The Australian Derby is a Group 1 race at Randwick Racecourse that is a major part of a massive meeting that takes place around Easter.
The race is held during a day that includes three other Group 1s, a Group 2 and four Group 3 races.
Australian Derby Race Details
Race Distance: 2400m
Prize Money: $2,000,000
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When Is The Australian Derby: 6/4/24
What Time Is The Australian Derby: TBA
Where Is The Australian Derby: Randwick Racecourse
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More Details About The Australian Derby
The Group 1 race, The Australian Derby, also known as the ATC Derby, is for three year olds and is run over 2400 meters under set weight conditions at Randwick Racecourse.
The Australian Derby is such a significant race that it is often referred to simply as The Derby. For clarity, it is necessary to include ATC as in Australian Jockey Club, as in ATC Derby, to avoid confusing the race with the Victoria Derby, which is also referred to as The Derby. Further confusion can arise when consideration is given that both races are for three-year-olds and both used to be the same distance until the Victoria Derby was lengthened to 2500 metres in 1973.
The Australian Derby is restricted to three-year-old horses and is run under set weight conditions over 2400 metres. Colts and geldings receive 56.5 kg., while the fillies receive 54.5 kg.
Prizemoney for the race is $2 million.
Explosive Jack won $1.16 million for his win in 2021. There was also some bonus money involved that took Jack’s haul to $1,297,500.
Explosive Jack jumped at $16, longer than six of the other runners did.
History of the Australian Derby
The Australian Derby predates the Melbourne Cup.
It was run for the first time in the year of 1861. At that time, the ATC Derby was a spring race, so it would have been only a month or two earlier that the Cup, but that month or two is significant in terms of the good-natured rivalry that exists between Australia’s two biggest states.
When the ATC Derby started and all the way to metrication in 1972, the race was considered as a mile-and-a-half. When the Group system was being set up, the race was skipped in 1978. This was odd in our view, because the truly important races are never skipped and the ATC Derby is certainly an important race, one that the equine influenza outbreak in 2007 could not prevent.
When the race returned in 1979, it was moved from the spring to the autumn.
There was a 24-year period from 1932 to 1956 that saw geldings being banned from the race.
The race classification was always Principal until the Group system came into use, at which time the ATC Derby was declared a Group 1 race.
More than a few ATC Derby winners also won Melbourne Cups.
Venue for the Australian Derby
The race is and has always been held at Sydney’s primary metro racecourse, Royal Randwick.
The course is used for over 60 meetings every year. As of 2022, there are 20 Group 1, 18 Group 2 and 11 Group 3 races.
The richest turf race in the World, The Everest, is held at Randwick in October during the height of the spring racing season, but it is not classified under the Group system, as there are special conditions involved.
Racing History of the Australian Derby
A race as old as the ATC Derby will naturally supply a long list of winners. As an age-restricted event, there are none that have won the race more than once. The list of winners is not simply long. It is very distinguished as the Derby has always been one of the most important races in Australia.
An old race such as the ATC Derby often has past winners that can be obscure. Horses that were good enough to win, but not good enough to remain in the sport’s memory. There are times where some of these less memorable winners do not even complete a complete pedigree.
We are fortunate though, that the Australian Derby attracted the best, because many of them have become historically significant for winning many races, so we have the history to examine notable winners.
It gets easier after around 1990, when electronic records of incredible detail were facilitated by the internet.
Here are some of the notable winners of the Australian Derby. We cannot mention them all and many of them are detailed further on our pages of the great Australian champion horses.
We always mention the first winner.
That winner from 1861 was Kyogle.
Kyogle seems to stake winning the Derby as his claim to notoriety. He had an Australian mare, Cassandra for his dam and another, Alice Grey, for a grand dam. The rest of his lines were exclusively British.
