Ad Delighted connections of Benedetta after she won the 2023 Inglis Sprint. (Reg Ryan/Racing Photos)

Inglis Sprint: A million reasons to sprint

28 February 2024 Written by Patrick Bartley

Rarely does a horse race in its very infancy make such a profound impact on the racing industry as the $1 million Inglis Sprint, held on Howden Australian Guineas Day.

In its very short history, the race had already built a healthy profile, a fact noted by many significant players in this year's autumn carnival.

Trainers Michael Kent Jnr and Mick Price of Price Kent Racing have already underlined the event as a significant benchmark.

“We see the Inglis Sprint as one that will grow and be a springboard for sprinting three-year-olds not only in the autumn but will have a major say in races during the spring.

“It’s a tremendous yardstick as to where your three-year-olds sit against classy opposition. We have a great respect for it and believe it will grow to be a fantastic pointer for the future. The race will be a powerful form line for the Sunlight Classic and the Newmarket Handicap, major races that form the autumn carnival,” Kent Jnr said.

The Price/Kent-trained Robrick, one of four hopes for the stable, has already tasted success at Flemington, winning in August 2023. (George Sal/Racing Photos)

The Inglis Sprint, Inglis' most lucrative race for three-year-olds, made its debut in Melbourne in 2022, adding to the excitement of Howden Australian Guineas Day at Flemington. The race is restricted to three-year-olds nominated for the Inglis Race Series.

Flemington had previously hosted the $500,000 Inglis Dash since 2016, however when the Inglis Sprint and Inglis Dash merged, it created a powerhouse race that attracted a formidable lineup of three-year-olds down the iconic Flemington straight.

David Hegan, Head of Handicapping at Racing Victoria, shares Kent Jnr’s appreciation for the race’s history, acknowledging its significance over just two years.

“In 2022, the winner was Overpass who started as a short-priced favourite after previously winning the Group 2 Expressway and defeating Group 1 winners Forbidden Love and Anamoe,” said Hegan.

“He won with authority as expected then went on to win a Group 1 level himself, capturing the 2023 Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes at Ascot, following his win at the same venue eight months earlier in the $4 million Quokka.

“In 2023, Benedetta was the favourite in the race and bolted in by three lengths at her fifth career start, defeating Group 2 winner Paris Dior, suggesting more was to come for this brilliant filly. She showed that by winning a Group 3 event and finishing up a close third in the Group 2 Bobbie Lewis Quality at Flemington. And now she is a genuine Group 1 sprinter that is certain to show her worth this autumn.”

Benedetta put on an incredible display in last year's Inglis Sprint. (George Sal/Racing Photos)

Leigh Jordon, Executive General Manager Racing at the VRC, highlights the Inglis Sprint as a premium race on Flemington’s calendar.

“We really have the best of both worlds on this day of racing at Flemington. First, we’ve got the Inglis Sprint that has, in only two years, become a spectacular success and is also now a genuine lead-up race for the Sunlight Classic and the Newmarket Handicap,” he said.

“It’s a pretty hard act to follow, actually, having the two previous winners of the race making significant names for themselves in big races. And then we have the other main feature on the day, the prestigious Group 1 Howden Australian Guineas, also worth $1 million.”

It has already become the who’s-who of entries for the major trainers with the Maher, Waller, and Freedman stables all looking to have starters in the race, which will have a capacity of 20 starters with four emergencies.

The enticing feature of the race lies in its set weights or penalties structure, which serves as the conditions for this sprint event. This setup ensures fairness across the board, offering an equal footing for all participants regardless of their weight allocations.

Another appealing aspect in this year’s race is the $200,000 Inglis Pink Bonus series. To be eligible, a horse must be fully nominated and paid up for the Inglis Race Series and be a minimum 75% owned or leased by female owners.

The considerable prizemoney and strategic placement of the Inglis Sprint allows connections a genuine chance to pursue other races after the million-dollar race. Additionally, considering the performance of the first two winners, it’s evident that trainers will need to showcase their top three-year-olds in this year's edition.