The Coongy Cup is a Group 3 race of 2000 metres run under cup conditions at Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne during the Melbourne Racing Club spring carnival.
Horses must be three years of age or older and the winner receives a ballot exemption to the Caulfield Cup provided that winner has been entered on the Caulfield Cup entry list.
Coongy Cup Race Details
Race Distance: 2000m
Prize Money: $200,000
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When Is The Coongy Cup: 16/10/24
What Time Is The Coongy Cup: TBA
Where Is The Coongy Cup: Caulfield Racecourse
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More Details About The Coongy Cup
With the current schedule having the Caulfield Cup run three days subsequent to the Coongy Cup, we don’t expect to see any recent winners running in or winning the Caulfield Cup, but the Coongy Cup has been run since 1898. In those days, it was not rare to see a galloper lined up so soon after a race of any length, so we will be looking for dual winners.
Prizemoney for the race is currently $200,000 and a better type named Duais won the most recent running in 2021. She has won more than $2.7 million from just 19 jumps for seven wins and five placings. The connections did send her out in the Caulfield Cup, hoping for good fortune in the form of lightning or something, but she could muster nothing better than 16th of 18.
Her last three jumps supplied Group 1 wins in the Australian Cup at Flemington and the Tancred Stakes at Newcastle, but her run in the 2022 Queen Elizabeth Stakes found her seventh of nine, to Think It Over, a horse she had beaten handily in the Australian Cup.
History of the Coongy Cup
We will start with the name.
No horse and no person by that name could be found. We found some lakes in far northeast South Australia called Coongie Lakes. That is as close as we can come. Perhaps Coongy is a disambiguation or the spelling has simply evolved, but no matter.
The race made its debut in 1898 and was known as the Coongy Cup all the way through 2007. It was named the David Jones Cup from 2008 – 2015.
Such a common name might lead you to think we would not bother, but bother, we did. There have been quite a few notable Aussies going by that name. We found one that lived from 1892 – 1916 who was a Brit that received the Victoria Cross. His was the most race name-worthy that we uncovered, although the actual namesake of the race was quite possibly some honcho for the Melbourne Racing Club. Sir Gerald Coongy, AO, or something like that.
There was a David Robert Jones who lived from 1947 – 2016 who was best known as David Bowie. David Bowie Stakes would make an excellent name for a race and while we have to admit that we were never huge fans of his music, we could not stop looking.
In 2016, the current name of Coongy Cup emerged and has remained, for now.
The trip for the race, in true MRC fashion, has been all over the map, from the current length of 2000 metres to as much as 2400 metres in the years spanning 1947 – 1967. It was the odd trip of 2100 metres in 1997 and 1998, two years where the race was run at Sandown Racecourse.
The race grade was Principal through 1977, with Group 3 status conferred in 1978, when the Group classification system got underway.
Venue for the Coongy Cup
With the two exceptions noted above, the Coongy Cup has always been run at Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne.
Racing at Caulfield dates back to 1859. The most notable race held there is the Caulfield Cup, which is run in October as part of the MRC spring carnival.
Racing on the ovular triangle-shaped course is held throughout the year. Other important races there are the Caulfield Guineas, Blue Diamond Stakes, Oakleigh Plate and the Futurity Stakes, to mention a few.
For 2000-metre races such as the Coongy Cup, the racers start from a short chute on the northwest side of the track and run three turns and three straights to finish up almost where they started, as the entire circumference of the track is 2,080 metres.
Racing History of the Coongy Cup
A race as old as the Coongy Cup offers a rich history. How much of that can be accessed remains to be seen.
The race does present some unusual history for being abandoned from 1942 – 1946 while the military was using Caulfield as a training base.
It was also skipped from 1931 – 1937.
There have been dead heats in 1940, 1954 and 2018. Those were obviously dead heats, because photo finish technology was being used in every case.
The only dual winner we identified was Baughurst, an okay galloper that won the race in 2008 and 2009.
The list of winners has some notables sprinkled throughout, so here is a look at what we found.
We always mention the first winner of any race. In this case, that winner in 1898 was Hymettus. He won the Caulfield Cup that same year and again in 1901. He also won the Memsie Stakes in 1901.
A familiar name popped up on the winners’ list from 1901.
It was Juggler, but it was not the $2 million plus winner from the early 1990s. The Juggler that won the Coongy in 1901 apparently was not a great racer, as the only win we found for him was the Coongy.
The interesting name of Scot Free came up as the winner of the race in 1905. He ran second in the 1905 Melbourne Cup and it required a new record for Blue Spec to beat him.
When he returned to the yard following his close call with fame, his trainer told his jockey, “All right, then, time to get off of Scot Free.”
Searching through the winners prior to World War I, we found nothing that left any major mark on Thoroughbred racing. This does not seem unusual to us, even though there were great gallopers of that time. Those better types, if this were current times, would not be bothered with a race such as the Coongy Handicap, but in those days, there was not exactly the amount of race choices that exist today.
In the years we have spent examining Thoroughbred racing history in Australia, the Coongy is the first race that we saw being entirely skipped. The race was not held for eight years from 1931 – 1937. We seem to recall that this was the era of Phar Lap and others of that calibre. True, Phar Lap had been exported by that time, but the likes of Peter Pan, Hallmark and Nightmarch were winning Melbourne Cups and it is reasonable that any or all of them could have viewed the Coongy Handicap as ideal preparation.
