The stories behind the races on Turnbull Stakes Day

28 September 2021 Written by Andrew Lemon

The precursor to the Melbourne Cup Carnival, this thrilling race day features thoroughbred racing at its very best. Discover the history behind the races.

Maribyrnong Trial Stakes

The Maribyrnong Trial Stakes has a history dating back to 1898 at Flemington. It is the first opportunity for the new crop of two-year-old colts and fillies to race down the straight, at set weights. Now over 1000 metres, the race was originally over 885 metres and was intended as a try-out for the rich Maribyrnong Plate, inaugurated at the 1871 Melbourne Cup Carnival. The indigenous word ‘Maribyrnong’ has many associations with Australian racing history. Maribyrnong is the river that runs past Flemington. It is the suburb upstream, originally Maribyrnong Farm (1855) which became Hurtle Fisher’s – and later his brother C.B. Fisher’s – Maribyrnong Stud. There they bred their brilliant stallion, Maribyrnong, sire of 1878 Melbourne Cup winner Calamia. And Maribyrnong Farm became the site of a private racecourse in the 1890s operated by Archie Cox, son of Moonee Valley’s W.S. Cox. Flemington’s first Maribyrnong Plate was restricted to progeny of sires standing at Maribyrnong, but was soon open to all two-year-olds and became hotly contested. Fittingly, the Maribyrnong Trial Stakes is now sponsored by UK-based Darley, which in 2006 acquired historic Northwood Park at Seymour. Darley is one of the most prestigious stud farms in Victoria.

Paris Lane Stakes

The racehorse Paris Lane, foaled in 1990, was one of the oldest retirees based at Living Legends home of former turf champions. Known affectionately as Percy, he passed away in July 2021 at the age of 30. He deserved his place at Living Legends after a career where he recorded 7 major wins and 14 placings in 28 starts. He was trained by Lee Freedman who cryptically remarked that ‘he had his legs put on backwards’. As a racehorse, those legs did not stop him. In the year 1994 Paris Lane enjoyed his greatest successes and his most tantalising near-misses. At three years he won the Queensland Guineas before finishing second in the Queensland Derby, Hollindale Stakes and Doomben Cup. Turning four, he ran second in the VRC Turnbull Stakes and the Caulfield Stakes before brilliantly winning the Caulfield Cup in track record time, followed by the Mackinnon Stakes. He next finished a courageous second to Jeune in the 1994 Melbourne Cup. Paris Lane retired from racing in 1996. Another link to Flemington is that ‘Percy’ was bred by the late W.R. (Bill) Mackinnon, a former VRC committeeman, and was raced by the William Street Syndicate managed by former VRC Chairman, the late Andrew Ramsden.

Gilgai Stakes

Gilgai Farm at Nagambie is synonymous with the unbeaten champion Black Caviar and with the man who bred her, Rick Jamieson, founder of the very successful business Harry The Hirer. Black Caviar, foaled in August 2006, was among the first crop from Gilgai Farm to be sold as yearlings, and she famously won all of her 25 starts including the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. She won eight times at famous Flemington including the Lighting Stakes three times (now named for her) and the Newmarket Handicap. After Black Caviar, Gilgai Stud could proudly claim a succession of top thoroughbreds including the champion’s half brother All Too Hard (four Group 1 wins), Jameka who won the VRC Oaks and Caulfield Cup, and The Quarterback, the 2016 VRC Newmarket winner and recent Group 1 winner, Ole Kirk, a close relation to both Black Caviar and All Too Hard. This race was first staged on Turnbull Stakes Day in 1984 as the Rupert Steele Stakes over 1200m at weight-for-age, won by Royal Troubador. It honoured the former VRC Chairman 1977-72, who served 27 years on the committee. It became the Gilgai Farm Stakes in 1999, the Gilgai Stakes from 2000, Group 2 since 2007. Among the stars on the winning list are Placid Arc, Bomber Bill, Hay List and Chautauqua (twice).

Edward Manifold Stakes

The VRC committee is of the opinion that young fillies are at a disadvantage in having to race so continuously against colts and geldings.” Such was the announcement back in 1932. “They have decided to have a race at the October meeting each year confined to three-year-old fillies, the Edward Manifold Stakes. It is the purpose of the committee to establish this as one of the classics.” So it became, with champions Tranquil Star, Chicquita, Wiggle, Light Fingers, Dual Choice, Emancipation, Spirit of Kingston (half-sister to Rose of Kingston) and Alinghi on the winners’ list. Edward Manifold (1868-1931) served 35 years on the VRC committee up to the time of his death. Like his brothers, the Western District pastoralist had been a sportsman in his youth, a successful amateur rider, owner of racehorses, especially steeplechasers, winning several VRC Grand National Steeplechases with the colours yellow and violet hoops, violet caps. Edward’s record of service inspired his nephew (Sir) Chester Manifold to follow him onto the VRC committee in 1937 – also serving for 35 years (ten as Chairman). Sir Chester has often been described as ‘the father of the TAB’, which began operations in Victoria in 1961.

