The Group 2 Challenge Stakes is a prestigious Australian legacy race dating all the way back to 1906.
It is run at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney in March. The running conditions are weight-for-age and the entry requirements is horses aged three years and above.
Challenge Stakes Race Details
Race Distance: 1000m
Prize Money: $400,000
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When Is The Challenge Stakes: 2/3/24
What Time Is The Challenge Stakes: TBA
Where Is The Challenge Stakes: Randwick Racecourse
How To Live Stream The Challenge Stakes
To live stream the Challenge Stakes, TAB Account Holders can watch the race live.
More Details about the Challenge Stakes
Prizemoney for the race, as of 2023, is $500,000.
The most recent jump was won by Passive Aggressive. She is now a four-year-old mare by Fastnet Rock that has earned about half a million from six jumps for five wins. She beat Eduardo, the winner of the race in 2021 and 2022 by a short nose to earn $289,000 for the win.
Old weight-for-age races bring out the best racers, in this case, the best sprinters.
A key element of the race that attracts the better types is that the winner receives and automatic entry into Group 1 races – The Galaxy and the T J Smith Stakes.
The race was staged in January or early February though the 2002 jump. The record for the race belongs to two-time winner of The Everest, Redzel; a great sprinter provided the race was under 1201 metres. His time of 55.73 for the 1000 metres of the Challenge Stakes was almost two seconds quicker than that of 2023 winner Passive Aggressive.
History of the Challenge Stakes
The Challenge Stakes has been around since 1906. It was graded as a Principal race until the Group grading system came into use. Since that system of grading races was put into use, the Challenge Stakes was deemed worthy of Group 2 status.
Randwick Racecourse in Sydney was home for the race from inception through 2001. It shifted to Warwick Farm in 2002, but was back at Randwick by 2007. It was back to Warwick for 2011, with one year at Rosehill in 2012. It returned to Warwick for 2013 and seems to have found a permanent home at Randwick from 2014 onwards.
The trip for the Challenge Stakes has always been 1000 metres, give or take a little for the days when races such as this were measured in furlongs. The year of 2012, when the race migrated to Rosehill for the one jump, found the trip stretched to 1100 metres.
Venue for the Challenge Stakes
Randwick Racecourse in Sydney is considered one of the top turf racing venues in the world. No other track in Australia hosts more Group grade races and some of the major races held at Randwick are some of the best in the entire country.
Randwick has been the site of Thoroughbred racing since 1833, although it would have been a far cry from what Randwick represents today.
In 2017, the track began hosting The Everest, the world’s richest turf race, where a field of 12 jumped for a share of the $15 million pursue.
For a 1000-metre sprint race like the Challenge Stakes, the racers jump from about the middle of a turn, and then immediately hit a short straight before turning for home to finish in front of the stands.
Racing History of the Challenge Stakes
The Challenge Stakes has always attracted strong fields, judging by the names on the winners’ list.
We will examine some from the early era, although many good horses will leave little by way of a racing record. We will also look for multiple Challenge Stakes winners since the race is open to any aged more than three years. We will also look for mares and stallions that contributed to the sport of racing through their progeny.
The first winner of the race went by the name of The Pet.
We were able to learn that the Challenge Stakes was the claim to fame for this gelding foaled in 1899. As we would expect, most of his lines are from Great Britain, but as we would not expect, The Pet had Aussie ancestors five generations back, which includes two stallions and two mare that were born nearly 20 years before the first Melbourne Cup.
The first multiple winner came along in 1913 and 1914 in the form of Golden Hop. This stallion had some important ancestors. Wallace, Carbine and Musket came from the distaff side.
Golden Hop is credited with a win in The Shorts in 1913.
The first true notable we found was the 1925 winner, The Hawk.
He was a gelding foaled in New Zealand in 1918. Along with winning major prestigious races, such as the Hill Stakes (1923, 1925), St. George Stakes (1924, 1925), Essendon Stakes ( 1923, 1924), and C M Lloyd Stakes (1923, 1924). The Hawk liked to do things in pairs, it would seem. His three best wins were the Caulfield Stake (1924) and the All Aged Stakes (1925).
The most impressive thing about The Hawk was that he made 136 jumps, winning races as a two-year-old and as a thirteen-year-old when he returned to New Zealand.