The first big name we encounter is that of The Barb, the 1866 winner. The Barb won the Melbourne Cup that same year. Remember, at this time, the ATC Derby was a spring race, so it would have been very close to the time of the early November running of the Melbourne Cup. The ATC Derby win was The Barb’s first since returning from a spell. The Barb includes in his victory list the Sydney Cup from 1867 and 1868.
Another important horse name appears in the 1880 winner, Grand Flaneur.
Grand Flaneur made only nine jumps, winning them all. We did not expect to see a three-year-old stallion from that era retired after nine jumps, something that is common nowadays.
It was injury, not economics that retired Grand Flaneur.
His major wins in 1880 alongside the ATC Derby were the Melbourne Cup, the ATC and VRC Mares Produce Stakes, the Victoria Derby and the VRC St. Leger Stakes.
His first crop for Hobartville Stud included the 1889 Melbourne Cup winner Bravo. Grand Flaneur was Australia’s top sire in 1895 and he stayed near the head of that list for 10 years.
The next period of the race, from 1881 through 1905, featured the types that were good enough to win the race, but not good enough to win enough races to earn a memorable spot in the history of racing.
That came to a stop when Poseidon won the ATC Derby in 1906.
He had a blue blood pedigree that included the likes of Positano, Martin Henry, Musket and Yattendon.
Poseidon was so versatile that he won from 1000 to 4800 metres. Eight of his wins were in races that are now classified as Group 1. He won many of the same races that Grand Flaneur won, but Poseidon also added Caulfield Cups in 1906 and 1907. He was just average as a stallion, supplying stakes winners that accounted for major wins in the Queensland Derby, the Australia Cup and the Moonee Valley Cup.
The next notable is a familiar name to us, one we have encountered numerous times when exploring the winners of Australia’s to races, Prince Foote, the 1909 winners.
Prince Foote almost could have been called Poseidon II, as the records of both were closely parallel. Prince Foote won five major races in 1909. Along with the Australian Derby, he won the VRC version, the Chelmsford Stakes and most importantly, the Melbourne Cup. He won the St. Leger events that are staged both the VRC and what is now the ATC. He sired some good gallopers, including the 1919 winner of the Derby, Richmond Main.
The end of the First World War was the start of a period that lasted from 1918 winner Gloaming until 1933 winner Hall Mark. Following Gloaming was Artilleryman in 1919, the year he dead-heated the Australian Derby with the aforementioned Richmond Main.
In between were Heroic (1924), sire of Ajax, Manfred (1925), Trivalve (1927), Phar Lap (1929), Ammon Ra (1931) and Peter Pan (1932)
We could devote an entire article to any of those six gallopers and still only scratch the surface. Their blood is represented to this very day in major race winners.
After that era, is was mostly better types that won the Australian Derby and is not until after the second World War that we encounter 1948 winner Carbon Copy.
Carbon Copy won the Cox Plate that same year. In 1949 and 1950, he won the Chipping Norton Stakes. He captured the Sydney Cup in 1949.
Like some of his predecessor winners of The Derby, Carbon Copy was sire to future winner Grand Print, winner of the 1964 Australian Cup along with the 1962 Sydney Cup.
The next significant winner we encounter is 1957 winner Tulloch.
If T J Smith ever truly needed help to keep his Sydney premiership string going, Tulloch supplied that help. He won 36 races for Smith and placed in another 16, leaving him unplaced in just one start from 53 jumps. It is common to see a male horse with 53 jumps being a gelding, but Tulloch remained entire.
Tulloch won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes three times, won the Caulfield Cup in 1957 and the Cox Plate in 1960. In winning the Australian Derby, Tulloch set a record for the race that had lasted since Phar Lap had established the mark in 1929. He was scratched from the Melbourne Cup because his owner, E A Haley, was opposed to racing three-year-olds over two miles.
Skyline was the notable that won the race in 1958.
He looked to be on the verge of greatness after winning the Golden Slipper Stakes and the Hill Stakes to go along with his win the Australian Derby when he was injured in an accident at the stable. He recovered but he never won again.
The years of 1961 through 1963 gave us the unusual scenario of three winners from one sire.
