Following Tycoon Tara’s gutsy triumph in the Tattersall’s Tiara at Doomben on Saturday, all Group 1 races of the 2016/17 Australian racing season have been run and won.
Before focus shifts to the forthcoming Spring Carnival and a brand new season of top level racing, we have revisited the Top 10 Group 1 Winners of the 2016/17 season; boasting the likes of Winx, Chautauqua and two-year-old sensation She Will Reign.
In no particular order, other than the first two examples, our Top 10 Group 1 Winners of the 2016/17 Australian racing season are listed below.
Winx – Cox Plate
Equine superstar Winx successfully defended her crown in the Cox Plate on October 22nd with the most dominant performance of her racing career to date. Having comfortably won the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m), Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) and Group 1 Ladbrokes Stakes (2000m) leading into the country’s premiere weight-for-age race, the Street Cry mare drifted to a quote of $1.80 as punters looked for value in runners like Vadamos, Black Heart Bart and Hartnell. Cantering up to the race leaders as the field approached the final turn at Moonee Valley, jockey Hugh Bowman was little more than a passenger as Winx completely blew away her rivals; winning the Cox Plate by more than eight lengths. The rising six-year-old will seek a third-consecutive win in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate during the forthcoming 2017 Spring Carnival. There is clearly a case to be made for all six of Winx’s Group 1 triumphs in the 2016/17 season being amongst the top ten, however her Cox Plate performance was certainly at the pinnacle.
Chautauqua – TJ Smith Stakes
The quality of Group 1 races and their winners can be extremely polarising amongst the racing fraternity, however no one could possibly take anything away from Chautauqua’s third-consecutive TJ Smith Stakes win in April this year; arguably the greatest performance and triumph by a horse in any southern hemisphere race in the 2016/17 season. Chautauqua appeared to have lost his trademark turn of foot when he failed to come up in the spring and could only manage minor placings in his first three starts in 2017, but the popular grey made a mockery of his doubters on Day 1 of The Championships and etched his name into Australian racing folklore. Settled at the tail of the field by jockey Tommy Berry, the Encosta De Lago gelding was down and out with only 300m to run, but produced a last-gasp sprint for the ages – one which words simply cannot describe and really needs to be witnessed, to be believed.
She Will Reign – Golden Slipper
Not a lot was expected of She Will Reign’s racing career when she was purchased for only $20,000, but the filly has already stamped herself as one of the country’s most talented sprinters and capped her incredible debut racing campaign with a dominant win in the Golden Slipper. The daughter of Manhattan Rain returned to the races this year for a comfortable win in the Group 2 Silver Slipper (1100m), but she appeared to struggle on the heavy going when she was well beaten by Frolic in the Group 2 Reisling Stakes (1200m) on March 4th. Drifting to Golden Slipper odds of $8 as punters rallied around the likes of Houtzen and Catchy, She Will Reign took a handy position close to the early pace and on the fence at Rosehill Gardens. Offered a clear racing line upon arriving in the final straight, the two-year-old comfortably strode clear of her rivals and savaged the line for a near-three lengths win.
Almandin – Melbourne Cup
It was a grandstand finish to the Race That Stops a Nation on the first Tuesday of November, but ultimately it was Almandin who produced a superior staying effort to beat international raider Heartbreak City in the Melbourne Cup. The Monson gelding found terrific condition through the early stages of the Spring Carnival and carried winning form into the Melbourne Cup following consecutive triumphs in the Listed Harry White Classic (2400m) and the Group 3 The Bart Cummings (2500m); the latter securing ballot-free entry into the two-mile classic. Settled within the capacity field by jockey Kerrin McEvoy, Almandin enjoyed a relatively carefree run in transit, but found a gap between runners as the field turned onto the famous Flemington straight. Locking in a fierce sprint battle with the Tony Martin-trained gelding, the pair strode away from Hartnell and the remaining field, but it was Almandin who managed to poke clear in the final throws of the race; delivering prominent owner Lloyd Williams his fifth Melbourne Cup.
Jameka – Caulfield Cup
Jameka won two Group 1 races during the 2016/17 season, but her campaign was undoubtedly highlighted by her dominant win in the Caulfield Cup. Sent off a $4 favourite, the Myboycharlie filly strode forward from the gates and was settled in behind the early pace as Tally, Preferment and Real Love took up the early running. Experiencing a relatively carefree run in the fence, Jockey Nick Hall began to work the mare into the race as the field approached the final bend and was greeted with a massive turn of foot when he asked the mare for an extra effort. Hall had to fast for a week leading into the race to make the light 52.5kgs weight, but the result more than justified his decision after Jameka stormed clear of Scottish in the final straight to win the Caulfield Cup by three lengths.