The race resumed in 1940 and we have the opportunity to mix world history with racing history.
That was the first time the race resulted in a dead heat.
The top prize was shared by a horse named Lanarus and a mare named Morvren. Now, records of the races from the early 20th century we can accept, but by 1940, most horses, even the so-so types, left a paper trail at least. Not so for Lanarus and barely so for Morvren. Morvren had some ties to Dark Ronald and Bay Ronald, two British horses whose names have been found often in the pedigree records of good Australian racers.
The 1941 winner, Son Of Aurous, had lines similar to Morvren, which is the extent of what we can report about him.
It was no surprise that the race was abandoned again during the World War II years when Caulfield was drafted for use by the military. Some races were moved to Flemington, but the view of the authorities could have been that it was not necessary to move the Coongy Handicap, as the race could be skipped without upsetting anyone.
Here is what we could discover about the next dead heat in 1954 between Sunish and Te Totara.
Sunish was a gelding by Empyrean and Empyrean’s sire was the great British racer and sire Hyperion, so the ability was there, although we have no indication that Sunish accomplished much on the turf.
Te Totara was a New Zealand gelding with a rather desultory pedigree, save for on his dam’s side, where the fourth generation tied him to the earlier Coongy and Caulfield Cup winner Hymettus, while on his sire’s side Te Totara is linked to Carbine.
We finally found something when we looked into the 1964 winner, Bon Filou. He was better than most we have looked at to this point, by which we learned that he won the Chipping Norton Stakes.
His other claim to fame was that he was half-brother to Big Phillou, both by the same French sire Le Filou.
Moving ahead, we found a notable winner in 1978’s La Mer.
She was a Kiwi mare that won 24 races with 4 placings from 34 jumps.
After winning the Coongy, she managed a sixth place run in the 1978 Cox Plate, followed by a second in the LKS MacKinnon Stakes to Family Of Man. In 1979, she finished sixth in the Australian Cup, beaten by Dulcify, Manikato and Family Of Man. Most of her good wins were in New Zealand, resulting in her being declared the New Zealand Horse of the Year for 1975 and 1977. She was dam to seven winners, with a Group 1 New Zealand winner named Little Jamie to her credit.
A top winner from 1982 was Rose Of Kingston.
She made 26 jumps for 10 wins and 9 placings, earning what was then the considerable sum of almost $600,000. She won the Group 1 Champagne Stakes, the VRC Oaks and the AJC Derby, both Group 1 races. She was sent to the U.S., where she dated Secretariat and Seattle Slew, both winners of the U.S. Triple Crown.
The match with Secretariat produced Kingston Rule, winner of the 1990 Melbourne Cup, where he established the record time of 3:16.30.
Periscope from 1986 was another example of the value of northern hemisphere DNA. He won at Group 2 level with the Phar Lap Stakes and the Tulloch Stakes, both in 1986. He did his stud service in the Philippines, where out of 14 named foals, 13 were fillies.
Typhoon by Last Tycoon out of So Elated was the winner in 2000. He made 64 jumps, winning 10 and placing in 9. His connections showed patience in giving him 14 chances before he finally won a maiden at Bendigo. After winning the Coongy, he backed with the Group 3 Hong Kong Jockeys’ Plate. Not long after, Bart Cummings transferred him to Graham Woolston. Woolston gave him back to Cummings and Bart gave him to Anthony Cummings.
We found a good one in 2006’s Maybe Better.
He won almost $1 million from 29 jumps for six wins and five placings.
He had a good run in the 2006 Melbourne Cup, where he was third to Delta Blues and Pop Rock.
The one and only dual winner of the Coongy came along in 2008 and 2009.
It was Baughurst. After winning the Coongy for the first time in 2008, he came within a whisker or two of winning the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup. The win the following year was the last of his career, though he had six more opportunities.
The dead heat in 2018 was between Best Of Days and Mask Of Time.
Best Of Days won almost $2 million, with six wins. He beat Le Romain half a length in the Croup 1 Cantala Stakes in his following start. He made many jumps before his next win in the 2021 Group 3 Cylon Cup at Caulfield, cruising on the speed for the last 800 metres to beat Miss Siska and Noncomformist for the final win of his career.
The other winner, Mask Of Time, would not deserve mention, save for dead heating with Best Of Days.
Nonconformist from 2020 beat the good galloper Harlem to win the Coongy and his last three jumps produced a win in the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes, followed by a second in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes, beaten a neck by Probabeel and relegating THE Zakki to third.
Nonconformist’s free pass to the Caulfield Cup supplied a distant second to Incentivise.
It has only been in the past few years that the better types have been trying the Coongy Handicap.
With few exceptions, the race has supplied few great gallopers, but as we often say, there are Group 3 races, and then there are Group 3 races. Some Group 3s attract top gallopers, while other Group 3 races, such as the Coongy Handicap in particular, seem unable to attract the better types.
Coongy Cup Past Winners
|2018||Dead Heat - Mask Of Time / Best Of Days|
|2007||Fire In The Night|
|1998||It's All In Fun|
|1996||Circles Of Gold|
|1989||Eye Of The Sky|
|1987||King Of Brooklyn|
|1982||Rose Of Kingston|
|1981||Our Paddy Boy|
|1941||Son Of Aurous|
|1915||Cock O' The North|