Three-year-old fillies running 2400 metres of Randwick turf under set weight conditions during the Sydney autumn carnival are the criteria for the Group 1 ATC Australian Oaks.
The fillies compete for a share of the $1 million prize money pool.
Australian Oaks Race Details
Race Distance: 2400m
Prize Money: $1,000,000
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When Is The Australian Oaks: 13/4/24
What Time Is The Australian Oaks: TBA
Where Is The Australian Oaks: Randwick Racecourse
How To Live Stream The Australian Oaks
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More Details About The Australian Oaks
Pennyweka collected the top prize of $580,000 for her 1.7 length victory over another New Zealand filly named So Dazzling. Her win came one month subsequent to her win in the Group 1 NZ Oaks. Her 10 jumps for three wins and four placings have earned her just above $1 million.
She has not raced since winning the ATC Oaks
, which has been her only jump in Australia. Her status is given as pending, which to us sounds like a mare about to convert from racing to breeding.
First things first. There are so many races named Oaks Something or Other that it is necessary to include ATC for the Australian Turf Club. Thoroughbred enthusiasts, though, are known for their savvy and keen attention spans, so we trust that when we refer to the race as the Oaks, they will know to which Oaks we are referring.
The race is a major part of meetings known as The Championships, the poms and their tennis tournament be damned. There are four Group 1 races on the day for 13 April 2024 – the Sydney Cup, the Oaks, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Queen of the Turf Stakes.
History of the Australian Oaks
The first jump in 1885 and all jumps to 1894 saw the race going by AJC (Australian Jockey Club) Oaks. It was abandoned from 1895 through 1921, resuming as the Adrian Knox Stakes through 1956.
The race was being called the AJC Oaks until the merger of the AJC and the Sydney Turf Club (STC) in 2011, leading to the current name of ATC Australian Oaks.
Those years after the race resumed, 1922 through 1945 found the race slotted into the January racing calendar.
The trip for the race has varied enough that we suspected the influence of the VRC. It was originally 2400 metres until the race was suspended after 1894. It was down to 1600 metres from 1922 – 1945. The next ten jumps through 1955 offered a 2000 metre trip. The race, ignoring the difference between the Imperial and the metric system, sent to the current 2400 metre trip in 1956.
It was of course considered Principal grade until the Group classification system went into effect in the late 70s.
Venue for the Australian Oaks
Randwick Racecourse in Sydney is the site for the Australian Oaks, the only home it has known.
Randwick started offering racing in 1833, but the course languished to some extent prior to the 1860s, when the AJC made it their headquarters.
Randwick is considered as one of the crown jewels of Australian metro Thoroughbred racing. It has more Group 1 and Group 2 races than any other venue and the list of major races in terms of prestige and prize money is too long to include here.
Flemington has its musty old Cup and $8 million in prize money for the Melbourne Cup, but Randwick has The Everest, with its staggering $15 million in prize money.
For 2400 metre races, the barriers are placed midway down the home straight. After a short run to the finish, the racers first navigate a long, sweeping turn that leads them onto the back straight after about 800 metres of racing. The back straight leads into the second of Randwick’s three turns, followed by a short straight. The final turn leads onto the home straight for the final 400 metres to finish in front of the stands on the east side of the track.
Racing History of the Australian Oaks
The winner of the first Australian Oaks was Uralla.
She was a daughter of Chester by Yattendon, so she had a successful line from that side and also from that of her dam Moonstone, a Brit Mare that we presume was shipped to Oz.
One of our sources gives her form line as 18 jumps for seven wins and two placings. She won the Ascot Vale Stakes for two-year-olds in 1885, along with the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes, Champagne Stakes, and the VRC Oaks Stakes.
Served by Martini Henry for the filly Utter in 1887 was the only progeny record we could locate. Further, Utter maybe had the surname Failure. We could find nothing to suggest she did any worthwhile racing.
As for the rest of the early winners prior to the race going on extended hiatus beginning in 1895, the only thing of interest to us was that the very second jump of the race supplies a dead heat between Tamarisk and Crossfire. Tamarisk was a modest racer and breeder.
Crossfire seemed the better of the two, winning the Doncaster Handicap the same year. She supplied four fillies and three colts, including two by Grand Flaneur, just to give some inkling of her quality through her being offered to the better stallions of the time.
When the race now known as the ATC Australian Oaks resumed in 1922, the winners was Vodka – the filly, not the spirit.
She is also credited with winning The Shorts in 1922. Our progeny database had no offspring listed.
Beginning in the mid-20th century, the ATC Oaks was attracting some truly notable fillies and in the second-last year when the race was run at 1600 metres, the 1944 winner was Flight.
She was a true race mare, with 65 jumps for 24 wins and 28 placings. Between her 1943 wins and 1946, she won nearly everything in sight, including the Cox Plate in 1945 and 1946. She won the Craven Plate in 1943 and 1945. She won the Essendon Stakes twice as well, the second one coming in 1947.
After all that racing, it was not much of a surprise when she went to stud as the highest stakes winning Australian mare but was able to supply just one filly and four colts. None seem to have come anywhere close to her as racers, but her lone filly, Flight’s Daughter, supplied Golden Slipper Stakes winner Skyline. Sky High was another Golden Slipper Stakes winner. Both of those were by Star Kingdom.
The next to receive a closer look is the 1956 winner Evening Peal.
The Australian Oaks by this time had been stretched to 2400 metres, so it was not a major surprise when Flight won the 1956 Melbourne Cup as just the seventh mare in the nearly 100 year history of the race to win.
