The Group 3 Black Opal Stakes is a set weight race of 1200 metres for two-year-olds of any gender staged at Canberra Racecourse in Australia’s Capital city.
Prizemoney for the race as of 2023 is $250,000.
Black Opal Stakes Race Details
Race Distance: 1200m
Prize Money: $250,000
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When Is The Black Opal Stakes: 10/3/24
What Time Is The Black Opal Stakes: TBA
Where Is The Black Opal Stakes: Rosehill Racecourse
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More Details About The Black Opal Stakes
The 2023 winner of the 50th jump of the Black Opal Stakes, Autumn Ballet, earned the $120,000 top prize when jumping third favourite and winning quite easily by two lengths over second favourite The Years.
Autumn Ballet is a daughter of The Autumn Sun, which makes her grandsire Redoute’s Choice. Her dam is Grisi, a daughter of Ireland’s star sire Street Cry.
The result was welcome for the training duo of Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, since the first two finishers in the 2023 Black Opal Stakes were from the Waterhouse/Bott stables.
The Black Opal Stakes occupies a prime spot on the autumn schedule of the Australian Thoroughbred Racing calendar.
Races for two-year-olds are popular with racing fans, but the Black Opal Stakes would be the race to try for connections that do not have confidence that they have a racer with talent to try the Golden Slipper Stakes.
The race also sacrifices some attention by being staged at Canberra Racecourse, effectively a country track with a metro location.
The Black Opal Stakes is the top race at a Canberra meeting that offers three Listed grade races – the National Sprint, the Canberra Cup and the Canberra Guineas.
History of the Black Opal Stakes
There have been a couple handfuls of horses named Black Opal.
Four of the Black Opals we found were colts and seven were fillies. The most likely candidate, the only Aussie on the list, was foaled in 1975, two years after the first jump of the race. Unless the name of the race was changed after the first jumps, we would tend to eliminate the Aussie Black Opal, since she left nothing to indicate that she had been a good racer or breeder.
There was a Kiwi Black Opal foaled in 1952, but she did not leave any sort of history that would seem to warrant a race name.
Beyond those two, all the other Black Opals we located were born in the 21st century, so we have to admit that the reason for the race name eluded us. There were no other names associated with the race, which is officially registered at the Black Opal Stakes. We assume that one sponsor or another attached their name to the race, so we will see.
The race first jumped in 1973 and in the 50 jumps since that time, only 1999 winner Catbird was able to win the Golden Slipper to go along with the Black Opal Stakes win.
The record for fastest to cover the trip belongs to the 1994 winner St. Covet that covered the 1200 metres in 1:09.6.
The race began as a Principal race. The grade lasted until 1979, when the Group grading system was first installed, with the race going straight to Group 3 without stopped at Listed Grade.
It was made Group 2 in 1987 and stayed at that level until 1999, when it was reduced to Group 3. A second reduction saw it graded as Listed from 2006 through 2014 before being restored to Group 3 in 2015.
It does not appear that the trip for the race has been modified.
The race was not held in 2007, but not due to the equine influenza outbreak that forced many race abandonments in NSW that year.
In the case of the Black Opal Stakes, 2007 was skipped because the Canberra facility was undergoing renovation.
Venue for the Black Opal Stakes
The Canberra Racing Club holds about 25 race meetings per year, mostly on Friday evenings. The year the track was built is somewhat hard to determine. One source gave the start date as 2007, when the course reopened after renovation. Another source mentions the early 60s, which seems to fit the time frame of the Black Opal Stakes.
There was actually racing in the 1920s when the Acton Racecourse was operating, but the track was lost to the water in 1963 when the Molongo River was damned to form Lake Burley Griffin.
There are two tracks at the current facility, which is also known as Thoroughbred Park.
The outer course, the course proper, is a conventional turf track, while an inner track with a synthetic surface provides for galloping when the regular track is unsuitable.
As for the geometry of the track, think of Flemington with less severe turns.
For 1200-metre races like the Black Opal Stakes, the racers jump from barriers midway down the back straight, and then travel the sweeping, continuous turn that connects the two straights. They turn for home and finish in front of the stands at the southwest side of the track.
Racing in Canberra follows the NSW protocol of running in a clockwise direction.
Racing History of the Black Opal Stakes
For a Group 3 race at a track with limited Group racing, the Black Opal Stakes offers some better types for winners.
We will examine the list and look for gallopers that earned substantial money or won any of the prestigious Group 1 races. We will also look for winners that spawned good progeny.
As usual, we will skip any winners that do not meet at least one of the three criteria from the last sentence.
The first winner was 1973’s Rich Reward.
He was foaled in 1970 and his lines, outside of the Aussie mares on the side of his dam Happy Polly, were entirely European.
The Black Opal Stakes is the only major race with which we can credit Rich Reward. After racing, he sired seven fillies and two colts in Australia, but none of those offspring left much impact on racing.
The 1975 winner was the mare Silver Shadow, although she would have been a filly at the time.
She won the Warwick Stakes that same year, the race that would eventually become the Group 1 Winx Stakes. She beat Leica Lover into second, with THE Leilani third, so we speculate that Silver Shadow had her best day on a day Leilani perhaps left too much in the barn. Silver Shadow made just 11 jumps for 4 wins and 3 placings.
Our 1977 winner, Blazing Saddles, supplies our first opportunity to mention Star Kingdom, because he was the sire of Blazing Saddles sire Todman.
