The Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes is a Group 1, 2000-metre race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds run at Randwick Racecourse under set weight conditions.
It is the feature race of a Saturday meeting that currently takes place a week before Randwick’s showcase spring race, The Everest.
Prizemoney for the race is currently set at $1 million as of 2020.
The Spring Champion Stakes is an important race for three-year-olds, as winning here might supply an indication of good things to come.
History of the Spring Champion Stakes
Given the length of the history of Australian Thoroughbred racing, the Spring Champion Stakes is a relative newcomer, jumping for the first time in 1971.
The race was originally called the Australasian Champion Stakes from debut until 1978. We appreciate that, as typing Australasian is rough and we never kenned why it was necessary to make a word that combined Australia with Asia, even if there are some Aussie horses that go to Hong Kong or Japan to try racing, or horses from there that come here to run.
It was always considered a Principal race until 1979, when the Group system came along and the race was instantly deemed worthy of Group 1 status.
It has always been run at Randwick except for 1983, when it was moved to Warwick Farm and expanded to 2100 metres.
There was an occasion in 2001 where the race was run on Randwick’s inner Kensington loop and shortened to 1800 metres.
Outside of those two exceptions and the slight variance from when the trip was measured as 1-1/4 miles and when metrification resulted in the race being run at 2000 metres, the Spring Champion Stakes has always been 2000 metres.
This race has always attracted the top horses, with few exceptions and when we later examine the racing history of the Spring Champion Stakes, that fact will become abundantly clear.
Race Venue of the Spring Champion Stakes
With the one exception for Warwick Farm and the one time the race was run on Randwick’s inner Kensington course, the Spring Champion Stakes has always been held at Randwick.
Randwick is NSW Racing’s counter to Victoria’s Flemington and there is a rivalry between the two akin to the rivalry between, for example, The Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney.
Randwick currently can claim the bragging rights of staging the world’s richest turf race, while Flemington is relying on the tradition and pomp of the Melbourne Cup as its major claim to the top rung in Australian racing.
Randwick has been staging races since 1833, so they have seven years of longevity to brandish when it is time to have a blow.
For any who are interested in having more details about Randwick Racecourse, we have a page devoted to Randwick here:
Racing History of the Spring Champion Stakes
As a premier spring carnival race for three-year-olds, the Spring Champion Stakes has produced a distinguished list of winners.
The 2000-metre trip is an opportunity for trainers and connections to stretch their milers to see if there are potential 3200-metre horses in their stables, while the true stayers have a lucrative opportunity to put money in their bags without working so hard.
The head of the class, as far as anyone is concerned, was Kingston Town from 1979, but here is a look at the other good horses that had the talent as three-year-olds to win this shorter staying race.
The 1971 winner of the inaugural Spring Champion Stakes was Gay Icarus.
He was by Great Britain’s Icarus. His dam was Australia’s Gay M’Selle. Two important contributors to Gay Icarus were Hyperion and Gainsborough. It is interesting that while many horses of that era were predominantly of northern hemisphere extraction; Gay Icarus had Australian bloodlines five generations back.
This was a great horse that won races that would become Group 1 on multiple occasions; his best win was the 1970 Caulfield Cup.
Latin Knight, the next winner in 1972, was of a similar cut as Gay Icarus and some of the 11 wins Latin Knight posted were the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes, the Rosehill Guineas and the Chipping Norton Stakes.
The 1973 winner, Gold Brick, was out of New Zealand. He made just 23 jumps and the Spring Champion Stakes was one of the best of his five wins, the best being the 1972 AJC Derby.
The winner of the 1974 race was Asgard, another New Zealand horse that was okay, not great. His other wins were the PARC Derby Trial Stakes, the WATC Western Australian Derby, the QTC Grand Prix Stakes, the STC Tulloch Stakes and the WATC Imperial Stakes.
Taras Bulba may be one of the better horses of which you never heard. Capable of winning from 1200 to 3200 metres, He won big races such as the AJC Derby, Chipping Norton and Queen Elizabeth Stakes run by both the AJC and the VRC. He was champion 3YO in Australia 1974 – 75, running second to Battle Heights in the 1974 Cox Plate and second to Oopik in the 1976 Sydney Cup.
The last winner of the race when it was in its final year (1977) as the Australasian Champion Stakes was Sir Silver Lad, while the winner the first time the race was called the Spring Champion Stakes in 1978 was Lefroy.
When the race was moved from Principal quality to Group 1 in 1979, the legendary Kingston Town was the winner. He serves as a stark reminder of how racing has grown. He made 41 starts for 30 wins and seven placings, but earned just over $1.6 million. A modern era horse could come close to what Kingston Town earned just by finishing third in The Everest.
Of course, he won three Cox Plates, a record that held until Winx came along and added a fourth Cox Plate to her resume.
Kingston Town is one of the featured champions on our site and more detail about him can be found here:
Speaking of prizemoney escalation, the New Zealand horse Prince Majestic won the Spring Champion Stakes in 1980 along with 19 other races, including three Group 1, a Group 2, two Group 3s and seven Listed races and had only $521,000 to show for it.
Champion 3YO Sir Dapper won the race in 1983.
Sir Dapper had a brief but spectacular career. He jumped just 18 times, but he won 13 of those and placed in four, with one unplaced start. He lived up to his pedigree, which was Vain for his sire, Wilkes for his grandsire.
