Autumn Group Racing at The Heath

The Oakleigh Plate. The Futurity Stakes. The Blue Diamond. All etched in to the Autumn “mindtables” of Australian racing people. Gratifyingly   – despite a distance tinkering for a time with the Futurity – they’ve even managed to maintain their traditional titles as befits Gr Ones[1]. The honour boards boast great champions and vivid memories for fans though, to be honest, at times these races don’t quite match their status[2]. It’s nevertheless wonderful the MRC commits to presenting such a glittering programme (6 Gr races) on the one card now and, despite some years’ victors being forgettable, others are indelibly printed on my memory[3].

Budge and I went along last year and experienced the best and worst that racing offers patrons these days….high costs, long queues, awful food and beverage, uncompetitive odds….but managed to see Sepoy’s devastating Diamond and the mighty mare More Joyous bring Gai once again to gush. Formidable horses and memorable wins both[4].

Funny how often the same horses seem to feature on this day. There’s a solid theory that certain horses peak in autumn. Another theory just espouses that bloody good horses keep fronting.

Some might look at the roll calls and figure it to be a Manikato gala. After all, he’s got the 1978 Diamond and 79,80,81,83 Futurity on his record. But, alas, my memories are darkened from being there when Galleon won in 1982!

Another “repeater” is the great grey Schillacci, winner of an Oakleigh Plate and 2 x Futurity!

And, of course, Testa Rossa bounced back from Diamond despondency to Futurity fame in 2000.

No wonder owners, trainers and punters get nostalgic and excited as this day rolls around.

This year we see Sepoy trying to imprint his hoof on the occasion, back as a 3 yr old to tackle the Oakleigh Plate (MR6, 1100m, 3.50pm). This dash was long considered (before O/S deliberations complicated programmes) the middle leg of the Sprint Crown…surrounded by Flemington’s Lightning Stakes and the Newmarket[5]. Sepoy’s ambitions are elsewhere and, let’s be honest, those two in the Lightning would have flattened him for a season. He is, though, exceptionally good, but I reckon he could be vulnerable. Where will he lob? Punters are wary. 6/4 to 5/2 early. Bel Sprinter (6) is a gun. Beware Woorim (4) fresh also, especially if there is some give (unlikely on forecast). Last year’s surprise, Eagle Falls, defends, with punters starting to concede his calibre in fast Caulfield dashes. 6,1,4.

The Futurity Stakes (MR5, 1400m) has unfortunately suffered from the “no Black Caviar” news. It does look to be a pretty modest field and I am pretty keen on Cox Plate heroine, Pinker Pinker (10), presenting 1st up for Craig Williams. 2,3,5 are logical multi inclusions.

I don’t profess to following the juveniles at all (other than waiting for Rhandara’s return) so have to go on what I have seen and tip Samaready in the Diamond. Why not?

An interesting batch of stayers gathers for the 1800m Gr2 Carlton Draught Peter Young. Southern Speed (13) will be the one to beat, from Manighar (5) and Glass Harmonium (4). Heaps of interest in the replays here…Efficient, Illo, Lucas Cranach, Ranger, Precedence…

If you’ve decided to take a Quaddy be sure to include 3 and 4 in the last.

It’s a really good day of racing at Caulfield. Get there if you can, though I concede that it can be long, hot and expensive. Last year, exasperated by queueing for $8 warm beers after the features, Budge and I found air conditioned TVN solace in a pub. Maybe a balmy Friday night on the front lawns at the Valley and then a pubtab Diamond Day could be the dream diary for this weekend?

Whatever you can manage, enjoy. Good luck!

[1] one of the collection of Gr2 supports, I notice, has now been rebadged the Peter Young (less grand, certainly, than the customary King George Stakes but, in this case, probably an acknowledgement of the long serving MRC Committeeman’s contemporary impact)


[2] Maybe I just don’t follow the juveniles enough, but ones like Sleek Chassis and Reean had me looking for the cred.

[3] OK. Happy to chat on this for anyone else obsessed. My fav memories in the 3 features…

Diamond – 1999 battle of Redoute’s Choice and Testa Rossa. Rancher kicking on the turn in 1982. Star Shower limping over in 1979. Alinghi’s authority in 2004. Sepoy.

Oakleigh Plate – the Hussler in 2008. The enigmatic Turf Ruler 1980.

Futurity – More Joyous last year.

[4] And I reckon the MRC is at least trying to respond to public demands.

[5] The first Oakleigh Plate winner, Malua (1884), managed to win an Adelaide Cup, Melbourne Stakes, Newmarket H’cap and the Melbourne Cup one year!


  1. What was the King George?

  2. For footnote 3 (have you gone all Litza on us?), add Manikato x 4 plus Galleon when he beat The Man.
    Oakleigh Plate _ Mistress Anne was a good one.
    Point 5 – Malua also came back to win a Grand National I think (not the same season!)

  3. Whoops – went off early before I got to the mentions of Manikato & Galleon! Still rate them as magic moments.

  4. late night oversight.
    The St George Stakes has now morphed in to the Peter Young.
    Upon reflection, the Futurity’s honour roll is impressive and the good Diamonds are great.

