The C F Orr Stakes is the first Group 1 race of the calendar year. It is a trip of 1400 metres and takes place at Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne under the administration of the Melbourne Racing Club.
It is run under weight for age conditions and offers a prizemoney pool of $500,000.
History of the C F Orr Stakes
The race derives its name as an honour to Charles F. Orr, a one-time chairman and secretary of the Williamstown Racing Club.
The race was first run in 1925. Through 1940, it was run at Williamstown Racecourse, a venue that has shut down.
The race was held at Moonee Valley Racecourse for the years 1941 and 1942. It spent one year at Flemington – 1943. It returned to Moonee Valley for 1944.
First run at Caulfield in 1949, it remained there through 1965, and then spent 20 years at Sandown Racecourse until 1986, when it ran for one year at Caulfield.
It was back to Sandown for the races run from 1987 through 1996.
From 1997 until the present, it has found a home at Caulfield.
The C F Orr Stakes began as a Principal race until the Group classification system came along in 1979. It became a Group 2 race in that year and was elevated to Group 1 in 1993 and it remains so today.
Originally a weight for age plus penalties race, it was run during World War II, for the years 1943 – 1945 as a handicap race. It has been weight for age ever since 1946.
C F Orr Stakes Race Venue
Caulfield Racecourse is famous in Australia. The local punters refer to it as “The Heath.”
Caulfield is close, just nine kilometres to the southeast of the Melbourne CBD and serves as the home base of the Melbourne Racing Club.
The triangular layout of the track is compelling in the aspect that it is far more interesting than a regular oval. Races are run anti-clockwise and the turns have a slight degree of banking, which makes for some fast times.
Without doubt, the most famous race held at Caulfield is the Caulfield Cup. It hosts 11 other Group 1 races, with plenty of Group 2 and Group 3 events scattered across about 20 meetings during autumn and spring racing carnivals.
Racing History of the Group 1 C F Orr Stakes
As the first Group 1 race of the calendar year, the C F Orr Stakes attracts the top horses, including pure sprinters that are equal to the longer trip, along with some stayers doing preparation for the longer races.
Weight for age conditions mean that there are multiple repeat winners and the names of those winners form something of a Who’s Who of the Thoroughbred elite.
Right from the outset, the C F Orr Stakes has been won by Whittier in 1926. In 1927, it was Heroic that won. He would go on to win major races near the end of his career, but he is best known for his 1926 win in the Cox Plate. Heroic was denied an opportunity to run in the VRC Derby and the Melbourne Cup because of a tiff between his connections and the VRC. Heroic was a Leading Sire in Australia from 1933 – 1939 and was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2003. His most famous descendant was Ajax.
High Caste was the 1940 winner. Other big wins for High Caste were the C B Fisher Plate (three times), and the Linlithgow Stakes (three times).
He won two Caulfield Stakes, two Challenge Stakes and two St. George Stakes.
Flight was the 1946 winner. She was a big earner in the post-World War II era. She won the Cox Plate twice, in 1945 and 1946. The Group 1 Flight Stakes is run to commemorate her and she went into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2007.
The 1951 winner was Comic Court. He had won the Melbourne Cup the previous year and was a two-time winner of the Memsie, Turnbull and LKS MacKinnon Stakes. Comic Court’s famous strapper was none other than Bart Cummings, working for his dad James Cummings, Comic Court’s trainer.
Less well known was the 1955 winner, Prince Cortauld, that won 25 times and has the distinction afforded by the claim of having beaten Rising Fast not once, not twice, but three times.
Rising Fast won the next year, 1956.
Rising Fast won two Caulfield Cups, a Melbourne Cup, a Cox Plate and numerous other races in 68 starts. His name is so frequently encountered that it is at times tempting to credit him with wins in races in which he did not take part.
The first multiple winner of the C F Orr Stakes was Lord, from 1959 and 1960. Lord was well nigh unbeatable in the Memsie Stakes, recording four wins from 1958 – 1961. Caulfield was his home track and he raced until he was nine years of age, after which he was a noted show jumper.
Wenona Girl won the race in 1962. Additionally, she won two Rawson Stakes and two Lightning Stakes and like Lord, she was a worker that raced 68 times, including 19 major wins.
