The Zipping Classic, once called the Sandown Classic, is a Group 2 weight-for-age race of staying distance of 2400 metres. It is held at Melbourne’s Sandown Racecourse
It is open to horses of either gender aged two years and above and is run in late November.
Prizemoney for the race is $250,000 as of 2020. From 2011 forward, the race has been called the Zipping Classic in honour of the four-time winner of the race 2007 – 2010.
History of the Sandown Classic / Zipping Classic
For those of us who admit that our expertise in Thoroughbred horseracing is not on a level with some of the legendary experts, something that causes us some consternation is that the Sandown Classic has been run since 1888. That is 77 years prior to Sandown Racecourse being built.
If you ask someone from Queensland about the race, they would say, “It’s called the Sandown Classic because the Vics like to race in the sand down there.”
Our consternation arises from the question, “Where did they run the Sandown Classic before there was a Sandown Racecourse?”
There was already a Melbourne and a Flemington before they had the first Melbourne Cup.
A source we once considered reliable, but has slipped in the past couple of years, claims that the race is now run at Caulfield Racecourse. Would it be safe to assume, then, that prior to Sandown Racecourse being built, the Sandown Classic was run at Caulfield?
The accurate answer, now that we have had our fun and our little pun, used to be run at Williamstown Racecourse and the race was known as the Williamstown Cup.
The suburb of Williamstown is located on the peninsula that juts into Port Phillip Bay to the west of the Melbourne CBD.
The race was held there until the grandstand was destroyed by fire in 1947. The Williamstown Racing Club was absorbed by the Victorian Trotting and Racing Association and this resulted in the Melbourne Racing Club. The MRC merged with the VATC in 1964, at which time the name of the race was changed from Williamstown Cup to Sandown Cup.
In summation, the race started in Williamstown and then moved somewhere. We learned that the race was transferred to Caulfield in 2013 while renovations to the Sandown Racecourse were being made.
One source claims that the race was moved to Sandown after the Williamstown grandstand was destroyed by fire, but how can you have a race from 1947 - 1965 at a track that had yet to be built?
We will leave that mystery to better detectives than we are.
What we can report with relative confidence is that the race was called the Williamstown Cup form 1888 until 1962, except when it a bout of euphoria, the race was called the Victory Cup to celebrate the end of World War II a couple of months prior.
It was the Sandown Cup from 1963 – 1998. There is still a race that carries that name, but it is not this race. It is a race of 3200 metres that was granted Listed status and will jump on 13 November 2021 at Sandown.
Sandown Classic was the name used from 1999 – 2010. From 2011 forward, the race has been called the Zipping Classic in honour of the four-time winner of the race 2007 – 2010.
For the sake of simplicity and sanity, any further references in this article will use the name Zipping Classic.
Aside from the name confusion courtesy of the Vics, we know that through 1999, the race was run under open handicap conditions and changed to weight-for-age for 2000.
It has always been a Principal race until the Group classification system was adopted and the Zipping Classic was run as a Group 2 race since 1979.
The trip for the race was initially measure in miles and fractions, thus, from the first year through 1919, the race covered 1-3/8 miles. The years of 1920 – 1942 saw the tip extended to 1-1/2 miles and this distance was in effect from 1951 – 1971. In the years intervening, 1943 – 1950, it was 1-5/8 mile and the current 2400-metre trip has been in place since 1972.
Race Venue of the Zipping Classic
The Zipping Classic is run at Sandown Racecourse and we are sticking with that story. Of course, this is Victorian Thoroughbred racing and names of races and venues are fungible and available to the highest bidder.
The online bookies have had their mitts all over the course for some time. The MRC changed the name to Sportingbet Park in 2008. It was William Hill Park for 2015 and Ladbrokes Park from 2016 on.
Be sure to tell your ride-share driver that you want to go to Ladbrokes Park, or you could end up at the Sandown Racecourse in England.
The facility also maintains a quarantine facility for the foreign raiders that come to chase the Melbourne Cup.
Sandown Racecourse is a multi-purpose facility that includes two turf tracks, a space for trotters, greyhounds and motor racing.
Specific details about the Sandown track can be found here:
Racing History of the Zipping Classic
A race as old as the Zipping Classic is going to have quite a few notable names for previous winners. Before 1990, however, electronic records were not commonly used, so we have to do the best we can with what we have.
Staying races were much more popular when the Zipping Classic started. Owners and trainers were preparing horses for the 3200 metres of the Melbourne and the Sydney Cup, along with other races beyond 2000 metres in an era where 4800 and 5200-metre races were held.
Beginning as a handicap and switching to weight-for-age, the race has supplied some multiple winners.
