Winter Series to unveil future stars
The Lexus Andrew Ramsden is not the only race at Headquarters on Saturday to offer a golden ticket into a future feature with six of the nine races serving as heats for Flemington Finals Day on July 2, the culmination of the Flemington Winter Series that is renowned for producing subsequent stars.
The winter is often seen as Australian racing’s off-season, a time when the best horses are spelling or in the early stages of their preparations for the spring.
However, it is the winter which perhaps serves as important a function as any season in the country’s year-round racing program, offering an opportunity for horses to work through the grades in a fashion that allows them to thrive once they meet the biggest and the best come the spring.
While the Melbourne Cup Carnival in the spring may be the star attraction of the racing programme at Headquarters with the Flemington Racing Spectacular its impressive autumn counterpart, it has been the winter which has proven a reliable stepping stone to success in some of Australia’s biggest contests.
With nine series on offer, catering to every type of horse - from sprinters to stayers, from two-year-olds to veterans – the Flemington Winter Series is filled with competitive racing, emerging talents and impressive depth.
Over the next two months, designated races – both at Flemington and at metropolitan and country meetings right across Victoria – will offer a pathway towards Flemington Finals Day in July. Each of the nine series has a number of heats, with the winner and runner-up in each heat automatically receiving a berth in the respective final.
Saturday at Flemington will feature the first heat of the VRC-CRV Winter Championship Series for milers, the Leilani Series for mares, the Silver Bowl Series for three-year-old milers and the Next Generation Sprinters Series for two-year-olds.
The meeting will also feature the second heats of the Mahogany Challenge Series for staying three-year-olds, named for versatile Flemington favourite Mahogany, and the Santa Ana Lane Sprint Series, which is being dedicated for the first time to superstar Flemington-trained sprinter Santa Ana Lane.
The first heats were held at Caulfield last Saturday with the classy Elzamee and progressive The Amazonian earning ballot-exempt spots in the Mahogany Challenge Final (2500m), while improving four-year-olds Ranting and Ocean Beyond received their express pass into the Listed Santa Ana Lane Sprint Series Final (1200m).
Last weekend also saw the first heat of the Banjo Paterson Series for older stayers with stakes winners Milford and Flash Aah earning a place in the 2600-metre final.
Recent years have seen Group 1 winners like Nature Strip, Santa Ana Lane, Eduardo, Gytrash, Zoutori, I’m Thunderstruck, Streets Of Avalon, Despatch, Miami Bound, Begood Toya Mother and Johnny Get Angry emerge from the Flemington Winter Series, with Nature Strip going on to be named Australian Horse of the Year.
Meanwhile, the last three winners of the Group 3 The Bart Cummings (2500m) – Surprise Baby, Persan and Grand Promenade – have either run in The Lexus Andrew Ramsden or the Flemington Winter Series before going on to take their place in the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Who will emerge from the Flemington Winter Series in 2022.