Australia & NZ
Top 5 Horse Races in Australia
In advance of the Melbourne Cup, it makes perfect horse sense to run down the top events for thoroughbreds in a country that can barely rein in a vehement passion for the “Sport of Kings”. Alas, the nickname is a misnomer Down Under. Far from a patrician pursuit for blue-bloods, the racecourse is the domain of the common man/punter in Australia. So indelible is the pastime on a national level, in fact, that Wikipedia has a tome-like entry solely for racecourse jargon in both Australia and New Zealand (if we make liberal use of it, please forgive us in advance).
With that, strap on the binos, back your lucky h. and peruse a knocktaker of a list.
The Victoria Derby kick-starts Spring Carnival in Victoria with a venerable race that may not match the windfall of the Melbourne Cup but pre-dates the finale by six years (1855 to 1861). A Flemington Racecourse record 130,000 spectators took part in the 2006 race – now that is a lot of blue cornflowers.
Where to stay: Hilton Melbourne South Wharf
Golden Slipper Stakes
The annual race calendar includes bellwether events not just in the Victoria capital of course. Sydney gallops from the gate with a lucrative Easter race at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse. The Golden Slipper Stakes may be short on pedigree – the inaugural race was in 1957 – but the purse of A$3,525,290 is considerable.
Where to stay: Rydges Hotel Parramatta
The former VRC Oaks is your requisite Day 3 entertainment for Melbourne Spring Carnival. First run in 1861, the event lures a work day rank and file of more than 100,000 race fans – and a few Fashions on the Field wags no doubt.
Where to stay: Crown Metropol Southbank Melbourne
A race for thoroughbred purists, the Cox Plate is in select company as part of a global Grand Prix, of sorts, that includes the likes of the Japan Cup and Grosser Preis von Baden. The weight-for-age championship of Australia is held at Moonee Valley Racecourse in Melbourne in late October and has a fat purse of A$3 million. Yet another reason to visit Victoria for Spring Carnival.
Where to stay: Sofitel Melbourne On Collins Hotel
The collective anticipation hits a fever pitch minutes prior to 3 p.m. on the first Tuesday in November. The race that stops a nation – a toothsome filler ‘tween footy and cricket seasons – is the crown jewel of the epic Spring Carnival and the handicap with the most Ã©clat. So big is the race at Flemington that the event is a public holiday in metro Melbourne and parts of Victoria. Take that Royal Ascot and Kentucky Derby. A crowd of more than 100,000 is a lock for the eminent race, with a television audience above the 2.5 million mark. Ample corporate sponsors (Emirates is a principal partner) and a A$6 million purse help move the hype needle.
Where to stay: Marriott Hotel Melbourne
If you want to bone up on horse race history in Australia, take a few hours to explore the superb National Sports Museum at Melbourne Cricket Ground.