The next notable to win the Challenge Stakes was 1940’s High Caste that won the race again in 1942.
He was an entire that made 72 jumps racing out of New Zealand. He won 35 of his races, but we should mention that he was dead heated in three of those. He won the C B Fisher Plate and the Linlithgow Stakes three times each and the St. George Stakes twice, along with a host of major races, such as the Epsom Handicap, Rosehill Guineas and VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes.
After racing, he stood for a long time, supplying 30 named foals between 1943 and 1957. We would expect a stallion standing for 14 years to supply far more foals, but this was not the case for High Caste.
Yaralla was next, in 1944.
He raced exclusively in Sydney, with major wins in the Sires’ Produce Stakes in 1941, the Hill Stakes in 1942 and 1943 and the All Aged Stakes in 1942 and 1943.
As a stallion, he was indifferent, with his best being a dual winner of the Townsville Cup named Yoorana. All of his offspring save one were fillies. None seems to have done all that well as racers.
Yaralla was immediately followed by a dual winner name Felbeam.
Felbeam won the Challenge Stakes in 1945 and 1946.
She was a mare and we did not recognise any of her ancestors, save for five generations back, where she had lines to Carbine on both sides of her pedigree.
She was beaten into third in the 1945 Carrington Stakes by Bernborough, so we suppose she was all right.
Another dual winner of the race was the gelding San Domenico, winner in 1949 and 1950.
San Domenico apparently liked to do things in pairs, with two wins in the Canterbury Stakes and the Warwick Stakes. His racing record contains wins in the 1952 All Aged Stakes, Futurity Stakes, 1952, and the Oakleigh Plate in 1949. Eight of his wins would today be graded as Group 1 races.
San Domenico made 79 jumps for 25 wins and 18 placings.
Our radar went off when we saw that the winner of the Challenge Stakes was My Kingdom. Our radar was accurate in this instance, because the sire of My Kingdom was none other than Ireland’s greatest stud, Star Kingdom.
My Kingdom was mainly indifferent and we found no major wins for him as a racer and nothing by way of progeny that warrants awe.
A sprinter’s sprinter was the winner of the race in 1963.
It was Wenona Girl by France’s Wilkes out of Golden Chariot.
Wenona Girl had the benefit of Maurice McCarten for a trainer. She had the disadvantage of lining up against Sky High on occasion. This Australian Racing Hall of Fame galloper made 68 jumps for 27 wins and 26 placings. Between 1960 and 1964, she won 19 major races, many of which are now graded as Group 1. She won the Rawson Stakes and the Lightning Stakes twice in 1963 and 1964.
She did beat Sky High in the 1960 Rosehill Guineas and the 1960 Hobartville Stakes.
After so many jumps, Wenona Girl did not have a lot of mothering in her, but some of her offspring, including two by Todman, another Maurice McCarten trained legend, either won some races or produced stakes race winners.
We encountered our next dual winner in Gay Gauntlet that won the race in 1967 and 1969.
Gay Gauntlet was not great, but he was good enough to beat Tobin Bonze in the 1967 All Aged Stakes.
The 1970 jump of the Challenge Stakes was a dead heat between Constant Rhythm and Biarritz Star. Neither was anything significant.
A more notable winner from 1975 was Zephyr Bay.
Zephyr Bay was by Biscay, so his grandsire was Star Kingdom. He made just 22 jumps, winning nine and placing in eight. His major wins were all in 1975, with the Challenge Stakes, the Oakleigh Plate and the Expressway Stakes.
He retired to stud in New Zealand in 1975 and his progeny won important races, including the Sires’ Produce Stakes, the Doomben 10,000, Champagne Stakes and the Newmarket Handicap.
An interesting period of the Challenge Stakes history comes next.
The 1981 winner was Steel Blade by Steel Pulse.
Steel Blade was okay, with some close seconds in major races such as The Galaxy, George Main Stakes and the Epsom Handicap. Two of those seconds were the result of lining up against Imposing.
The interesting thing about Steel Blade is that he shared sire Steel Pulse and dam Sea Holly with Razor Sharp, a gelding that won the Challenge Stakes in 1982, 1983 and 1984.
Razor Sharp was the better of the brothers.
Born two years after Steel Blade, Razor Sharp earned above $400,000 in the early 80s from just 19 jumps for 15 wins, including two Newmarket Handicaps.
