Few countries are as passionate about horse racing as Australia. Indeed, the Aussies would give the Irish a run for their money when it comes to being the world’s most passionate racing fans.
But if you are outside of Australia looking in – or down, as it were – and following international racing coverage, you would be forgiven for thinking that everything revolves around the Melbourne Cup.
While the Melbourne Cup is the jewel in the crown of Australian racing, it does a disservice to suggest that all roads lead to Flemington Park in early November.
Australia has scores of Group 1 races, many of which can match the Melbourne Cup, and other big hitters like the Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup, for action and drama.
Below we pick out five of those big races that prove Australian racing is about so much more than the Melbourne Cup:
Australian Derby – Randwick
One of the big showcases for Racing NSW, the Australian Derby is as old and storied as any race in Australia. It’s considered the top-ranked race for three-year-olds from Australia and New Zealand, and it is arguably one of the highlights of the busy autumn racing calendar.
Hitotsu is the latest winner of the Australian Derby, having triumphed at Randwick a few weeks ago. Other notable recent winners include the brilliant Mongolian Khan (2015) and Dundeel (2013).
The Australian Derby was inaugurated in 1861 – the same year as the Melbourne Cup. Its history is just as rich as the Flemington showcase.
The Golden Slipper Stakes – Rosehill
The world’s richest race for two-year-olds, the purse for the 2022 Golden Slipper clocked in at a mammoth $AUD 5,000,000.
It’s one of the biggest betting events in the Australian racing calendar, and it has a reputation as a launchpad for some glittering racing careers.
The formidable Pierro won it during his glittering two-year-old season, for example. Fireburn, who won the most recent Golden Slipper in March, also looks like he can become a bona fide superstar of Australian racing.
Kingston Town Classic – Ascot
It is a fair criticism to say that the majority of big Australian racing events are based in Victoria and New South Wales, but there are wonderful events around the country.
The Kingston Town Classic run at Ascot Racecourse in Perth is one of the key highlights outside of the Australian racing’s epicentre.
It’s been listed as a Group 1 race since 1979, and while it has had various names, it’s been called the Kingston Town Classic in honour of the triple Cox Plate winner, Kingston Town, who won the event in 1982 when it was known as the Western Mail Classic.
Manikato Stakes – Moonee Valley
Home to the Cox Plate, the Moonee Valley Racecourse offers one of racing’s toughest challenges. While the Cox Plate is the showpiece at the racecourse, a lot of fans enjoy the Group 1 Manikato Stakes.
Named in honour of the great Manikato (who was also a Golden Slipper winner), the race is run over 1200m and open to horses aged three and over.
The All-Star Mile – Flemington
Finishing with a race that has little history but has caught the imagination of the Australian public. Inaugurated in 2019, the All-Star Mile distinguishes itself as being Australia’s only fan-voted race.
As such, racing fans vote for the horses who should take part, with trainers and owners incentivised by the $5 million purse.
In a short time, it’s become one of the highlights of the racing year, drawing in big names (Zaaki won in 2022) and grabbing the public’s attention due to the voting format.
The idea has really caught on, and it would be nice to see it used in other parts of the world to develop wider interest in racing.