If you don’t come from down under and instead spend most of your time in the Northern Hemisphere, it can be easy to simply assume that the best of horse racing is confined to the UK and Ireland.

Sure, there are some pretty decent jumps races in France at Auteuil, and we always have the Velká pardubická, an incredibly famous Grand National in the Czech Republic, but what about further south?

Australia is jam-packed with superb racing venues and events, but most don’t think much beyond the Melbourne Cup.

So with that in mind, I decided to delve a little deeper into the Aussie racing culture and find out just how good the racing really is there.

With a calendar packed with events that attract spectators from around the globe, five races stand out for their prestige and prize money.

Melbourne Cup

It should come as absolutely no surprise that the biggest event in Australian racing is the Melbourne Cup.

Dating back over 158 years, it is the race that brings the country to a standstill. Even kids get the day off school for it!

For 2024 it is scheduled to run on November 5th at Flemington racecourse. Of course it is still too far out to offer any suggestions on who might win it but closer to time there will be plenty of Melbourne Cup tips available.

A flat race run on turf, the Melbourne Cup has seen remarkable feats over the years.

Makybe Diva stands out with her unparalleled three consecutive wins (2003-2005), and Kingston Rule holds the record for the fastest time, completing the 3200 meters in 3:16.3 in 1990.

Incidentally, that distance of 3200 meters (two miles) is one of the longest races in the country.

With more than 100,000 attendees annually and millions more watching worldwide, it is a very lucrative race, with the winner taking home £2,485,875.71 for first place.

The Cox Plate

The Cox Plate is a Group 1 race established in 1922. Known for the quality of its competitors, it is open to horses aged three years old and over and is run over a distance of 2040 metres (approximately 1m 2f).

Held by the Moonee Valley Racing Club in Melbourne, Australia, it is scheduled to take place in late October and offers a healthy prize purse of A$5,000,000.

Along with the prize money, the winner also gets a spot in the Melbourne Cup which takes place a couple of weeks later.

Winx, the Australian super mare, dominated the Cox Plate, winning four consecutive times from 2015 to 2018, making her one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

While not surpassing her, the race’s history has plenty of stories of excellence, such as Kingston Town’s three consecutive wins in the early 1980s.

The Caulfield Cup

Australians love their racing, as evidenced by the fact that so many of their races have been running for over a hundred years.

And that is the case with The Caulfield Cup which dates all the way back to 1879.

With a distance that pitches itself nicely between the Melbourne Cup and the Cox Plate, it is a 2400-meter handicap race that also has A$5,000,000 up for grabs.

Many see this race as a stepping stone to the Melbourne Cup, but the reality is that only eleven horses have ever won both in the same year.

They are:

  • Poseidon – won both in 1906.
  • The Trump – 1937
  • Rivette – 1939
  • Rising Fast – 1954
  • Even Stevens – 1962
  • Galilee – 1966
  • Gurner’s Lane – 1982
  • Let’s Elope – 1991
  • Doriemus – 1995
  • Might and Power – 1997
  • Ethereal – 2001

The Caulfield Cup has witnessed its share of drama and excitement, and with some much money and prestige on the line, it’s easy to see why it is one of Australia’s biggest races.

Golden Slipper Stakes

The Golden Slipper Stakes is the world’s richest race for two-year-old thoroughbreds and has become a cornerstone of Sydney’s autumn racing since it first began in 1957.

A relatively short race run over six furlongs (1200 metres) and with A$5,000,000 on the table, it is where the creme de la creme of two-years-old go.

It is one of the first big races on the Australian calendar and for 2024, will take place on Saturday, March 23rd, at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse in Sydney.

Champions like Dance Hero (2004) and Sebring (2008) have etched their names into the history books as well as as highlighting future stars of the turf.

The Sydney Cup

As one of Australia’s oldest continuously run races, the Sydney Cup is a testament to horse racing’s enduring appeal.

Since 1862, this 3200-meter race has been a highlight of the Autumn Racing Carnival, showcasing stamina and determination.

It is open to horses three years old and older and is run over 3200 metres at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, Australia.

It takes place annually in the autumn during the ATC Championships series and is so difficult to win that only four horses in the history of the race have ever won it twice:

  • The Barb – Won in 1868 and 1869
  • Carbine – Won in 1889 and 1890
  • Mosaic – Won in 1939 and 1940
  • Tie The Knot – Won in 1998 and 1999

Three-time Melbourne Cup winner, Makybe Diva, also won this race in 2004 as well as the Cox Plate in 2005.

Conclusion

From the race that stops a nation at Flemington to the strategic battles at Randwick, Australia’s top horse races are a cultural phenomenon that captures the hearts of racing fans.

Each race, with its storied past, legendary winners, and annual display of equine excellence, defines Australian horse racing.

So the next time you fancy some terrific racing action, check out Australian racing for some of the best in the world.