contest of the autumn.

Future stallions like the legendary Zabeel, Flying Spur, Pins, Reset, Al Maher, Shamus Award and Grunt count the Kennedy Australian Guineas among their triumphs, while fan favourites Mahogany, Apache Cat, Miss Finland, Mosheen, Mystic Journey and Alligator Blood scored popular victories in the feature.

In 2021, 300-1 outsider Lunar Fox defeated a strong field that included Group 1 winners Tagaloa and Ole Kirk to take the spoils.

Victoria Racing Club (VRC) Executive General Manager Racing Leigh Jordon says that the Autumn Spectacular has proven time and time again to be a target for horses, trainers and jockeys from right across Australia.

“Every year, the Autumn Spectacular brings the best horses from Victoria and around the country to Flemington,” Mr Jordon said. “With their established histories, the TAB Australian Cup, the Newmarket Handicap and the Kennedy Australian Guineas are renowned for being races of the highest quality and I am sure that will be no different in 2022.

“We are already excited about what promises to be a terrific Autumn Spectacular.”

The three features will be followed by the fourth All-Star Mile at Flemington on March 19, while the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) will serve as a precursor to the Autumn Spectacular when it is run on February 19.

Image caption: Homesman joined the TAB Australian Cup's 160-year honour roll last year.