The winner from 1986, Imprimatur, sort of represents the opposite from Sir Dapper with regard to living up to his pedigree. He was by imposing, with Todman for a grandsire and Star Kingdom for his great grandsire, yet the Spring Champion Stakes was his only Group 1 win from his four career wins.
Beau Zam, yet another Kiwi horse to win the Spring Champion Stakes, was quite the galloper. He won almost $2.4 million, including four wins at Group 1 level. He ran second in the Caulfield Cup and the Chipping Norton Stakes, and he had a third in the AJC Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Stylish Century won the Spring Champion Stakes in 1989. He earned over $2.5 million and was somewhat unique in that he remained entire for 58 jumps, with 11 wins and 15 placings. His other major wins were the Victoria Derby in 1989 and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1991 at Randwick. He probably would have won a few more, but he was forever chasing Super Impose. He nearly caught Better Loosen Up on a couple occasions. He beat Rough Habit once and he beat Zabeel in a Group 3 race at Caulfield. He raced his way into the Melbourne Cup in 1989, but running four days after winning the Victoria Derby, we can forgive him for finishing 21st.
St. Jude was the winner in 1990 and his career was solid if not spectacular. He won two other Group 1 races, the Canterbury Guineas and the Vic Health Cup, both in 1991. Like Stylish Century, St. Jude was frequently tasked with competing against the likes of Street Ruffian, Super Impose and Better Loosen Up.
Kinjite was the winner in 1991. He also won the Group 1 Epsom Handicap. What stood out about Kinjite was eight second place finishes in major races. The margin of all those races combined was just over seven lengths.
Danewin was a good horse that won the Spring Champion Stakes in 1994. He met the expectations that go along with having Danehill for a sire, Danzig for a grandsire, Northern Dancer for a great grandsire and one generation further back, Nearctic.
Danewin won five Group 1 races.
Nothin’ Leica Dane was the next winner in 1995.
Similar to Stylish Century, Nothin’ Leica Dane raced his way into the 1995 Melbourne Cup by winning the Victoria Derby, but he managed to run second to Doriemus.
Magic Of Sydney, the 1996 winner, had sire lines identical to those of Danewin, but he did not live up to his pedigree.
Tie The Knot won in 1997. He won the Sydney Cup twice and the Chipping Norton Stakes four times. He beat Jezabeel in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes, but Jezabeel returned the favour by beating him in the 1998 Melbourne Cup.
Niello by Octagonal was the 2003 winner. He won nearly $1 million from 15 starts before they retired him to stud.
Savabeel was the next winner in 2004. He won the Cox Plate that same year and like Niello, he was taken off from racing after just 14 starts in order to preserve the line of his sire Zabeel. To win the Cox Plate, he had to beat the winner from the previous year, the legendary Fields of Omagh.
The Spring Champion Stakes was not held in 2007 due to the equine influenza outbreak.
Monaco Consul, the winner from 2009, also won the Victoria Derby that year. He did not try the Melbourne Cup like the others that got in by winning the Derby. He did run third in the 2010 Caulfield Cup and his last race was a 14th in the 2010 Melbourne Cup won by Americain.
It may seem as though we are passing over some good horses that have won the Spring Champion Stakes, but there is a method to our madness that will be revealed eventually.
We come to our next good champion in 2012, when the winner was It’s A Dundeel. He is the fifth horse in the history of Australian Thoroughbred racing to win the Australian Triple Crown (Randwick Guineas, Rosehill Guineas, Australian Derby). The others to match that feat were Moorland (1943), Martello Towers (1959), Imagele (1973) and Octagonal (1996).
The 2014 winner, Hampton Court, was a good racer, but most of his notoriety comes from his legendary sire Redoute’s Choice.
Earlier we admitted skipping over some good horses as far as this article is concerned. It is now time to reveal the method to our madness.
The 2016 winner of the Spring Champion Stakes was Yankee Rose. She also won the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes and ran second in the Golden Slipper Stakes and third in the Cox Plate, all in that same year of 2016.
She was the first filly to win the race in 44 runnings.
Ace High won in 2017. His other Group 1 win was the Victoria Derby. His connections did not send him on to try the 2017 Melbourne Cup. They did try him in 2018, but he could muster only 20th. He was 11th of 11 in 2018 when Winx won the Winx Stakes the year after the Warwick Stakes had been renamed in her honour.
Maid Of Heaven was the winner in 2018. She was the second filly after Yankee Rose to win the race. Her only other win, from just five tries was a maiden at Canterbury.
Shadow Hero won in 2019, His other Group 1 win was the 2020 Randwick Guineas. The last we knew, he was plying his trade in the fertile fields of Hong Kong.
The third and final filly to win the race was 2020’s Montefilia, is still racing and she averages about $100,000 per start from the 12 times she has raced during her career.
It would be possible to conclude that the Spring Champion Stakes, although open to both genders, is a stallion and geldings’ race. Just three from the distaff side of the pedigree chart have managed to win the race.
As one of Sydney’s top spring carnival races for many years, the winners have all been highly competent, even though for some, it was their only major win.
|Year||Spring Champion Stakes Winners|
|2018||Maid Of Heaven|
|2012||It's A Dundeel|
|1997||Tie The Knot|
|1996||Magic Of Sydney|
|1995||Nothin' Leica Dane|
|1984||Luck's A Lottery|
|1978||Just A Steal|
|1977||Sir Silver Lad|