The Metropolitan is a Group 1 stayers’ race run over 2400 metres at Sydney’s Royal Randwick racecourse.
It is run under handicap conditions for horses aged three years and above as part of the big spring meeting that includes the Group 1 Flight Stakes and the Group 1 Epsom Handicap.
The Australian Turf Club oversees the race and the total prizemoney is $750,000. The winner also receives a ballot exemption for the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Montefilia won the 2021 edition of The Metropolitan, receiving $430,000 after jumping second favourite and beating favourite Entente by one length.
Montefilia can be seen winning at the following link.
History of The Metropolitan Handicap
The Metropolitan Handicap is one of the grand dams of Australian Thoroughbred racing.
It jumped for the first time in 1863, when there had been just two Melbourne Cups run. While Archer was busy winning those, the following year saw the debut of The Metropolitan, with the first race going to Regno.
We mentioned the Melbourne Cup because we thought to look for horses that won both The Metropolitan and the Melbourne Cup in their careers.
The first we found was Tim Whiffler, winner of both races in 1867. The Barb won the Melbourne Cup in 1866 and The Metropolitan in 1868.
The others we found were winners of both races in the same year. Those were Delta (1951), Dalray (1952), Straight Draw (1957) and Macdougal (1959).
Pardon the digression.
The race began as the Great Metropolitan Stakes and went by that name from 1863 until 1888. It was simplified and went by Metropolitan Stakes from 1889 through 1897. From 1898 – 1978 it was called the Metropolitan Handicap and from 1979, the same year the Group ranking system came along and made the Principal race a Group 1 race, through the present time, the race has simply been The Metropolitan.
The length of the race has shortened since it began.
It was 3200 metres for almost 30 years. It was 2400 metres from 1891 through 1919, and then went to the unusual trip of 2600 metres from 1920 through 1982. For 1983 alone, the race was down to 2400 metres before returning to 2600 metres for 1984 through 2000. The current trip of 2400 metres has been in effect from 2001 through the present.
Race Venue for The Metropolitan
The Metropolitan is run at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney. It has been there for every jump of the race except for 1983, when it shifted to Warwick Farm Racecourse for that year.
Randwick is Sydney’s biggest racecourse and has been in continuous operation since 1833.
The circumference of the track is 2,227 metres, so a 2400-metre race like The Metropolitan will start just to the northwest of the grandstands, and then cross the finish line once before completing another circuit to finish directly in front on the stands
For an in-depth look at Randwick, click here.
Racing History of The Metropolitan
A race as old as The Metropolitan will offer a long list of winners and the race has always been a big part of spring racing in NSW, so it has attracted top class stayers. In recent times, winners have gone on to win the Caulfield Cup, even if some would not consider the winners in the top echelon of gallopers.
Referring to the table of winners, we did not see any of note until 1867, when it was Tim Whiffler winning.
Tim was owned and trained by the legendary Etienne de Mestre.
Foaled in 1862, he was a major winner in 1867 when he added the VRC Queen’s Plate to his resume to accompany his win in The Metropolitan and the Melbourne Cup. He won the AJC version of the Queen’s Plate in 1868, 1870 and 1871. Other big wins included two All Aged Stakes and two Craven Plates. He made 57 jumps for 23 wins and 21 placings.
All that racing in that distant era from the past probably earned him about $3,000, but that is just speculation.
The very next year, another horse that would win the Melbourne Cup, The Barb, was the winner. His other big wins include two Sydney Cups, the AJC Derby, and the Craven Plate. He was undefeated in seven starts as a five-year-old. He made just 25 starts for 15 wins and three placings. That sort of racing credited him with winning over 18,000 pounds. We did some rough calculations and estimated that in today’s dollars, The Barb won well above $3.6 million.
Following The Barb’s win in 1868, a procession of lesser horses won the Metropolitan, although it is slightly disingenuous to characterize any horse that could win a Principal race agasint top competition with the word lesser, but none of the winners name’s jumped out at us, so we skipped ahead to 1907.
Mooltan was the winner that year and was the first to win successive races when he saluted again in 1908. He came close to adding his name to the list of Melbourne Cup/The Metropolitan winners when he ran second to Apologue in the 1907 Melbourne Cup.
The next significant winner was from 1918, when it was Kennaquhair winning. In an instance of history repeating, Kennaquhair ran second in 1918’s Melbourne Cup to Night Watch.
Kennaquhair other major wins were the C. B. Fisher Plate, the 1920 Sydney Cup and the AJC Spring Plate. He earned nearly the same amount as did The Barb, but he needed 72 jumps to get to that figure.
Of course, making 72 jumps is good for automatic induction into the imaginary PGR Hall of Fame.
The next notable we encountered on The Metropolitan’s winners list was Beau Vite from 1940.
Beau Vite was an all-time great. His first major win was the Canterbury Stakes in 1939. The year he won The Metropolitan, Beau Vite won the Hill Stakes, the Craven Plate, the LKS MacKinnon Stakes and the Cox Plate. He won several major races on more than one occasion, adding a second Cox Plate in 1941. Why he had to wait until 2021 to qualify for the Australian Racing Hall of Fame eludes any of our feeble attempts at logic, as Beau Vite made 60 jumps for 31 wins and 14 placings.
We had a multiple winner from 1945 and 1947, when it was Murray Stream taking the wins. From what little is available to us, he was a solid, if not great, galloper. His other good wins were the AJC Fernhill Handicap, the STC Theo Marks Quality Handicap, the AJC All Aged Stakes and the Doomben 10,000.