The Bart Cummings

Bart Cummings is a name always spoken in the same breath as ‘The Melbourne Cup’. Seventy years ago, Bart Cummings (1927-2015) first stepped into the Flemington Mounting Yard on Melbourne Cup Day. The young man was working as strapper for the 1950 Cup winner Comic Court, trained by his father, Jim. Fifteen years later, Bart returned as winning trainer in his own right, with the quinella of Light Fingers and Ziema. The next year he repeated the success, with Galilee and Light Fingers. In 1967 with Red Handed, Bart became the first trainer to win three successive Cups. Soon the press were calling him the Cups’ King, and he earned it. He added Think Big to the winners’ roll (twice, 1974, 1975) followed by Gold and Black (1977) and Hyperno (1979). Seven winners as trainer was unprecedented. Then came Kingston Rule (1990), Let’s Elope (1991) and the horse he bred himself, Saintly (1996). Rogan Josh (1999) was the eleventh, Viewed (2008) the twelfth and last of them, as Bart turned 81. The VRC introduced ‘The Bart Cummings’ race to Turnbull Stakes Day in 2002. Fittingly, the winner now is guaranteed a start in the Lexus Melbourne Cup.

Turnbull Stakes

Richard Turnbull (1875-1951) was Chairman of the Victoria Racing Club 1942 to 1951, leading courageously during one of the VRC’s toughest eras, through the Second World War, when racing nationally was drastically curtailed, into post-war years when racing boomed but costs soared and building materials were at a premium. He was first elected to the committee in 1925. During his term as Chairman, life delivered him the highest of highs and worst of lows. His filly East End won the 1942 VRC Wakeful and Oaks Stakes, while Sirius, also bred and raced by him, won the 1944 Melbourne Cup. Meanwhile, he lost both of his sons on active service overseas with the RAF – John (1942) and Mack (1944) - and his wife Emily died in 1948. The VRC committee recognised his stoicism, consideration, courtesy and service, and in 1948 renamed in his honour the prestigious (October) Melbourne Stakes (1936-47), previously the VRC October Stakes – a race that dated back to 1898. Great horses have won the Turnbull, including subsequent Melbourne Cup winners Comic Court, Rising Fast, Let’s Elope, Makybe Diva and Green Moon along with such champions as Manfred and Bernborough. Winx won twice in succession, 2017 and 2018.

Rose of Kingston Stakes

Among Rose of Kingston’s ‘black type’ wins was Adelaide’s 1982 Queen of the South Stakes. It was appropriate – she went on to become Australian Horse of the Year. David Hains of Kingston Park Stud in Victoria bred the chestnut filly, foaled in 1978, and raced her throughout her successful career in partnership with his wife, Helen. Rose of Kingston was sired by the Italian stallion Claude from the Better Boy mare Kingston Rose. At two years she won the 1981 VRC Bloodhorse Breeders’ Plate, ran third in the 1981 Golden Slipper to Full On Aces and won Randwick’s Champagne Stakes.
In springtime her trainer Bob Hoysted tried her against the colts in the Victoria Derby. She finished an unlucky fifth before backing up to win the VRC Oaks. In autumn 1982 she narrowly won Adelaide’s inaugural Australasian Oaks from Voli Dream. Placings in Sydney weight-for-age races followed before she took the AJC Derby in record time – the first victorious filly since 1944. In spring at four years she won the Craiglee Stakes and, at her final start, the Coongy Handicap. Sent as broodmare to the USA to the triple-crown winner Secretariat, she produced the 1990 Melbourne Cup winner, Kingston Rule.

Super Impose Stakes

No one who witnessed Super Impose’s seemingly impossible victory in the 1991 Epsom Handicap at Randwick would readily forget it. It was pure gold. Not only was he the first horse ever to win the time-honoured Doncaster and Epsom Handicap double twice, but also he won the final race of that quartet against the odds. He carried 61 kg in a field of 20 and was last as they entered the straight. ‘Horses were everywhere in front of me,’ his jockey Darren Beadman later recalled. Beadman took an opening on the inside rail and the horse ‘just exploded’ past his opponents, to win by more than a length. New Zealand-bred, by Imposing, and trained by Lee Freedman, Super Impose enjoyed a racing career that extended from 1988 to 1992. In 74 starts he recorded 20 wins (8 Group 1s) and 32 meritorious placings, including seconds in the 1989 Australian Cup (to Vo Rogue) and Melbourne Cup (to stablemate Tawriffic) and in the 1991 Cox Plate and Mackinnon Stakes (to Let’s Elope). At eight years he crowned his career with victory by a nose over Let’s Elope in the 1992 Cox Plate, retiring soon afterwards as Australia’s leading stakes winner. This year, the race is sponsored by Kirkland Lake Gold, the provider of gold for the 2020 Lexus Melbourne Cup Trophy.