The beginning of the Australian Guineas

26 February 2024 Written by VRC

In mid 1985 committee member Doug Reid – a former president of the Victorian Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association and a keen owner-breeder at St John’s Lane Stud, Digger's Rest – proposed a new race, to be called the Australian Guineas.

Reid had discussed the concept of an autumn 1600-metre set-weight race for three-year-olds with Murray Cox and his assistant, Rod Johnson. Reid believed such a race would provide a significant boost to Victorian racing and the state's breeding industry. At that time Victoria did not have an autumn Group 1 race for three-year-olds, whereas Sydney had three – the Canterbury Guineas, Rosehill Guineas and the AJC Derby. Reid saw the proposed race as an ideal lead-up to the Australian Cup if run at the second February meeting. It would also be an excellent vehicle for sponsors.

Reid’s proposal was quickly adopted by the VRC’s program sub-committee with the result that the Guineas, carrying a stake of $100,000, was run for the first time the following autumn. This was a massive prize for the period, as the established open sprint, the Lightning Stakes, run on the same card, was worth $40,000. Introduced as a Group 3 race in 1986 the Australian Guineas was promoted to Group 1 the following year, worth $50,000 more with confectioner Cadbury as sponsor.

Hilton Nicholas said the need for such a race was obvious. “It is not an existing race that has been upgraded, but a totally new event which will give racing in Victoria a tremendous boost,” he said. “It has been positioned to enhance the Australian Cup and to complement the Sydney autumn three-year-old Triple Crown.”

The Australian Guineas evolved as one of Australia’s richest and most significant three-year-old races. While Reid had hoped the race would be a stepping stone to the Australian Cup, this did not eventuate and it was shifted to March; but his dreams that the Guineas would have a big breeding influence proved spot on. Winners to go on to become successful sires include Zabeel, Flying Spur, Military Plume, Pins and Reset.

(From The Story of the VRC and Flemington since 1864 by Rhett Kirkwood and Rod Johnson.