A historically significant winner of the Challenge Stakes was the next winner following Razor Sharp. It was At Sea and the significance of this stallion was that he won the Challenges Stakes three consecutive years, identical to predecessor Razor Sharp.
At Sea won major races and he apparently liked to do things in threes, as along with his three wins in the Challenge Stakes, he won the Listed grade Carrington Stakes three times. He also won the race named after his great grandsire Star Kingdom.
At Sea was denied twice in major races by the 1988 winner of the race, Snippets.
Snippets is one we have seen often in the winners’ circle.
Snippets made just 14 jumps, but with a form line of nine wins and two placings from those jumps, earned above $1 million. He became a prolific sire after racing, with an entire stable full of offspring that won millions of dollars in Hong Kong and Australia.
We are skipping several good gallopers to look at the next dual winner of the Challenge Stakes from 1997 and 1998, Cangronde.
Cangronde was not great, not because this gelding could not win, but because what he did win were not always the better races. He made 30 jumps and won half of those, with three additional placings for a bit above $600,000 in winnings. He had nine wins before his first major win, the Group 3 Lightning Stakes – the Eagle Farm version. His brush with Group 1 glory was cruelled by Mahogany in the Flemington version of the Lightning Stakes.
We are actually skipping over a popular winner from 2002, Bomber Bill, to get to the 2003 and 2004 winner if the race, Star Of Florida. Of his 11 wins, the two Challenge Stakes victories represent the best of this gelding.
The 2006 winner was Snitzel.
Snitzel won over $1 million from just 15 jumps for seven wins and four placings. We suppose his best win was the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate in 2006.
After racing, Snitzel was the Australian Champion sire four year’s running – 2016 – 2019. He supplied many good winners, but the best was Trapeze Artist in terms of Group 1 wins, with four. There was also Snitzerland that won the race in 2013, seven years after his dad.
Snitzel was also sire to Redzel that won a couple of Group 1 races, but will forever be remembered for winning The Everest in the first two years the special conditions race, now worth $15 million in prizemoney.
Snitzel was by Redoute’s Choice, so there was never much doute that Snitzel would be a good one.
The 2011 winner of the Challenge Stakes was Hay List.
Hay List needed just 28 jumps for 15 wins and 6 placings to win above $2.5 million. Hay List raced under black clouds and was often sick or injured. He was euthanised at the age of nine, a victim of Laminitis.
We are actually skipping Rain Affair (2012), Snitzerland (2013), Villa Verde and Miracles Of Life to have a look at the 2016 and 2017 winner of the race, English.
English was by Encosta De Lago. She won almost $3.5 million from 27 jumps for six wins and five placings. She beat the good racers Black Heart Bart and Kermadec to win the 2016 All Aged Stakes. When she won the Challenge Stakes for the second time in 2017, it was Redzel that she beat.
We mentioned Redzel earlier in connection with some of his exploits and he won the Challenge Stakes is 2018.
The good winner from 2019 was Ball Of Muscle, followed by Nature Strip in 2020.
Nature Strip was a jumper in 42 races for 22 wins and 9 placings for over $20 million in earnings, thanks in large part to his win in The Everest in 2021.
No one trick pony, Nature Strip won the Group 1 T J Smith Stakes three times and the Group 1 Darley Sprint Classic twice. He was the Australian Racehorse of the Year for two seasons from 2019 through 2022 and the Australian Sprinter of the year for three seasons.
Eduardo was a dual winner of the race in 2021 and 2022.
Eduardo is listed as active, but now aged nine years, he came within a head of winning a third Challenge Stakes in 2023 when Passive Aggressive denied him from joining Razor Sharp and At Sea as three time winners.
Eduardo has made, as of his recent jump and win in the Challenge Stakes, almost $8 million in prizemoney from 32 jumps for 12 wins and 11 placings.
The top sprinters will often be found in the Challenge Stakes. Some of the best have won the race, some on multiple occasions. The race will never lack for competition and this has been the case throughout its history.
ATC Challenge Stakes Past Winners
|2019||Ball Of Muscle|
|2015||Miracles Of Life|
|2010||De Lightning Ridge|
|2007||Spark Of Life|
|2004||Star Of Florida|
|2003||Star Of Florida|
|1996||Light Up The World|
|1965||Time And Tide|
|1912||Pride Of Murillo|