Road To The Cup begins with Lexus Andrew Ramsden
‘The race that stops a nation’™, the $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m), may be almost six months away but the Road To The Cup begins in May at Flemington with the awarding of the first Golden Ticket for 2022, given to the winner of the Lexus Andrew Ramsden (2800m).
With a $300,000 cheque and an express pass into the Lexus Melbourne Cup to be awarded to the winner, it is one of racing’s most prestigious prizes, the ultimate dream for every racehorse owner.
A Golden Ticket means that, as long as the horse is entered for the Lexus Melbourne Cup throughout the spring, they will be automatically guaranteed one of the 24 places on offer for Australia’s greatest race.
While the connections of other horses are left trying to figure out a way to get into the Lexus Melbourne Cup later in the year, those with Golden Tickets can instead focus on presenting their horse in the best possible condition for what will be the race of their life.
Golden Tickets are awarded to the winners of three Flemington features - the Lexus Andrew Ramsden in May, the Lexus Bart Cummings (2500m) in October and the Lexus Hotham Stakes (2500m) on Penfolds Victoria Derby Day - as well as to the winners of the Caulfield Cup (2400m) and the Cox Plate (2040m) in the weeks leading into the first Tuesday in November.
The Lexus Andrew Ramsden is unique in that it is restricted to horses aged three, four and five, meaning that it provides an opportunity for young, emerging stayers to qualify for the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
All other Golden Tickets can be won by horses of any age.
Last year, three Golden Ticket holders – The Lexus Bart Cummings winner Grand Promenade, Lexus Hotham Stakes victor Great House and Caulfield Cup hero Incentivise – lined up in the Lexus Melbourne Cup, while 2020 saw eventual Lexus Melbourne Cup heroine Verry Elleegant secure a berth with her win in the Caulfield Cup.
From 1964 to 2018, the race - which was known as the Duke Of Norfolk Stakes until 2004 when it was renamed for former Victoria Racing Club chairman and Melbourne Cup-winning owner Andrew Ramsden - was contested over 3200m. It was the only race besides the Lexus Melbourne Cup to be run over the Flemington two miles each year.
While the Duke Of Norfolk Stakes and the Lexus Melbourne Cup were run over the same distance, only one horse completed the double – the Lloyd Williams-owned What A Nuisance, who won the Duke Of Norfolk in 1984 before returning in 1985 to claim the nation’s biggest prize. He would be the first of six Lexus Melbourne Cup winners to carry the famous Williams navy and blue, joined eventually by Efficient, Green Moon, Almandin, Rekindling and Twilight Payment, while Williams also owned Just A Dash.
Another notable winner came in 2011 when Niwot – part-owned by Andrew Ramsden – scored a memorable victory. He would go on to finish second in The Bart Cummings and win the Hotham Stakes before finishing a respectable eighth to Dunaden in the Melbourne Cup.
In 2019, though, the Lexus Andrew Ramsden changed slightly, being reduced in distance to 2800m and also switching to a set weights event open to horses aged three, four and five. Lexus Melbourne Cup ballot exemption was also on the line for the first time, offering the winner a ticket into Australia's premier contest.
An enthralling stretch-long battle between Irish import Steel Prince and Adelaide Cup winner Surprise Baby saw the former secure his spot in the Lexus Melbourne Cup by a nose. Surprise Baby would later grab his own Golden Ticket by winning The Bart Cummings at Flemington, with Steel Prince finishing ninth and Surprise Baby fifth come the first Tuesday in November.
A year later, an Adelaide Cup winner - King Of Leogrance - would again finish second as the Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr-trained Oceanex relished her first attempt at the extended trip. She would go on to finish 11th in the Lexus Melbourne Cup, earning her connections a share of prizemoney.
The 2021 winner Realm Of Flowers produced arguably the most impressive Andrew Ramsden win of them all, scorching clear for a five-length victory and stamping herself as a true Lexus Melbourne Cup contender in the process.
Unfortunately, minor injury ruled her out of ‘the race that stops a nation’™, with those who finished in the placings behind her - subsequent The Bart Cummings winner Grand Promenade and 2019 Kennedy Oaks heroine Miami Bound - finishing sixth and 12th respectively in the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
The Lexus Andrew Ramsden has proven, in such a short timeframe, to be the ideal stepping stone to the Lexus Melbourne Cup. Make sure to remember the name of the 2022 winner – they are certain to be a force come November 1.