She beat the notable Redcraze for that win, denying Redcraze a Cups Double, as he beat Evening Peal into second in the 1956 Caulfield Cup.
She supplied four named foals.
Five years later, uber-filly/mare Wenona Girl won in 1961.
A daughter of the notable French sire Wilkes, she was, like Vodka, a racer first and foremost. She made 68 jumps for 27 wins and 26 placings, although in that era, those results returned just AU£ 70,000, even though she won both Sires’ Produce Stakes in Victoria and NSW.
She had won the Flight Stakes in 1960 and was the two-time winner of the Lightning Stakes in 1963 and 1964. She also won the Rawson Stakes in 1961 and 1964. That year of 1964 found her taking out the All Aged Stakes in 1964. She enjoyed the upper hand when racing against Sky High, winning three races, although Sky High flipped the ground on her on several occasions, including the 1960 Golden Slipper Stakes.
Her racing as a two-year-old produced six wins and two placings from eight jumps. By the time she turned three, she made 15 jumps for seven wins and three placings.
Served by the best stallions after she was done racing, she supplied three fillies by Todman, two by Convamore, one by Super Gray and one by Star Kingdom.
The winner in 1965 was Light Fingers.
She was the daughter of Le Filou, which should adequately cover the quality of her pedigree.
She won the Melbourne Cup in 1965 and 1966. The one she could not beat was Tobin Bronze that put her into second in the 1966 Cox Plate and the 1966 Underwood Stakes. It is unclear to us if she tried the Caulfield Cup or simply failed to place in any.
She was a disappointing breeder, though, with seven offspring, none of which did anything even remotely close to her as racers.
A true notable, the 1974 winner was Lelani.
Leilani was trained by Bart Cummings to a line of 28 jumps for 14 wins and 12 placings. She won the Caulfield Cup in 1974 before jumping favourite in the Melbourne Cup but was prevented from a Cups Double by Think Big.
Her great year in 1974 and another in 1975 found her declared the Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year. There was a race named for her, the Leilani Stakes, the race now known as the MVRC Champagne Stakes.
She was a disappointing breeder, but we so often see great racers become desultory producers at stud that it does not affect us.
Three jumps later, the 1977 winner of the Oaks was Surround.
Like Leilani, Surround made 28 jumps, but won 17 and placed in four. Her big win was the 1976 Cox Plate. She was the victim of a foreleg injury as a four-year-old, forcing her retirement from racing. She was the highest earning mare in Australian racing history to that stage.
As a breeder, she was supplier of three fillies and five colts. Five of her offspring were due to frequent coupling with the famous Irish sire Sir Tristam, but her best was a 1989 colt name Bowral by Danzatore that won eight races.
The next genuine notable to win the Oaks was Research in 1989.
Her 31 jumps provided nine wins and seven placings for above $1.8 million in winnings. Her results found her declared the Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year in 1989.
Her stud record was respectable, at least. She supplied eight fillies and two colts, all in the U.S., with four capturing prize money.
We know she was served by Bletchingly and Marscay and we assume those two took the shuttle to attend to her.
We are skipping forward quite a number of years, passing some familiar names, until we arrive at 2017, when the Oaks was won by Bonneval.
She was by a pom stallion named Makfi, so she was pure northern hemisphere on that side of the table. Her dam was Imposingly by Zabeel, so Bonneval was considered to be a Kiwi.
Bonneval made 14 jumps for seven wins and won placing to earn $1.6 million. In our view, her best win might have been the Group 1 Underwood Stakes in 2017. Although the Underwood Stakes is to us a rung below the Australian Oaks, the win necessitated beating Hartnell into second and Gailo Chop into third.
Two fillies, one by I Am Invincible and one by Super Seth never raced and a filly by Savabeel named Bonny left zero breadcrumbs for us to follow.
The 2019 winner of the ATC Australian Oaks was the famous Chris Waller racer Verry Elleegant. She won the Caulfield Cup in 2020 but was nearly four lengths from the winning post in the Melbourne Cup won in 2020 by Twilight Payment.
She skipped the Caulfield Cup in favour of the Cox Plate in 2021, running third behind State Of Rest and Anamoe before producing an emphatic four-length win over Incentivise in the 2021 Melbourne Cup.
Her 40 jumps were good for 16 wins and 12 placings and the staggering sum of just under $15 million.
Records indicate that she has supplied one colt to date, but foaled in 2022, but it remains to be seen if this colt races or how he results.
The 2020 winner Colette made 25 jumps for eight wins and five placings to earn above $7.1 million. Colette seemed adept on soft and heavy tracks. She beat Kolding and Verry Elleegant to win the 2021 Group 2 Apollo Stakes and she beat Mystic Journey and Hungrey Heart to win the Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes in 2021.
A large part of her earnings was the result of winning $4.1 million in the 2020 Golden Eagle at Rosehill.
Hungry Heart was a better type that won the Australian Oaks in 2021.
She was followed in 2022 by El Patroness, although our scant grasp of the Spanish language suggests to us that she should have been La Patroness.
She is listed as Active, racing for the Danny O’Brien operation, where she has earned above $1.2 million from 16 jumps for three wins and six placings.
The Oaks was her first major win and her last jump, as of late September 2023, was the Group 2 Let’s Elope Stakes, where she placed third.
The history of the ATC Australian Oaks is extensive, rich and colourful.
It is quite possibly the most prestigious staying race for three-year-old fillies in Australia, although we will entertain any argument at any time.
Australian Oaks Past Winners
|2015||Gust Of Wind|
|2010||Once Were Wild|
|1995||Circles Of Gold|
|1992||My Brilliant Star|
|1979||Valley Of Georgia|