TAB Australian Cup contenders

28 March 2024 Written by Michael Manley

The Group 1 TAB Australian Cup has a winners list featuring a who’s who of Australian Racing. Who will get added to that prestigious list? We take a look at the contenders.


Click here for the history of the Australian Cup


Click here for the speed map summary


TAB Australian Cup (2000m)

$3,000,000 - Group 1 - Weight-For-Age

Final field as at 2pm, Wednesday 27th March

  # Last 10 Horse Barrier Age/Sex Trainer Jockey Weight
1 111222x112 Mr Brightside (NZ) 1 6YO Gelding Ben, Will & JD Hayes Craig Williams 59kg
2 5213x7x943 Cascadian (GB) 8 9YO Gelding James Cummings Ben Melham 59kg
3 60x02295x2 Vow And Declare 9 8YO Gelding Danny O'Brien Billy Egan 59kg
4 23x2319x46 Dom To Shoot 6 6YO Gelding Sean & Jake Casey Mark Zahra 59kg
5 0311632x31 Young Werther (NZ) 3 6YO Gelding Danny O'Brien Damian Lane 59kg
6 8x48109x03 Esti Feny (HUN) 4 9YO Gelding Matthew Smith Jamie Mott 59kg
7 8x62611x21 Pride Of Jenni 7 6YO Mare Ciaron Maher Declan Bates 57kg
8 Px52021x81 Atishu (NZ) 5 6YO Mare Chris Waller Blake Shinn 57kg
9 1x310x1212 Legarto (NZ) 2 4YO Mare Ken & Bev Kelso Michael Dee 57kg


Trainers: Ben, Will & JD Hayes

Mr Brightside (NZ)

6YO Bay or Brown Gelding 

Sire: Bullbars 

Dam: Lilahjay (NZ) (Tavistock (NZ)) 

Career: 32:16-6-2 

Prizemoney: $12,977,752

Jockey: Craig Williams

Barrier: 1

Flemington highlights: 3rd 2022 G1 Champions Mile, 1st 2023 G1 Makybe Diva Stakes, 2nd 2023 G1 Champions Mile 

There’s no question he’s one of the shining lights in Australian racing. Over the past 13 months he’s had 12 starts for eight wins and four seconds. At his last start he was beaten by Pride Of Jenni in the All-Star Mile where he gave her a big start. His last run at this distance he was narrowly beaten in the Cox Plate by Hong Kong champion Romantic Warrior at The Valley. He’ll give his all as he always does. 

Trainer: Ciaron Maher

Pride Of Jenni

6YO Bay Mare

Sire: Pride Of Dubai 

Dam: Sancerre (NZ) (O’Reilly (NZ)) 

Career: 27:6-6-3 

Prizemoney: $5,049,740 

Jockey: Declan Bates

Barrier: 7

Flemington highlights: 1st 2023 G1 Empire Rose Stakes, 1st 2023 G1 Champions Mile, 2nd 2021 G2 Rose Of Kingston Stakes, 2nd 2020 L Desirable Stakes 

She’s always shown talent but it would have taken a quantum leap to predict her extraordinary progress at her last four starts where she has established herself as one of Australia’s best horses with two Group 1 wins over the four days of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, plus an All-Star Mile and a narrow defeat in the Group 2. She’s been coined the new Vo Rogue as she loves to get out the front and defy her rivals to run her down. Vo Rogue won the Australian Cup twice in 1989 and 1990 and there’s no reason this excitement machine can as well. Only query is that she is having her first start over 2000 metres. 

Trainer: Chris Waller

Atishu (NZ)

6YO Brown Mare 

Sire: Savabeel 

Dam: Posy (NZ) (No Excuse Needed (GB)) 

Career: 39:10-6-6 

Prizemoney: $3,901,295 

Jockey: Blake Shinn

Barrier: 5

Flemington highlights: 1st 2022 G2 Matriarch Stakes, 2nd 2023 G1 Empire Rose Stakes, 1st 2023 G1 Champions Stakes, 1st 2024 G2 Blamey Stakes 

Just as Pride Of Jenni has emerged from left field as one of Australia’s best gallopers, so has Chris Waller’s mare. After she finished second to Pride Of Jenni in the Group 1 TAB Empire Rose Stakes she claimed her first Group 1 win a week later when she won the Group 1 TAB Champions Stakes over this track and distance. She won the Group 2 Blamey Stakes at her last start over 1600 metres at Flemington. The step to 2000 metres is ideal for this daughter of Savabeel. 