Tobin Bronze was the winner in 1967. He had won the Cox Plate the previous year and won again in 1967 to go along with a 1967 win of the Caulfield Cup in which he carried more weight than any other horse with the exception of Redcraze. The 1967 Cox Plate win was his final start in Australia. He was sent overseas, but never quite found his footing on American dirt tracks.
The next famous winner of the C F Orr Stake was the redoubtable Leilani. Her win came in 1975, the year she was declared Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year. She took the Caulfield Cup in 1974.
Surround took first in 1977 and also continues the pattern of horses winning the Cox Plate and the C F Orr Stakes with his 1976 Cox Plate victory. He was Australian Racehorse of the Year in 1977.
Continuing what was somewhat of a golden era for the C F Orr Stakes; Hyperno won in 1978 and proved his staying ability with a win in the 1979 Melbourne Cup. He also won the VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Blamey Stakes twice each. Like Surround and Leilani, Hyperno was the Australian Horse of the Year for 1981. Now promoted from strapper to trainer, Bart Cummings handled Hyperon’s preparation after taking over from G.T. Murphy.
Next is the first three-time C F Orr Stakes winner, Manikato. He was the 1979 Australian Horse of the Year. Along with the three C F Orr Stakes wins, Manikato won four Futurity Stakes and five William Reid Stakes.
At Talaq was the 1987 winner, after winning the 1986 Melbourne Cup and he came to Australia after winning the prestigious Grand Prix de Paris in 1984.
From 1988 through 1990, the C F Orr Stakes was the exclusive domain of Vo Rogue. He won other big races on multiple occasions, namely the Blamey and Turnbull Stakes, along with two Australian Cups. Vo Rogue did things a bit differently. Rather than run down the field in the final stages of a race, he would run out to massive leads and defy his opposition to catch him.
Let’s Elope was the 1992 winner and she carried on the tradition of winning the C F Orr Stakes following a Melbourne Cup win, which was hers in 1991. She also won that year’s Caulfield Cup, one of a select few to claim the Cups Double. Like many of her C F Orr Stakes winning predecessors, Let’s Elope was the Australian Champion Racehorse of the year for 1992. She had been so-so in her native land of New Zealand, but blossomed under the tutelage of Bart Cummings.
AS the race moved toward contemporary times, the list of notable winners continued to expand.
It was Jeune in 1995 and wait for it; he was the winner of the 1994 Melbourne Cup.
Another Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year was Saintly, that won the 1996 Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate and Australian Cup in 1996.
Redoute’s Choice was the 2000 winner. He did not do a lot of racing, as by this time it was common for stallions to be retired from racing to stud. The practice was productive in the case of Redoute’s Choice, as 38 of his offspring have won Group 1 races.
The last two decades have continued the tradition of C F Orr Stakes winners doing big things on Australian tracks. In 2004, it was Lonhro, then Elvstroem in 2005. Those two require little in the way of explanation. Elvstroem won the Caufield Cup in 2004 and ran fourth to Makybe Diva in the 2004 Melbourne Cup when Makybe Diva was winning the Cup for the second time. Elvstroem beat the Diva in the 2005 St. George Stakes.
El Segundo was the 2007 winner and would win the Cox Plate that same year.
Typhoon Tracy was the next two-time winner and like many of the others mentioned in connection with winning the C F Orr Stakes (2010, 2011), she was Australian Racehorse of the Year for 2010.
The next winner needs nothing other than her name to distinguish her.
Black Caviar. (2012) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39gE8Q0OIDw
A couple of our favourites won with Black Heart Bart in 2017 and Hartnell in 2018. These two were famous for losing to Winx until their connections learned to stay out of races with Winx in them.
Finally, the 2020 winner was Alabama Express. He was by former C F Orr winner Redoute’s Choice and only raced eight times before embarking on a stud career.
As the first Group 1 race of the calendar year, the C F Orr Stakes has not languished from neglect by the top horses.
Even the less notable winners were handy types, while the famous winners were almost universally Hall of Famers, Melbourne and Caulfield Cup winners, with some Cox Plate winners thrown in.
|Year||CF Orr Stakes Winners|
|2017||Black Heart Bart|
|2014||Moment Of Change|
|2013||All Too Hard|
|1925||The Night Patrol|