We made mention of 1951 winner Delta earlier.
Delta mad the most of 41 jumps, winning 22 and placing in eight. Like Beau Vite, Delta’s first major win was the Canterbury Guineas, which came in 1949. He won the VRC Derby and the Cox Plate that same year. He won the Colin Stephen Stakes twice and he dominated the Chelmsford Stakes between 1950 and 1952 with three successive wins. His Melbourne Cup win was in 1951 and he won five major races in 1952.
Delta entered the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2013.
The wait for another significant winner of The Metropolitan was short, as the 1952 race went to Dalray.
Dalray, as mentioned above, won the Melbourne Cup the same year. He was a New Zealander that did a lot of his racing in New Zealand, but he did some winning in Australia as well, taking the 1952 LKS MacKinnon Stakes and the 1953 VRC Queen’s Plate.
Dalray made it into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2015.
The next few years of The Metropolitan featured a series of better horses.
Redcraze won in 1956, followed by Straight Draw in 1957 and Macdougal in 1959.
Redcraze was another champion from the land of stayers, New Zealand. He won the P.J. O’Shea Stakes and the Hill Stakes as well. He won the Caulfield Cup in 1956 and the Cox Plate in 1957 as just a couple of his major wins. He came within the neck of Evening Peal in the 1956 Melbourne Cup.
Straight Draw won the race in 1957 and won the Melbourne Cup that same year. He won the Sydney Cup in 1958. Yes, another New Zealand horse. The year he won the Melbourne Cup, he would have gone against Tulloch, but that horse’s connection decided against running him. Straight Draw was the first horse to win The Metropolitan, the Melbourne Cup and the Sydney Cup in the same year.
Finally, 1959 went to Macdougal. He, like the other two, Redcraze and Straight Draw, hailed from New Zealand. His other major win from 1959 was the Brisbane Cup.
The next stop on The Metropolitan winners list was dual winner Tails from 1969 and 1970. Tails was by Dalray, so there is that father/son connection that we so enjoy.
Tails is not such a familiar name as some of the others, but he was familiar with crossing the finish line first.
We counted 14 major wins for Tails, with his best arguably the 1972 AJC Queen Elizabeth Stakes and it is worth mentioning that he won the Doomben Cup.
The next notable we encountered was 1976 winner Battle Heights.
He, like many of the other winners, was a New Zealand bred stayer. The Metropolitan win came near the end of his career, but he won the 1974 Cox Plate and the 1974 Sydney Cup, just to supply some measure of his ability.
Battle Heights made 115 starts, making him near the head of the class for the PGR Hall of Fame.
Ming Dynasty was our winner from 1978. He won the Caulfield Cup in 1977 and 1980, a testament to his long career that included 76 jumps for 17 wins and 21 placings. He won the Australian Cup in 1978 and 1980.
Another dual winner appears in Hayai, yet another Kiwi galloper. We did not find a lot of information about him, but he was obviously quite good to win The Metropolitan two years running.
The name of Railings appears on the winners list for 2005.
One of the significant aspects to Railings, other than his New Zealand breeding, was that his sire was the legendary Zabeel. He made 42 jumps for seven wins and seven places, which he managed to parlay into over $3.1 million in earnings. The same year that Railings won The Metropolitan, he won the Caulfield Cup. After he retired from galloping, Railing became a show jumper and dressage horse.
Tawqeet won in 2006. His foray into the Melbourne Cup did not work out as well as it did for some of the others. He ran 19th of 23, two weeks after winning the Caulfield Cup. Tawqeet would never again win after the Caulfield. He did manage to convert 24 jumps for five wins and five placings into over $2.3 million.
Following the race being canceled in 2007 because of the equine influenza, the rest of the list consists of good gallopers that did not exactly rise to the level of some of the earlier winners.
Newport, from 2008, was by Encosta De Lago. Newport made 65 jumps for nine wins and eight placings, which earned him a tidy $1.2 million.
Seville, from 2013, never won anything else of significance. He was seventh in the 2013 Cox Plate and 12th in the 2013 Melbourne Cup, but he had enough seconds in big races to earn over $1.7 million.
Sir John Hawkwood from 2016 was pretty good, but he ran 18th in the 2016 Melbourne Cup and 10th in the Caulfield Cup, so he was given his chances.
Much the same could be said of 2018 winner Patrick Erin. He won 11 times with eight placings from 39 jumps, but this New Zealand galloper’s best claim to fame was being behind Winx in the Apollo Stake and the Chipping Norton Stakes.
Finally, 2020 winner Mirage Dancer never won after that, despite being given 12 jumps. He was by the notable sire Frankel, but The Metropolitan was his only major win.
Watch Mirage Dancer win the 2020 Metropolitan at the following link.
It seems that New Zealand horses have fared well in The Metropolitan.
The race has supplied multiple Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate winners, but the race almost appears to have languished in recent times and since Railings won in 2005, the list has been populated by good-not-great horses.
Some of that could be due to the decline in staying races other than a few of the big races, such as the Melbourne, Caulfield and Sydney Cups.
|Year||The Metropolitan Winner|
|2019||Come Play With Me|
|2016||Sir John Hawkwood|
|1992||Te Akau Nick|
|1986||Born To Be Queen|
|1925||Bard Of Avon|
|1902||Queen Of Sheba|