One of the races currently jumping at Rosehill on Golden Slipper Day is the Group 3 Epona Stakes run by fillies and mares aged three years and above. Competing under set weight plus penalty conditions, the 1900-metre race is worth $200,000 in prize money as of 2023 and is run near the end of March.
The 2023 winner was Gin Martini, to which we say, cheers.
Epona Stakes Race Details
Race Distance: 1900m
Prize Money: $200,000
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Epona Stakes Betting Tips
When Is The Epona Stakes 23/3/24
What Time Is The Epona Stakes: TBA
Where Is The Epona Stakes: Rosehill Racecourse
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More Details About The Epona Stakes
Her dam was Tanqueray, a New Zealand mare of light racing credentials, while the blood on the side of Irish sire Rip Van Winkle is all from the northern hemisphere.
Gin Martini is currently four years of age, as of mid-2023, with a birthday in a couple months when all the four-year-olds will have five candles on their cakes.
She is putting together a nice career, with 23 jumps for four wins and seven placings and nearly $540,000 in earnings and tips. The Epona Stakes is her best win to date, but she did post a third in the 2022 Group 1 ATC Australian Oaks, rewarding any place punters who were not scared off by her $91 starting price.
She was shortened to $9.50 when she won the Epona Stakes, which is proof positive that there are no stupid bookies.
Gin Martini was paid $110,000 for carrying Damian Lane across the line before the other 13 gallopers.
The Epona Stakes currently shares the Rosehill race card with five Group 1 races, the top two of which are the Golden Slipper Stakes and the Rosehill Guineas. The race meeting also features three Group 3 races and a Listed grade race, so if there were ever just one day for a trip to Rosehill, Golden Slipper Day might well be that day.
History of the Epona Stakes
We found 41 named Thoroughbreds named Epona – all fillies, perhaps unsurprisingly. Three of them were of Australian and New Zealand origin, but none seems to have shown the type of ability necessary to deserve a namesake race, not even in Victoria.
Rather, the name derives from Celtic/Roman mythology where Epona was the goddess of horse protection, as well as protecting ponies, donkeys and mules in the bargain.
Hard to beat those multi-purpose gods.
The race first jumped in 1998 as the Mares Plate. It was changed to the Epona Mares Quality Plate in 1999 and the race name has been some variation on the Epona theme, with exceptions for the years from 2002 through 2004, when the names of a hotelier and a jeweler took precedence. Wine merchant De Bortoli held the naming reins from 2007 through 2011. The race was the Percy Sykes Tribute Stakes in 2014.
Since 2015, the race has been simply the Epona Stakes.
The first two jumps of the Epona Stakes were at Rosehill. It was not a grade demotion, but a venue demotion that found the race at Canterbury for three jumps from 2000 to 2002.
The venue seems to have found a permanent home at Rosehill since 2003.
The original trip for the race was 2000 metres, but after two jumps, it was chopped by 100 metres to arrive at the decidedly non-standard trip of 1900 metres, which sounds to us as though they let some racing executive from Queensland become involved.
The first three jumps of the Epona Stakes were as an unlisted grade race. It moved up to Listed quality in 2001 and the most recent promotions to Group 3 grade came about in 2012.
Venue for the Epona Stakes
Rosehill has conducted racing since 1885, possibly because Randwick was getting loved to death by pounding hooves, by which we mean the demand for more races was exceeding the ability of Randwick to supply.
In these modern times, Rosehill is home to nine Group 1, 13 Group 2 and 14 Group 3 races. There are about 25 race meetings per year at the track.
The famous races held there are the Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes and the Rosehill Guineas, but Rosehill got into the mega-prize-money-special-conditions racing business in 2019, when the Golden Eagle, a race for four-year-old mares with a $10 million prize pool was established.
The track has a 2000-metre circumference with a 408-metre home straight, while the geometry of the course is a triangular oval, with a tight continuous turn on the east side of the track.
The racers make almost one full circuit of the track for a 1900 metre race such as the Epona Stakes.
Racing History of the Epona Stakes
Judging by the names we see on the list of Epona Stakes winners, it is easy to see that this is an undercard race of magnificent proportions.