Trainer: James Cummings

Cascadian (GB)

8YO Chestnut Gelding 

Sire: New Approach (IRE) 

Dam: Fall Of Lora (IRE) (Street Cry (IRE)) 

Career: 52:11-6-9 

Prizemoney: $8,836,275 

Jockey: Ben Melham

Barrier: 8

Flemington highlights: 3rd 2019 G1 Cantala Stakes, 2nd 2020 G1 Cantala Stakes, 3rd 2021 G1 Cantala Stakes, 2nd 2021 G1 Mackinnon Stakes, 1st 2023 G1 Australian Cup 

Amazing veteran who will be contesting the Australian Cup for a third consecutive year having finished fifth behind Zaaki in 2022 and winning the race in 2023. He’ll be out to become the first horse since Harlem’s longshot back-to-back wins in 2016 and 2017 to win two Australian Cups in succession. There’s little doubt that this is a much harder assignment than last year but as he showed with his fast finishing third to Pride Of Jenni in the All-Star Mile he’s still got a lot to offer, especially over 2000 metres at Flemington. 

Trainer: Ken & Bev Kelso

Legarto (NZ)

4YO Bay Mare 

Sire: Proisir 

Dam: Geordie Girl (NZ) (Towkay) 

Career: 14:9-2-1 

Prizemoney: $1,742,536 

Jockey: Michael Dee

Barrier: 2

Flemington highlights: 1st 2023 G1 Australian Guineas 

The champion Kiwi mare returns to the scene of her greatest triumph in the 2023 Group 1 Australian Guineas where she produced a whirlwind finish to record a narrow victory. Her trainers Ken and Bev Kelso have set her for this race and she’s been racing well with two wins and two seconds at the New Zealand summer carnival. She will be looking to become the first Australian Guineas winner to win the Australian Cup. 

Trainer: Danny O'Brien
Vow And Declare

Vow And Declare

8YO Chestnut Gelding 

Sire: Declaration Of War (USA) 

Dam: Geblitzt (Testa Rossa) 

Career: 40:5-8-4 

Prizemoney: $7,336,670 

Jockey: Billy Egan

Barrier: 9

Flemington highlights: 1st 2019 G1 Melbourne Cup, 3rd 2020 G1 Australian Cup 

2019 Melbourne Cup winner who has become a fan favourite due to the longevity of his career and being able to still race at a high level. He finished third in 2020 behind Fifty Stars and his rivals in that race have been long retired. He was beaten in a bob of the head first-up at Caulfield by Campionessa in the Peter Young Stakes. Last campaign he finished second to Alligator Blood in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes with an Australian Cup winner Duais third.  

Trainer: Danny O'Brien
Young Werther (NZ)

Young Werther (NZ)

6YO Bay Gelding 

Sire: Tavistock (NZ) 

Dam: Romantic Time (NZ) (Fastnet Rock) 

Career: 29:4-5-6 

Prizemoney: $1,895,050 

Jockey: Damian Lane

Barrier: 3

Flemington highlights: 3rd 2020 G1 VRC Derby, 2nd 2021 G1 Turnbull Stakes, 3rd 2022 G1 Turnbull Stakes, 3rd 2023 G1 Champions Stakes 

Another from the Danny O’Brien stable who has a penchant for Flemington where he has run placings in four Group 1 races including three over this track and distance. Last spring he finished third in the Group 1 TAB Champions Stakes behind Atishu and Duais over 2000 metres at Flemington. He’s racing well and underlined his preference for Flemington with a last start win in the TAB Australian Cup Prelude (1800m). 

Trainers: Sean & Jake Casey
Dom To Shoot

Dom To Shoot

6YO Bay Gelding

Sire: Shooting To Win

Dam: Princess Rouge (NZ) (Pins)

Career: 43:8-8-8

Prizemoney: $2,086,615

Jockey: Mark Zahra

Barrier: 6

Flemington highlights: 5th 2021 G3 CS Hayes Stakes

Tough West Australian campaigner who has campaigned in Melbourne over summer and he has produced two sound runs with a fourth in the Futurity Stakes and then a sixth in the All-Star Mile. Back at home last summer at his third run back from a break he defeated Zaaki in the Group 1 Northerly Stakes.

