The Hill Stakes is a Group 2 Thoroughbred race run at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse during the spring racing carnival at the big meeting that is sometimes referred to as Epsom Day, because the Group 1 Epsom Handicap, along with the Group 1 Metropolitan Stakes, are the big feature races on a meeting packed with quality races.
The Hill Stakes is run under weight-for-age-conditions over 2000 metres by horses three years old and above.
Prizemoney for the race is $1 million. The 2021 winner, Think It Over, was awarded with $580,000 of that prizemoney after jumping as the prohibitive favourite. The replay of that victory can be seen at the below link.
History of the Hill Stakes
The Hill Stakes was first run in 1921. Various sponsors have attached their name to the race over the years. The 2021 edition, the 100th time the race was run, was called the Yulong Hill Stakes on the sponsorship of the Thoroughbred breeding operation by that name in Victoria that had been known as Limerick Lane.
Before the math experts lose their brekkie and mention that 1921 to 2021 is actually 101 races, we remind them that the Hill Stakes was not run in 2007 because of the equine influenza outbreak that caused no small degree of difficulty for stables in and around Sydney.
The race was run at Rosehill from 1921 through 1990. It was run once at Canterbury Park Racecourse in 1991, and then returned to Rosehill from 1992 through 2011. From 2012, it has found a home at Royal Randwick. Depending on how the months sort out, the race could be in late September, while in 2021 the Saturday of the meeting crept into October.
The Hill Stakes was considered a Principal race right from the start until the Group classification system currently in use classified the race as Group 2 from 1979.
The prizemoney and the age of the race suggest that it deserves to be lifted to Group 1, but intellects larger than ours are in charge of that debate.
The Hill Stakes has shifted distances a number of times. From the start through 1940, it was its shortest – 1600 metres. It has been run on a couple of occasions at 1750 metres, something that makes us think of racing in Queensland. It has been 1900 metres on a number of times. It has been 200 metres since 2011, with the exception of 2017, when it dropped to 1800 metres before being restored to 200o metres in 2018 through the current year.
Race Venue for the Hill Stakes
Randwick is the premier metro track in Sydney. The site has been used for racing since 1833. The biggest race held at Randwick is The Everest, which is acknowledged as the richest turf race in the world.
Racing History of the Hill Stakes
The Hill Stakes has always attracted the elite gallopers of Australian Thoroughbred racing.
Right from the outset, the winners of the race look like the sorts you would expect to find on a list titled “Greatest Australian Thoroughbreds of All Time.”
There are multiple winners all over the place, although there has not been a multiple winner since Desert War in 2005 and 2006. Objectively, the multiple winner prior to Dessert War was Red Craze in 1956 – 57, so the multiple winners were concentrated in the earlier years of the race.
We found ourselves wondering why the name of Winx did not appear on the list. We know it would have been won by her if she had been in it, but she never tried it and we can only speculate that Chris Waller did not want to try her over a 2,000-metre trip so close to the Cox Plate. He did have her in the Epsom Handicap the year she won her first Cox Plate. When she won her second in 2016, she was in the 2000-metre Caulfield Stakes two weeks prior, so that explodes our theory of Waller saving her. Then again, two weeks prior to her 2017 Cox Plate win, she was in the 200-metre Turnbull Stakes, as she was when she won the Cox Plate for the fourth time in 2018.
Pardon us for the Winx distraction, but our curiosity got the better of us after seeing some of the names on the winners list of the Hill Stakes.
Here are a few details on past winners of the Hill Stakes. Many of them are chronicled on the PGR page of champion racehorses, so rather than supply a link to each individual winner, we will simply direct any who are interested in further details to the following page.
The first Hill Stakes winner was 1921’s Beauford.
Beauford raced from the age of three until nine, so we instantly like him. He won 17 of his 37 jumps, placing in and additional eight races. We would say that his best win was the 1921 Epsom Handicap.
A frequent competitor of Beauford was the 1922 winner, Gloaming. He was from New Zealand, where he won many of the major Kiwi races on multiple occasions. He also raced from three to nine years of age, but managed to make 67 jumps for a mind-boggling 57 wins and nine second placings. His earliest major win came in 1918 and he was still winning in 1925. In Australia, he won the Craven Plate in 1919, 1922 and 1924. Two big wins on the mainland were the 1918 AJC Derby and the 1924 Melbourne Stakes.
The Hawk won in 1923 and 1925.
Another Kiwi galloper, The Hawk was the first multiple winner of the Hill Stakes and we instantly inducted him into our fictional PGR Hall of Fame when we learned that he made 136 jumps. He was five when he raced in Australia for the first time and he was still racing in New Zealand when he was aged 13 years.
A multiple winner appeared to win the Hill Stakes in 1927 and 1928.
It was Limerick.
Limerick made 59 jumps for 29 wins and 14 placings. Along with his two wins in the Hill Stakes, he had three in the Warwick Stakes, three in the Chelmsford Stakes, two in the AJC Spring Stakes and two in the Rawson Stakes.
The list of winners beginning in 1930 was nothing short of astounding.
It was Phar Lap in 1930 and 1931, Peter Pan in 1932, Chatham in 1933 and 1934 and Peter Pan again in 1935. This one sentence would be a jumping off point for racing books and movies and we do not have the space to discuss each one. Instead, we will once again refer any who are interested to our pages that supply deeper biographies here.
