Ones to watch in 2023

5 January 2023 Written by VRC

Get set for more thrilling racing this year. From horses to trainers to race days, the experts at the VRC offer their top tips for what and who you should keep your eye on.

In Secret (J Cummings)
A brilliant winner of the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes, we’re looking forward to seeing what this filly can do in the autumn, where she may be aimed at the Black Caviar Lightning. Following her Coolmore win, Cummings called her “one of the best horses we have”, which is high praise from Australia's leading Group 1 trainer who is having a career-best season with a plethora of stars in his stable, including Cox Plate winner Anamoe.

White Marlin (G Waterhouse & A Bott)
Unbeaten in his five starts, including his impressive 5½ lengths win in the Macca’s Run on Lexus Melbourne Cup Day – a race that has been used over the years to prepare horses for future Melbourne Cup starts. The training duo will be hoping to gain a golden ticket to the Lexus Melbourne Cup via The Andrew Ramsden in May. A run in the Listed Roy Higgins Quality in March is a slight possibility, however it seems like a limited autumn campaign is on the cards with a focus on Melbourne Cup qualification.

Flemington-based Waterhouse may also be aiming her stable-star Alligator Blood towards the All-Star Mile, along with the new imports she has just received, including one purchased from the late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Croatian Belle (B & JD Hayes)
This two-year-old won well at The Valley and heads to the Magic Millions unbeaten. We will hopefully see her at Flemington in the spring as a 3yo. Racing presenter and Lindsay Park racing and client liaison Grace Ramage selected and syndicated the horse in an all women's syndicate. The horse will be racing for an extra $500,000 if she is the first all-female-owned horse across the finishing line at the Magic Millions on January 14.

Sharp 'n' Smart

Sharp ‘n’ Smart (G Rogerson)
This New Zealand horse was a narrowly beaten favourite in the Penfolds Victoria Derby, but showed he is a proper stayer and one to watch for the 2023 autumn and spring. We’re wondering whether he could potentially be heading towards both the Australian Guineas and Australian Cup in March.

Mr Maestro (A Forsman)
Also hailing from New Zealand, Mr Maestro won the Derby Preview and Super Impose Stakes at Flemington in preparation for his target race, the Penfolds Victoria Derby, where he ran fourth, beaten by less than three lengths.

Trainer Andrew Forsman had an incredible Spring with a metro record of 19 starters for seven winners, two thirds, four fourths and a strike rate of 38.6%. His horses included: Mr Maestro (above), She’s Licketysplit, Aegon and Saint Bathans.

Roch 'n' Horse

Roch ‘N’ Horse (M Moroney)
Won the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap in 2021 and beat Nature Strip in the 2021 Darley Champions Sprint Stakes. The 6yo mare will be looking to resume in the Group 1 Lightning Stakes to clash again with Nature Strip, then to defend her crown in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap on March 1.

She may possibly then head to the UK to compete at Royal Ascot in the Group 1 Kings Stand Stakes or Platinum Jubilee.

Australian Cup Day (25 March, 2023)
The Group 1 Australian Cup is now worth $3,000,000 and will be held on the new date of March 25, 2023. The time-honoured weight-for-age race has produced legendary winners such as Saintly, Makybe Diva, Lonhro, Northerly and Harlem to name but a few.

The Listed Roy Higgins Quality has been moved to this date, and the winner carries a ballot exemption into the Lexus Melbourne Cup.

The Listed Moomba Plate has also moved to this day, and both races have increased in prizemoney from $160,000 to $500,000.

TAB Champions Stakes Day (11 November, 2023)
The success of the first year of the revamped final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival has many already looking forward to the 2023 edition. On a day when the best weight-for-age horses lined up to do battle, it was a stellar way to close out the Carnival. Three Group One races on the day makes for one of the best days of racing on the calendar.

And we haven’t even mentioned the biggest race of them all… the 2023 Lexus Melbourne Cup (7 November, 2023)! Who will etch their name into equine immortality by winning the race that stops the nation?