As a newer race, one with just 26 jumps following the conclusion of the 2023 edition, we did not expect to see Black Caviar or Winx on the winners’ list, but we were not expecting the anonymous types we did find. There has never been a multiple winner of the race.
We will work through the list to see if we can find any major race winners, big prize money winners, or mares that supplies offspring of greater ability.
Since the race was unlisted for three years, and then spent the next 11 jumps at Listed grade, it is easy to understand how connections were reluctant to field their better types in a race such as the Epona Stakes.
The first winner of the race in 1998 was Burning Embers.
She was the product of U.S. sire Zoffany and the entirety of the line from that side was U.S. except for some Brit and French blood further back. Her dam was Blazing Bags, the daughter of Baguette. Two generations back beyond Baguette was Star Kingdom, but Burning Embers was meant for the sheds from the outset.
She raced just 18 times for five wins, six placings and about $267,000 in prize money. Her best win was the 1998 Group 2 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Sunline Stakes) at Moonee Valley, where she beat Miss Tessla.
She supplied six colts and two fillies, none of which out-earned her, which is sort of a crude benchmark for comparison. Her best was a 2003 gelding by Zabeel that managed to earn $161,000.
In 1999, Zastov was first across.
It appears that her best racing was finishing third in the Group 1 races the Epsom Handicap and the Doncaster Handicap.
The name Zastov should tip many that her sire was Zabeel, and she did make 41 jumps for six wins and nine placings to earn $431,000. In the 2000 Doncaster, her third was behind Over and Sunline, so placing third when jumping $67 was mildly impressive.
After racing, she was served by the better stallions. She foaled three to Redoute’s Choice, with others by Flying Spur, Encosta De Lago and More Than Ready, but seven named foals accounted for five wins and just a bit above $100,000 for all seven.
An average mare named Our Erin was winner of the Epona Stakes in 2000. She won eight races and placed in three from 29 attempts, equating to earnings of $210,000. The best race result we found for her was a third in the 1999 Group 2 Hardy Brothers Classic.
Her six offspring never amounted to anything, with two wins spread between all six.
The 2001 winner, Market Price was a true champion by comparison to the previous winners. Her dam, Kia Ora Gem, had lines connecting to Marscay, Biscay and…wait for it…Star Kingdom.
She won over $600,000 – three times what earlier winners had earned, from 38 jumps for 10 wins and five placings. She won twice at Group 2 grade in 2001.
Market Price was the best breeder to date as well. Her best was a 2010 gelding by Red Dazzler that won 10 races and earned $282,000. By our standard of offspring that outearn the parents, Market Price was not exactly a bargain.
Ilze was the winner in 2002 and it would appear that her best claim to fame was losing repeatedly to Sunline. Her form line of 37 jumps for four wins and five placings returned $265,000 in winnings.
Ilze supplied 12 named foals, with the best being Insurgency by Street Cry that won around $204,000 from 39 jumps.
Airlie Bird was the winner in 2003.
Her form line, typical for what we are finding for the Epona Stakes, was 29 jumps for nine wins, five placings and $233,000 in prize money. Her stud output was 10 foals, but while a few earned some money, her best needed 65 jumps to earn $58,000.
Great Anna from 2004 made 20 jumps for five wins and four placings for $189,000. She ran third in the 2003 Group 1 Australasian Oaks and apparently left no progeny record.
Natural Woman was the winner in 2005.
The Epona Stakes was still a Listed Grade race at the time and would be for seven more years, but Natural Woman did score a Group 3 win in the 2004 Doomben Roses. Her form line was typical for the race – 24 jumps, eight wins, two placings, $227,000 in prize money.
Natural Woman supplied nine foals, but those nine combined did not equal their mum’s prize money.
Kosi Bay from 2006 was more or less of the same pattern as the others and to this point in the history of the Epona Stakes, we have yet to find a Group 1 winner or a million dollar earner. Her form line: 30 jumps, four wins 10 placings, $336,000. Her best win was the 2008 Group 2 Emancipation Stakes.
She was served by the likes of Redoute’s Choice, Street Cry, More Than Ready and Fastnet Rock, but none of those better stallions could get anything decent out of Kosi Bay.
