Late November or early December at Rosehill Racecourse in Sydney will offer up the Festival Stakes, a Group 3 quality handicap of 1500 metres for all horses aged three years and above.
The 2021 jump offered prize money of $161,000, $84,000 of which went to the winner Ellsberg. The race has received a boost in stakes that now takes it up to $200,000.
Festival Stakes Race Details
Race Distance: 1500m
Prize Money: $200,000
How To Bet On The Festival Stakes
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Festival Stakes Betting Tips
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When Is The Festival Stakes: 2/12/23
What Time Is The Festival Stakes: 4.00pm
Where Is The Festival Stakes: Rosehill Racecourse
How To Live Stream The Festival Stakes
To live stream the Festival Stakes, TAB Account Holders can watch the race live.
More Details About The Festival Stakes
The race was the eight on the card in 2021. Ellsberg sat just off the leader before dropping the field in the final 200m to win by a long length.
History of the Festival Stakes
The Festival Stakes jumped for the first time in 1948 as the Festival Handicap, a name that persisted through 2001, when the ATC decided to replace handicap with stakes.
The race was considered a Principal grade race from its inception through 1978, moving to Listed Grade in 1979 when the ARB installed the Group classification system currently in use. It was promoted to Group 3 grade in 2016.
So far, the name and the grade have displayed a remarkable consistency, but the trip has been modified numerous times, although always within 100 metres of any other trip. The distance was 1400 metres from the inaugural jump through metrication in 1973, which changed the length ever so slightly from sever furlongs.
In 1984, the race was abbreviated to 1350 metres, and then shortened again, this time to 1300 metres from 1985 through 1990. The year of 1991 saw the unusual trip of 1280 metres, after which 1300 metres returned for the races held from 1992 through 2001.
The race spent five years as a 1400-metre race and after skipping the year 2007 due to the equine influenza outbreak, it returned as a 1500-metre event in 2008, where it has remained.
The race is valued enough that when the 2007 jump had to be abandoned, the ATC rescheduled the race for January of 2008, and then ran it again in December.
The race was skipped entirely in 1960 and 1971.
Venue for the Festival Stakes
The Festival Stakes has been run at Sydney’s Rosehill Racecourse with the exception of 1984 and 1991, when it shifted to Canterbury Park Racecourse. Those two years connect directly to the odd trips the race covered in 1984 and 1991, as the years the race was not run at Rosehill but Canterbury.
The course was developed in the 1880s and opened in 1885.
There is racing there all year, but the Group 1 races at Rosehill, nine in all, are primarily in March and April. Our view is that the marquee Group 1 at Rosehill is the Golden Slipper Stakes. Rosehill has the Group 1 Golden Rose Stakes in September.
There are 13 Group 2 and 14 Group 3 races staged at the track, including the Group 3 Star Kingdom Stakes, which given the contribution Ireland’s champion stallion made to the sport of Thoroughbred racing in Australia, deserves to be a Group 1.
Rosehill is a triangular oval. For a 1500-metre race, the horses start from a chute at the northern extremity of the course and have a long straight to the tightest of the three turns. That tight turn leads them onto the home straight to the finish line at the northwest side of the track.
Racing History of the Festival Stakes
The winners of the Festival Stakes do not present any instantly recognisable names. We observed some that we suspect might have ties to some famous gallopers. We shall see. Our hope is to find some Group 1 winners and possibly some mares and stallions that made contributions to the sport of racing.
The winner of the first Festival Stakes in 1948 was Cragside.
As best we could determine, winning the race was his claim to fame and we found no progeny records for him. Most of his line back beyond his sire Felcrag and dam Wonga Lily were of northern hemisphere origin, but Cragside’s distant ancestors include Carbine and Goldsbrough.
If Cragside had won the race in any other year except for the first year it was run, we would have skipped him.
We did skip several to arrive at Forest Beau from 1952.
His other wins include The 1951 Queensland Derby and the Canterbury Guineas, but we would list the 1952 Rawson Stakes as his best win, with our apologies to the Queensland Derby and the Canterbury Guineas.
Bronze Peak from 1953 won a few races, including the STC Winter Handicap, the NJC Cameron Handicap and the NSW Tramway Handicap.
The main thing we discovered that was of interest is that his sire was Cragsman, the winner of the Festival in 1948.
He sired 11 foals, nine fillies and two colts, but none of them appears to have made an impact. Six of his foals were out of Fribus.
Indian Empire was the winner in 1957.
He sired more foals than he won races and the main thing we have observed to this point in the racing history of the Festival Stakes is pedigrees that we have never before seen.
Many of his ancestors of his dam’s side were of French origin. Other wins by Indian Empire were the Kirkham Stakes, December Stakes and the Merson Cooper Stakes.
His stud service supplied just 19 foals, none of which mattered. The first mare we found to win the Festival Stakes was Amneris, the 1958 winner.
She won the Group 1 Flight Stakes, although at the time the race would have been graded Principal. She carried legendary blood by her ties to Nearco, Ajax and Heroic.
She supplied three foals, including one by Biscay, but none of her offspring equaled her in racing, much less exceeded her.
It was not until we arrived at 1965 that we found a semi-notable winner of the Festival Stakes in Castanea.
Another of his wins was the Rosehill Guineas.
The name of the 1968 winner had us suspecting notable ancestors, so when we saw the name of Todvale, we checked and determined that this mare had Todman for her sire and Star Kingdom for her grandsire.
As is often the case, a famous sire produces desultory offspring and this seems to be true for Todvale.
A better type to win the race was 1969’s Regal Rhythm.