He was a pretty good galloper; Blazing Saddles was, with 14 jumps for 8 wins and 4 placings. His big win was the now Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes in 1977. He was third to Luskin Star in that year’s Golden Slipper Stakes and second to Maybe Mahal in the now Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes.
He was a good sire after racing, with a 1987 colt named Mr. Brooks that won about £400,000 in England. More than 20 of his offspring won some money racing, but by the end of that list, we were seeing prizemoney worth less than the cost of getting into many races.
Moving forward, we pause to see what 1984 Black Opal Stakes winner Spirit Of Kingston offered by way of history.
She presents the sort of lines that reek with success; a 1981 filly by Bletchingly, with Biscay and the oft-referenced Star Kingdom in the sire line, the line further back finds the legendary U.S. racer Man O’ War. Her dam was Kingston Rose, leading us to suspect some tie to Kingston Town, but that connection eluded us.
The next Black Opal Stakes winner we choose to examine was Maizcay from 1987.
This is yet another of those instances where racing talent appears to have skipped a generation.
Maizcay was by Bletchingly, so the line to Biscay and Star Kingdom is right there.
Maizcay was not exceptional as a racer. His racing record indicates four wins, but does not even bother with his jumps and placings. His earnings are given as $183,000 and his wins were in the Group 2 Silver Slipper Stakes and the Group 3 Breeders’ Plate. As for his fourth win, we surmise it was some modest maiden somewhere.
It was as a breeder that Maizcay had the most impact. He was prolific for one thing. He was sire to Our Maizcay that far exceeded his sire by winning 13 of 19 jumps for above $1.1 million. His other good son was Seascay that won above $1million by racing 63 times for 6 wins and 15 placings.
The next winner we will inspect is Catbird from 1999.
He presented the line that follows from his sire Danehill, a U.S. sire that we encounter almost as often as we encounter Ireland’s Star Kingdom.
Catbird made just 14 jumps for 5 wins and 1 placing, but earned above $1.75 million, primarily on the strength of 1999 win in the Golden Slipper Stakes over Align with Shogun Lodge third. That win was is next jump after the Black Opal Stakes and it would prove to be his last win or placing.
Catbird was the embodiment of modern Thoroughbred husbandry. He was prolific and supplied many race winners to Australia, Hong Kong and other jurisdictions. His best Australian product was the 2003 colt Express Win out of Pine Lodge Lady. Express Win won over $320,000 in Oz Bucks and over 6.7 million Hong Kong Bucks.
In 2005, Al Samer was the winner.
If Catbird was the embodiment, Al Samer was the epitome of modern Thoroughbred husbandry, as he made just 7 jumps for 2 wins and 4 placings for $277,000.
His claim as a racer is that he was beaten twice by Snitzel, but plenty could make the same claim.
As a sire, Al Samer supplied plenty of racers, with his best Aussie foal being a 2011 colt named Berisha out of Beheshta that won over $700,000.
We want to skip ahead to modern times, so we are moving to 2012, the year the Black Opal Stakes was won by Epaulette.
Epaulette was by the better racer Commands, which offers Danehill as grandsire. He raced just 14 times for 4 wins and 4 placings for above $1.7 million.
He had Group 1 wins in the 2012 Golden Rose Stakes and the 2013 Doomben 10,000. When he won the Black Opal Stakes, the race was slumming at Listed Grade.
To look at Epaulette as a racer, we have to include that he beat Buffering to win the Doomben 10,000, but he was often lined up with hard to beat types, such as Pierro and All Too Hard.
Epaulette came within three lengths of catching Black Caviar in the 2013 Group 1 T. J. Smith Stakes, although we would feel safe saying that by the time Epaulette got to the line, Black Caviar was well done with racing for that day.
Epaulette supplied many heirs, with many racing in Hong Kong where the tracks are paved with money. His best Aussie progeny was Ernest Feeling that won above $1.5 million and he supplied Daumier that won over $1.3 million.
A notable winner was 2017’s Trapeze Artist.
With Snitzel as sire and Redoute’s Choice as grandsire, it is small wonder that Trapeze Artist was capable of winning over $5.5 million from 20 jumps for 7 wins and 4 placings.
He had Group 1 wins in the Golden Rose Stakes in 2017, the T. J. Smith Stakes and All-Aged Stakes in 2018 and the Canterbury Stakes in 2019.
He beat two-time The Everest winner Redzel in the T. J. Smith, along with In Her Time. It was Le Romain behind Trapeze Artist in the 2018 All-Aged Stakes.
He is early on in his stallion career, but if you have a handy mare and $77,000 to cover his stud fee, you can find him at Widden Stud. His best to date is a 2020 filly named Facile out of Pierro’s daughter I Like It Easy, with the lines including Lonhro, Octagonal and Zabeel. Danehill was in his dam’s line.
The 2022 winner, Queen Of The Ball, is a currently active daughter of I Am Invincible. Her 11 jumps through April of 2023 have supplied a form line of 11 jumps for 3 wins and 2 placings for a bit above $520,000.
She is having a spell following her last jump in the Group 3 Zeditave Stakes at Sandown, where she was unplaced,
For a race that has spent its time at the small stage of Canberra, the Black Opal Stakes has supplied some better winners.
It is always nice to see those two-year-olds that have won the race and gone on to have good racing and breeding careers.
Black Opal Stakes Past Winners
|Year||Black Opal Stakes Winners|
|2022||Queen Of The Ball|
|2007||race not held|
|2006||Down The Wicket|
|1984||Spirit Of Kingston|