Safwa won in 2007.
Her earnings were what we expected to find - $264,000, but she needed just 14 jumps for five wins and two placings to earn what earlier winners needed 30 or more jumps to achieve.
The next winner was Ready To Lift.
She was by More Than Ready. She made 42 jumps for 10 wins, six placings and $598,000 in prize money. Her best win was the Group 3 Summer Cup in 2008. Her stud output does not bear mention.
Divine Rebel appears to be the best quality winner to this stage in Epona Stakes history. She won more than $602,000 from 23 jumps for six wins and seven placings. She won the Group 2 Chairmans’ Handicap in 2009 and she was second in the 2009 and 2010 Group 1 Sydney Cup.
Some of the best sires served her, but we will not embarrass them by divulging their names, as six named foals combined for just over $16,000. That is not a typo – sixteen thousand dollars.
Messenger won in 2010. She made 17 jumps for three wins and five placings for just under $200,000. Foals by American Pharoah, Lonhro and Piero, one each, did nothing.
For the 2011 winner, Galizani, 23 jumps, four wins, three placings, $195,000. Better stallions received nothing for their exertions in the barn.
Fibrillation was the winner in 2012, the first year the Epona Stakes jumped as a Group 3 race. She made 17 jumps for four wins, five placings and $384,000. She had one foal by All Too Hard that did nothing worth noting.
Aliyana Tilde was the winner in 2013. She made 19 jumps for three wins and seven placings for $360,000. She had an impressive pedigree, beginning with her sire Snitzel, with lines to Redoute’s Choice, Danehill and Danzig, as well as Snippets. Tracing back, we encountered Canny Lad, so to say that Aliyana Tilde lived down to expectations would be an understatement. Two of her offspring won above $1 million in Hong Kong, but that is something like $360,000 for two horses in Oz bucks.
Intimate Moment won in 2014, followed by Scratchy Bottom in 2015.
We’re sure there is a moral to be found in that pair.
For Intimate Moment – 26 jumps, four wins, eight placings, $287,000. Both Snitzel and I Am Invincible failed to get a good racing foal out of her.
For Scratchy Bottom – 15 jumps, three wins, three placings, $344,000. We found no prodigy record for her.
The 2016 winner was Vergara by Snippetson. She made 34 jumps for eight wins and seven placings to win $531,000.
Consommateur won in 2017, leaving a line of 13 jumps for three wins and three placings. Her earnings were just above $154,000.
The Pinnacle by So You Think was the 2018 Epona Stakes winner. She made 17 jumps for three wins and eight placings and $276,000. In winning the race, she crossed ahead of Nettoyer, how, we cannot begin to say. She has supplied one foal, a colt by I Am Invincible that foaled in 2020 that has made just one jump to finish ninth in the Group 3 Ken Russel Stakes in May of 2023.
Semari by Sebring was the winner in 2019. She raced 16 times for six wins and two placings and $213,000. She foaled twice in 2020, something we might not have thought possible, given Thoroughbred gestation periods, so possible the one in January and the other in December, is the only way we can accept two foals in one year.
Missybeel was the winner in 2020.
She was by Savabeel, with Zabeel as grandsire, but she could muster no better than $434,000 from 43 jumps, seven wins and nine placings. Her win in the Epona Stakes was at the expense of the million-dollar-plus racer She’s Ideel. It appears that she has yet to supply any offspring.
Polly Grey was the winner in 2021. She is listed as active, with 46 jumps for 11 wins and 14 placings for $940,000.
She has not raced since December of 2022, but she works for Chris Waller, so to her 46 jumps, add about a gazillion trials.
The 2022 winner was Monegal. She made 58 jumps for 10 wins, 10 placings and $686,000 in earnings. She is retired from racing but has yet to start supplying progeny.
Many of the winners of the Epona Stakes list the race as their best win. Many were older mares when they won. We did not find a single winner of above $1 million, neither did we find a winner of a Group 1 race, with Group 2 winners being scarce and well spread out.
It seems as though New Zealand has supplied many of the winners, but despite many that had elite pedigree lines, nothing on the list of winners of the Epona Stakes made any significant impact.
Epona Stakes Past Winners
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