This gelding of mostly undistinguished lines was a big winner. He won the Rawson Stakes twice. Other good wins were the 1968 Linlithgow Stakes, the 1971 Craven Plate and the 1967 and 1968 George Main Stakes.
We found the 1974 winner of the Festival Stakes somewhat worthy of a note. The winner was Magic Beam. Winning the race might have been her zenith as a racer. Neither did she accomplish anything of great significance as a breeder. We mention her because this is one galloper where having Biscay for a sire and Star Kingdom as a grandsire did not pan out.
Purple Patch was the winner in 1975.
He was a competent racer that made 51 jumps for 20 wins and 17 placings. He earned about $142,000 and while it is tempting to blame some of that on 1975 prizemoney and some of it on competing in minor races, Purple Patch won two races that are now Group 1 when he won the George Main and the Rawson Stakes. He also won three Group 2 races.
Purple Patch was a prolific sire, although only a few of his offspring did anything of note. A 1991 filly out of Never Indeed earned over $100,000. The top earner by Purple Patch that we found was a 1985 gelding named Purple Curse, a fabulous horse name. This racer out of Nizam Gold won over $320,000 by winning 20 and placing in 22 from 82 jumps.
For the year 1981, the winner was a gelding named Grey Receiver.
He made 45 jumps for 12 wins and 14 placings, results that earned him a little above $285,000. Nothing out of the ordinary about those sorts of results, but Grey Receiver was good enough to finish third to Kingston Town in the George Main Stakes and good enough to win The Galaxy in 1981 and 1982 and the Newmarket Handicap.
The winner for 1988 was a mare named Tetue Topaze.
What we learned is that she won six races, but it does not appear that any of her wins were in races of higher grade than the Festival Stakes.
As a breeder, she was served by Luskin Star, Naturalism, others, five foals in total, and four of those earned stakes, including one that won 11 races and earned more than $144,000.
Ice Cream Sundae was a mare by Sovereign Red from Peach Sundae that won 12 times with six showings from 29 jumps for around $230,000 – unremarkable, but she was the dam of Rubiton’s 1993 gelding Flavour that won over $1.5 million.
The gelding Masked Party built on his lineage and won the Festival Stakes in 1997. He made 67 jumps for 12 wins and 17 placings and earned just under $1 million. His sire was Marscay, grandsire Biscay and great-grandsire Star Kingdom, so the results posted by Masked Party do not come as a surprise. Like a few other Festival Stakes winners, Masked Party won the Group 1 The Galaxy and was placed second or third in a number of major races.
The best winner we have found to this stage of the history of the Festival Stakes was 2000’s Adam.
He won nearly $2 million from 51 starts for 12 wins and 17 placings. He had Group 1 wins in the Stradbroke Handicap and the George Main Stakes. He was aged six years when he won the Festival Stakes.
Rubiton was the sire, so it would have been expected that Adam would do better than okay.
Adam did okay as a sire, supplying 57 foals, over half of which earned money from racing. None of the mares Adam served was named Eve. Several Adam offspring earned above $100,000. The best seems to have been 2003’s Let Me Adam that won over $400,000.
The years of 2002 and 2003 supplied the only dual winner in the history of the Festival Stakes. vIt was a gelding named This Manshood, although we cannot say with conviction whether that was pronounced phonetically as This Man Should or was This Man’s Hood.
Either way, he won almost $1 million from 66 jumps for 16 wins and 14 placings. He won at Group 2 grade, but apparently did not break through the Group 1 barrier.
The mare Ike's Dream was the 2004 winner.
She earned over $1 million, although we should say that by 2004, this was not as hard as it had been before the 21st century. She managed a Group 1 win in the 2005 Queen of the Turf Stakes.
We find ourselves at the year 2008, when the race that had been postponed in 2007 due to horse flu was run in January, when it was won by Eremein and again in December when Voice Commander was the winner.
The gelding Eremein was a top galloper that won almost $4.3 million from just 27 starts for 12 wins and 9 placings. He had five Group 1 wins and he won over trips ranging from 1100 to 2400 metres. He is the only racer to win the Ranvet Stakes, Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the BMW in the same year.
Voice Commander was nothing notable.
A remarkable gelding named Rabbuka was the winner in 2009. He was remarkable for making 106 jumps, a first ballot inductee into the fictional Pro Group Racing Hall of Fame. One of those jumps proved to be his last. He fell near the finish of a jumps race, the Moredun Hill Open Steeplechase in Victoria and had to be put down.
The winner from 2017 was Testashadow and yes, Testa Rossa was the sire. Testashadow was a gelding that won over $1.3 million from 51 jumps for eight wins and 16 placings. A lot of his winnings came via winning the restricted Magic Millions Cup at Gold Coast in 2017.
Ranier won the Festival Stakes in 2019.
He won almost $750,000 from 31 jumps for seven wins and nine placings, despite never winning above Group 3 grade.
We conclude our exam of the Festival Stakes with the 2020 winner Outrageous. He was by All Too Hard from Fit And Ready. He is still racing and to this point has made 42 jumps for five wins and six placings for more than $600,000.
The Festival Stakes is one of those races that take place when most of the action in NSW and Victoria has gone quiet for the year.
There were some good winners, although nothing that could be considered great, much less legendary.
The best of the lot would have to be Eremein, in terms of money and big race wins.
That is not to say that none of the other winners was any good. It takes ability and luck to win a Principal or Group 3 race and while not every winner of the Festival Stakes was a household name, there were some good gallopers all the same.
ATC Festival Stakes Past Winners
|2018||My Nordic Hero|
|2005||Spirit Of Tara|
|1990||Ice Cream Sundae|
|1983||Nosey Parker (AUS) 1978 ntb|