Another list could be started beginning in 1938 and 1939, when the winner was Gold Rod. Following Gold Rod was Beau Vite in 1940, High Caste in 1941, Yaralla in 1942 and 1943, Shannon in 1945 and Bernborough in 1946. Next came San Domenico in 1951, followed by Hydrogen in 1952 and 1953.
Another champion, Prince Cortauld, won in 1954.
In 1956 and 1957, it was Redcraze. Next came Skyline in 1958, Noholme in 1959, Lord Fury in 1961 and Sky High in 1962.
We do not recall another race in all our years of journaling Thoroughbred exploits that produced a winners list of this significance.
Toi Port saluted twice in the Hill Stakes, winning in 1963 and 1964.
Next came Eskimo Prince in 1965.
He was a force as a younger horse, winning both the STC Golden Slipper Stakes and the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes. He made 18 starts for nine wins and five placings before being sent to the U.S. to either race or serve. We suspect the latter, because Eskimo Prince was by Todman, with lines to Star Kingdom, Stardust, Hyperion and Gainsborough.
In the interests of space, we jump ahead to 1971, when the Hill Stakes was won by Baguette. He was by the Irish stallion Rego, but the interesting part of Baugette’s lines came from his dam, Dark Jewel that was by Star Kingdom.
Like Eskimo Prince, Baguette won the major races the Golden Slipper Stakes and the Sires’ Produce Stakes, with a Champagne Stakes and a Newmarket Handicap thrown in for good measure.
Gunsynd was the 1972 winner, so we save more space by simply directing readers to the PGR page that supplies more details on one of the all-time greats.
A series of good horses won from 1973 until 1979, when Imposing took the Hill Stakes. Like Eskimo Prince, Imposing used his Todman and Star Kingdom DNA to win such races as the Epsom Handicap, the George Main Stakes and the Stradbroke Handicap.
Imposing would serve well as a sire, with his best being Super Impose that won a Cox Plate, two Doncaster Handicaps and two Chipping Norton Stakes. Super Impose also won the Hill Stakes in 1991 and we simply love it when a race supplies father/son, father/daughter, mother/son or mother/daughter winners.
The familiar name of Emancipation appears as the winner of the Hill Stakes for 1983.
Emancipation made 28 starts for 19 wins and one second placing. She won three major races in 1982, eight in 1983 and four in 1984. She lived up to lofty expectations, as she was by Bletchingly, with lines to Biscay and more blue blood on her dam Ammo Girl’s side from Gunsynd.
We made mention of Super Impose earlier as the 1991 winner.
Super Impose won the 1992 Cox Plate, two Epsom and two Doncaster Handicaps, two Warwick and two Chipping Norton Stakes. He made 74 jumps and earned over $5.6 million.
The next champion to win the Hill Stakes was 1996’s Saintly.
He was owned jointly by Bart Cummings and Dato Chin Nam. Saintly won the Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup in 1996 and if only the Vics would name a race for him, we would have a trifecta, as there are races named for Bart Cummings and Dato Chin Nam.
Saintly beat good horses such as Juggler, Filante and Nothin’ Leica Dane, but he could never get past Octagonal, running second twice and third once to the horse that got its name for having eight legs.
Tie The Knot was the 1999 winner.
He won 13 Group 1 races. He controlled the Chipping Norton Stakes from 1999 through 2002 with four wins. He won over $6 million from 62 jumps, averaging over $100,000 for every time he left his stall.
Next, we leap forward to the last multiple winner of the Hill Stakes, Desert War, from 2005 and 2006.
Desert War won the 2004 Epsom Handicap by 3.5 lengths, but in his next race, the Caulfield Cup, he was off to such a degree that he could do no better than 17th out of 18. His second Epsom win over Johan’s Toy was closer, but like in 2004, he finished 12th in the Cox Plate, almost 10 lengths behind Makybe Diva.
We are jumping over some good horses, because we saw the name of Hartnell as the 2016 Hill Stakes winner.
We are biased toward this horse. Just as we would, as lads, often root for Wile E. Coyote to catch the Roadrunner, we rooted for Hartnell to catch Winx. The outcome was the same in both scenarios. The coyote never caught the bird and Hartnell never caught Winx. At least she never dropped an anvil on him, although watching Hartnell try to catch her, it seemed as though he was carrying one.
2019 gave us Verry Elleegant as the Hill Stakes winner.
She was the winner of over $9.3 million, her best win being the 2020 Caulfield Cup. She can be seen winning the 2019 Hill Stakes at the link below.
Kolding, the 2020 Hill Stakes winner, is spelling. He has not won for Chris Waller in three tries since he won the 2021 All Aged Stakes.
Most recent winner Think It Over is still racing and his earned over $2.3 million, doing his sire So You Think proud.
If we were Thoroughbred owners or trainers, the Hill Stakes is one race we would never skip.
Just the opportunity to be on the same list as Phar Lap, Gunsynd, Peter Pan, Hydrogen and the other greats is reason enough to make the Hill Stakes a part of every middle distance horse in the stable.
Two wins in the Hill Stakes and we can almost imagine an owner drinking Chardonnay in the members’ saying, “Yeah, he won two Hill Stakes, just like Phar Lap.”
|Year||Hill Stakes Winner|
|2021||Think It Over|
|1999||Tie The Knot|