Trainer: Matthew Smith
Esti Feny (HUN)

Esti Feny (HUN)

9YO Bay Gelding

Sire: Pigeon Catcher (IRE)

Dam: Ejtihaad (IRE) (Nayef (USA))

Career: 32:7-4-3

Prizemoney: $391,369

Jockey: Jamie Mott

Barrier: 4

Flemington highlights: 3rd 2024 Australian Cup Prelude

Much travelled former European galloper who was bred in Hungary. He’s now a nine-year-old but showed he’s still got something to offer with a third in the Australian Cup Prelude behind Young Werther. His best Australian win was in last year’s Gosford Cup.



History says... 

There have been 161 runnings of the Australian Cup since the first was conducted at Flemington in 1863 over 18 furlongs (approx. 3600 metres). It stayed at that distance until it was shortened by a furlong in 1943. In 1964, the race distance was reduced to 10 furlongs (approx. 2000 metres) and has remained there to this day.  

In 1865, Tim Whiffler won the Australian Cup over 18 furlongs (approx. 3600 metres). Not to be confused with the 1867 Melbourne Cup winner, Tim Whiffler, who was also foaled in 1862. The two horses met in that 1867 Melbourne Cup, with the bookmakers referring to them as ‘Sydney Tim’, the favourite and eventual winner, and ‘Melbourne Tim’, a locally trained and owned horse. An imported English stallion, also named Tim Whiffler (GB) (won the Queen's Vase, Chester Cup, Goodwood Cup, Doncaster Cup in the UK) was the sire of 1877 Australian Cup winner, Sybil. 

In 1872, Saladin and Flying Dutchman dead-heated. A re-run of the race ensued and unbelievably, the two horses dead-heated again. On the second re-run, Saladin was finally victorious, only by a half neck. 

Four horses have won the Australian Cup in the autumn and gone on to win the Melbourne Cup, later that same year – Malua (1886), Spearfelt (1927), Saintly (1996) and Makybe Diva (2005). 

In 1988, 125-1 outsider Dandy Andy got the better of bold front-runner and hot favourite Vo Rogue (8/11 or $1.70) and champion Kiwi Bonecrusher (5/2 or $3.50), who finished second and third respectively, in what was a huge upset. It was the biggest win in the training career of Jim Cerchi. 

Vo Rogue went on to back-to-back successes in the Australian Cup in 1989 and 1990, also finishing second in 1991 to fellow champion, Better Loosen Up. 

2005 saw champion mare Makybe Diva set a course record of 1:58.73 for the 2000 metres at Flemington, which remains today. Later that year she would go on to claim a historic third Melbourne Cup. 

Last year was the first time the All-Star Mile was held before the TAB Australian Cup, and it immediately proved to be a good programming move after Cascadian won the Cup following his second placing to Mr Brightside in the All-Star Mile, run at The Valley.  Pride Of Jenni (first), Mr Brightside (second), Cascadian (third) and Dom To Shoot (sixth)  from the All-Star Mile meet again here.

Cascadian will be trying to emulate the feat of Harlem who was the last horse to win consecutive Australian Cups which he did when he won in 2018 and 2019. James Cummings who trains Cascadian won his first Australian Cup last year but has a long way to go to catch his legendary grandfather Bart who trained 13 Australian Cup winners.  

The Hayes family also has a tremendous record in the race. David Hayes can claim six winners and his father Colin won the race three times. Ben Hayes has also won the race three times having co-trained Harlem and Fifty Stars (2020) with his father and his uncle Tom Dabernig. Peter Hayes also trained Istidaad to win in 1999. 

Three-year-olds have won the Australian Cup 27 times, the last time being Super Cool in 2013. Preferment was the last VRC Derby winner to go on and win the Australian Cup. But he did so as a five-year-old. For a three-year-old to win the Australian Cup after winning the VRC Derby in the spring, you’d have to go all the way back 1890 when chestnut colt Dreadnought won as 1/2 favourite ($1.50) over 18 furlongs (approx. 3600m). It was jockey Thomas Haleseighth win in the Australian Cup, the most of any jockey. 


Click here for the 2024 TAB Australian Cup field


Speed Map summary

The first part of the equation is simple as Pride Of Jenni will take up the position Vo Rogue used to win two Australian Cups, and that’s lead at a brisk pace with the plan to take the sting out of her rivals. Young Werther is capable of taking up a forward position and he’s likely to sit second. Mr Brightside will look to take a more forward position and Craig Williams will be keen to keep her in his sight. Vow And Declare and Legarto are likely to be  midfield. 


Click here for the 2024 TAB Australian Cup field