Summer Fair (1961), Summer Prince (1962) and Summer Fiesta (1963) were all by a British stallion named Summertime. All three were good, but not great, but it was easy to discern a pedigree connection from the names. Only Summer Fair remained entire, but none of his progeny achieved greatness.
The Australian Derby winners following Tulloch and Skyline, with the exception of the unique aspect of the three Summer brothers, were mostly handy gallopers.
This brings us the 1978; the year the race was skipped in order to move the race from the spring to the autumn.
Dulcify immediately appears on the winners’ list when the race resumed in 1979.
Dulcify was a major force in 1979. He started his major race wins with the 1978 Victoria Derby. Six major wins followed in 1979, culminating in the 1979 Cox Plate.
Kingston Town was the 1980 winner, carrying forward the tradition of great horses winning the Australian Derby. He is studied in depth on other pages from our site and he is mentioned frequently whenever we look at past winners of Australia’s major races.
We will mention a few of the other great winners, most of which are household names in racing households and households in general.
Rose of Kingston won in 1982. She was the 1982 Australian Horse of the Year. She would be served by American Triple Crown winner Secretariat that resulted in 1990 Melbourne Cup winner Kingston Rule that established the still existing record for the Melbourne Cup of 3:16.3.
Like some earlier periods of the Australian Derby, the big names kept coming following Kingston Town in 1980.
Beyond Rose of Kingston and Strawberry Road were Bonecrusher (1986), Beau Zam (1988), Research (1989) Naturalism (1992), Mahogany (1994) and Octagonal (1996).
Of these outstanding gallopers, Octagonal was arguably the best of the best. He holds the record for the Australian Derby at 2400 metres of 2:28.41. A few of his other major wins were the 1995 Cox Plate, the Sires’ Produce Stakes that same year and the Australian Cup in 1997.
The next notable winner of the Australian Derby we find is Starcraft from 2004.
Starcraft was Australian Champion Three Year Old for 2004 and won over $3 million for his short career of 22 jumps for 11 wins and seven placings.
The next year of 2005 supplied Eremein.
Eremein won over $4.2 million from 27 jumps for 12 wins and nine placings. He was hampered by the equine influenza outbreak of 2007, with wins in the Ranvet Stakes, BMW Stakes and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He was also slowed by injuries.
Another notable winner was Nom Du Jeu from 2008.
Like many of the previous winners, Nom Du Jeu had New Zealand lines in his pedigree. He is a prolific sire, but to this point in early 2022, he has produced nothing spectacular, but his progeny have returned million in stakes.
The 2013 winner, It’s A Dundeel, is the most recent winner of the Australian Triple Crown, with victories in the Randwick and Rosehill Guineas along with the Australian Derby. Those three wins put It’s A Dundeel in the company of Moorland (1943), Martello Towers (1959), Imagele (1973) and Octagonal (1996).
In 2015, the race was postponed due to an excessively heavy track. It was run two days later and Mongolian Khan was the winner. He only raced 17 times, winning eight with one place. His best win was the 2015 Caulfield Cup. He never won again. He is standing in New Zealand, but has not yet produced his equal.
The rest of the list offers some good winners, but nothing truly exceptional.
Quick Thinker from 2020, another New Zealand horse, notched his first Group 1 win when he took first in the Australian Derby. He is by So You Think, so we think he has more wins, but such a thought has perilous implications, especially since Quick Thinker has only won once, in the Group 2 Chairman’s Quality in April of 2021.
The winners’ list alone clearly demonstrates that the Australian Derby is one of the premier events of Australian Thoroughbred racing. As a 2400-metre staying event for three-year-olds, it has supplied winners that almost need a separate wing of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
Australian Derby Past Winners
|2019||Angel Of Truth|
|2013||It's A Dundeel|
|2008||Nom De Jeu|
|1982||Rose Of Kingston|
|1981||Our Paddy Boy|
|1969||Divide And Rule|