  5. David Downer says

    [3] Unsurpisingly, personal memories are generally formed based entirely on your pocket, so with that in mind…

    Blue Diamond – Ditto on Redoutes v Testa. An absolute ding-dong up the straight.

    Oakleigh Plate – not sure if I’ve ever found the winner! Schillaci the best of the modern era.

    Futurity – In my more “formative years” of racetrack interest I was a fan of Encounter. From memory it got on its wrong leg rounding the turn (as Sydney horses do at the Heath), but sorted himself out to win it, circa 1998

    Am heading along later in the day. Main grandstand behind glass + air-con provides the best views – the place to be on a 38 degree day.

  6. big knock out for Pinker at MV last night. She’ll get to good odds due to tight gate. Mufhasa unreasonably short. Back a roughie, save on the Pink.
    Risking Sepoy. Bel Sprinter very good. Good race.
    Samaready looks over the line.
    Southern Speed should win too?
    I’ll be sweltering in the main ring. Come down and gloat1

  7. Memorable meeting at Caulfield, highlighted by the emotional win of Froggy Newitt on the outstanding Samaready in the Blue Diamond. He’s been through the wringer, but is a really good jockey and he seems to have his life working really well also. Good for him. She’s a ripper, seemingly bomb-proof filly which got to stupid odds (sniff of 6/4) mostly on the back of a big push for Gai’s excellent runner-up No Looking Back. Good form lines but it is a long prep for a 2yo to progress to Rosehill….still waiting for Rhandara’s return!

    If you are watching replays, note C. Williams’ ride on the second winner, poorly weighted toppy, Hot Spin. He is the best hoop here (Froggy 2nd?). Hot Spin blew like the nasty northerly at the Heath and the plunge on Graskop nearly landed, but for the ride. K. McEvoy outgunned again.
    Shopaholic once again won at good odds, this time in the Angus Armanasco, once again beating a hot pot – this week Soft Sand after last week nosing Mosheen.
    The Futurity panned out as expected. scratchings gifting Mufhasa a soft lead and that was it, especially as the goss had Pinker slightly underdone. The winner’s been a great moneyspinner and is a tribute to his genial and capable trainer S.McKee. Not a great form race looking ahead.1st good. 2nd will be better.
    Until R6 it had been an on pace day so I sat on my hands rather than follow my advice of looking for a roughie and really liking Woorim fresh.Que sera. Pleased for the Heathcote/Browne combo who come down from Qld with a really competitive team and have now snared a Gr1. Sepoy had no hope at the weights. Forget Bel Sprinter ever went around.
    The other noteworthy win was that by Lucas Cranach in the Gr2. I was wrong to be keen on Southern Speed, underestimating the challenge of 2nd up jump from 1400 to 1800. She was beaten by 4 imports. My boss correctly argues that the Melbourne Cup is now a quality form guide. You’d back Dunaden at Flemington, ShaTin or Longchamps. Lucas Cranach bravely nosed out Americaine for 3rd last November and can become a WFA contender on yesterday’s performance.

    It was a bloody hot day and ridiculously long. No one wants 9 races and the breaks between them were epic. Nevertheless there was top quality racing, we had a winning day and the focus can now switch to HQ for a fortnight.
    A final plug here for anyone with some time to get out to Oaklands Junction for the Yearling Sales…can be a fascinating few hours. They run Monday thru Thursday. I’ll be there tmrw afternoon. Inquiries at Inglis 93331422

  8. Skip of Skipton says

    A win bet on Lucas Cranach was my only investment for the day. From what he paid, a few others were on board with me. He showed his class last spring. He’d be the best middle distance/staying performer around here now, no doubt. The other imports that filled the First Four behind him are good average cattle at best. Lucas Cranach vs. Southern Speed in the BMW at Rosehill will be a good race. There might be a few others up and about by then, some Sydney horses etc, but at the minute it looks a match race.

    Good on Craig Newitt, but I have never really rated him as a good tactical hoop. Maybe I’m talking through my pocket, but have a look at the ’09 Melbourne Cup (Shocking’s year) and just keep an eye on Harris Tweed. I had him at 100/1. Newitt was the worry that day, and so it proved.

  9. Skip….I backed Leone Chiara but am prepared to move on.

  10. Skip of Skipton says

    Fair enough crio. I was having a bleat. 100/1 what if’s? do that to you.

  11. Crio -great report on the Caufield meeting for those of us who were lucky enough not to be there
    Bet dehydration wasnt a problem after?

  12. Skip…I still resent Mick Dittman for his cup ride to beat the King. No set statute of limitations here!
    Error in report, with Southern Speed 3rd up but still jumping 1400 to 1800.
    David…one pot then home. Hot and stuffed. MV/Heath doubles do that! shall rehydrate with a couple today. btw…our Aquae cert beat by a lip at Ballarat on Friday! Keep an eye out for that 2yo old pls.

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