Scales Of Justice – Railway Stakes
Scales Of Justice has experienced something of a meteoric rise to prominence in recent seasons and scored a big one for the local contingent when he led from start to finish in the Railway Stakes at Perth’s Ascot Racecourse in November. Having broken through for a maiden black type win in the Group 3 RJ Peters Stakes (1600m) a fortnight prior, the Not A Single Doubt gelding immediately took up the running in the Railway Stakes; setting a fair tempo for a classy field containing some of the country’s best milers. As Mackintosh loomed on the outside as the field began to straighten, Scales Of Justice produced a strong turn of foot when asked for an extra effort and pulled clear; eventually finding the line more than three lengths ahead of his rivals. Unlucky not to repeat the result when an agonizingly-close second to Stratum Star in the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) a fortnight later, trainer Lindsay Smith has recently revealed plans for his stable star to meet Winx in this year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate.
Our Ivanhowe – Ranvet Stakes
European import Our Ivanhowe was a consistent performer at the highest level through each of his preparations since making his Australian debut in 2015, but easily produced his best performance in this year’s edition of the Ranvet Stakes. Trainer Lee Freedman had a big wrap on the horse and frequently referred to him as potentially the world’s best wet-tracker, but he continued to find unideal racing conditions and could never quite match it with the country’s best runners. Finally finding ‘Heavy 10’ conditions at Rosehill Gardens on March 18th, Our Ivanhowe settled towards the tail of the field in the Ranvet Stakes and was worked into the race as the field began to turn; stamping his dominance and proving Freedman’s sentiments as correct as he made light work of some of the country’s best, including Hartnell.
Lasqueti Spirit – Crown Oaks
$126 roughie Lasqueti Spirit produced one of the greatest moments of the 2016/17 racing season when she completed an incredible performance to win the Crown Oaks. By Beneteau, Lasqueti Spirit was bred and purchased with a sprinting career in mind, however trainer Lee Curtis was quietly confident that the filly would stay a trip and she was given her first opportunity to prove that theory correct when she was confirmed in the Crown Oaks (2500m) field. Jumping from the gates well, jockey Brenton Avdulla steered Lasqueti Spirit towards the pace before taking up the running when the field turned onto the back straight; opening a gap of more than ten lengths on closest rivals My Girl Chilly and Eleonora. Appearing to have done too much, too early when Avdulla went for the whip at the turn, Lasqueti Spirit only continued to find; attacking the line to win the race by three lengths from Harlow Gold.
I Am A Star – Myer Classic
The sky appears to be the limit for talented filly I Am A Star, who became the first ever three-year-old to win the Myer Classic in spring. There or there abouts through five starts prior to the Myer Classic, the I Am Invincible filly jumped from the gates well in the fillies and mares’ feature race and took an ideal position in transit on the heels of leader Whispering Brook. Experiencing a carefree run in transit, the filly strode to the lead with 400m to run, but jockey Dean Yendall remained patient and only went for the whip when other horses began to work into contention. Powering clear, the filly maintained to the line to beat a fast-finishing horde of horses, including some of the season’s standouts. The first Group 1 winner for trainer Shane Nichols, I Am A Star was also only the second Group 1 winning ride by veteran hoop Yendall.
Polarisation – Sydney Cup
In one of the great displays of composure by a horse, stable and jockey in recent memory, Polarisation officially won the Sydney Cup (3200m) on April 26th this year, only a fortnight after he was first past the post in the initial running of the Group 1 feature, deemed a ‘no race’. Tragic circumstances led to the mid-race cancel of the Sydney Cup on Day 2 of The Championships, however half the field did not hear the call from the stewards and competitively ran out the entire two miles of the race. In the re-running, jockey Corey Brown settled Polarisation in the first half of the field, as new entrant Lasqueti Spirit took up the running and opened a big gap on the field. As the filly tired at the final bend, it was Brown and the Echo Of Light gelding who found the lead and from there it appeared as though they were never going to be denied.
Special Mention – Black Heart Bart
Black Heart Bart won four Group 1 races during the 2016/17 Australian racing season, but they were all terrific performances and not one stood out from the pack. Taking out the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) first-up in spring, the Blackfriars gelding was perhaps at his best when he took out the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) third-up; his first win in a race contested at a distance of more than 1400m. Black Heart Bart returned to the track this year in typically excellent form and added consecutive wins in the Group 1 Ladbrokes CF Orr Stakes (1400m) and Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) to his CV.