The first was Second Wind in 1930 and 1931. We can only assume that Phar Lap was elsewhere.
Morse Code was the winner in 1950 and 1952; he was the only horse to win twice with an intervening year. He ran third to Comic Court in the 1950 Melbourne Cup. He was in winning position in the 1950 Melbourne Cup, but he fell in the home straight. He jumped favourite that year and again in 1952 and was the victim of suspicious riding. He is still the only horse to win the Zipping Classic and the Eclipse Stake double, not just once, but twice.
The next was Zipping.
His wins were from 2007 – 2010. By this time, staying races were becoming scarcer, so Zipping may have benefitted from being a good stayer when there were fewer staying races and thus fewer staying horses.
The Taj Mahal was the most recent to win the race more than once.
His wins came in 2017 and 2018.
Just those three have won the race more than once and that leads to our next observation.
Some top horses, legends of the turf, Hall of Famers and otherwise good runners have won the race just once. There are a couple scenarios involved.
One could be that the horse tried for succeeding wins, but could not get the job done.
Another scenario is that the truly good horses found better races and did not try for more Zipping Classic wins.
Here are some of the notable winners from the long history of the Zipping Classic.
We mention Mara because she was the first to win in 1888. Winning this race was probably not her only win, but all we could readily learn about her was that she was a black type producer, which means that she won money from racing.
The first great horse we find is the winner from 1896, Merman. He was by 1880 Melbourne Cup winner Grand Flaneur. He lived up to his blood and won 15 races with seven placings from 45 jumps. His big wins were in Great Britain and came after he won the Zipping Classic. He raced four years in England and he was an eight-year-old when he won the Ascot Gold Cup in England.
Merman was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2016.
From 1896 and Merman, we find Amounis as the 1928 Zipping Classic winner. Amounis would make the PGR Hall of Fame for making 79 starts. He won 33 and placed 19 times. His big wins were the 192 Cox Plate and the 1930 Caulfield Cup. Other notable wins were the Linlithgow Stakes in 1926, 1927 and 1929. He won the Epsom Handicap and the Cantala Stakes twice each, along with a host of other races that would eventually be graded Group 1.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
A more thorough accounting regarding Amounis can be found here:
Our next significant winner, for having won the race twice, is Second Wind from 1930 and 1931. Second Wind was a New Zealand horse. He won in Western Australia by taking the post in the WATC Osborne Stakes, the WATC St. Leger Stakes, the Perth Stakes and the WATC Metropolitan Handicap. Along with the Zipping Classic, Second Wind won the 1932 VRC King’s Plate and he won the King’s Cup in Tasmania.
With a plate and a cup, Second Wind was just a King’s Fork and a King’s Spoon from having a complete place setting.
The next significant name we find on the winners list for the Zipping Classic is Prince Cortauld from 1954. He won 25 races with 17 placings from 52 jumps. Like Second Wind, Prince Cortauld was a New Zealand horse. Fifteen of his wins were in races that would mostly become Group 1 races, with some that made it to Group 2 status. He polished the halo of jockey Neville Sellwood, carrying that jockey to 19 wins.
Sailor’s Guide the 1957 winner was conceived in England and foaled in Australia. A couple of horses he beat were Rising Fast and Redcraze. In another race, he beat Tulloch. He raced in Canada and the U.S., and had some wins there. In the U.S. race that would eventually become the Breeders’ Cup Turf, he beat Ballymoss, a horse with a 136 Timeform rating that would later win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Light Fingers was the 1966 winner. She had won the 1965 Melbourne Cup, so she had nothing to prove by winning the Zipping Classic but she did, just for her trainer, Bart Cummings. She ran second to her stablemate Galilee in the 1966 Melbourne Cup.
The 1971 winner was Gunsynd.
His major wins were the 1972 Cox Plate, the Epsom Handicap and the VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1972 and 1973. For more on Gunsynd, visit this page:
Baghdad Note, the 1971 winner, followed the pattern of Light Fingers by winning the Melbourne Cup in the prior year of 1970, where he was sent out for $26, as he was considered a mud lark from most of his racing on heavy tracks in New Zealand.
When we move ahead to 1980, we find the name of Arwon.
Arwon won the 1978 Melbourne Cup, and like Light Fingers and Baghdad Note, he was a New Zealander. He did not win the Zipping Classic in the year following his Melbourne Cup win. He waited an extra year.
This next fellow was from Tasmania, which we assume is a different place from New Zealand. His name was Sydeston and he was theZipping Classic winner from 1989. He is generally considered the best horse from Tasmania in the history of Australian Thoroughbred racing.
Sydeston had to be good. There was no other choice. He routinely lined up against the likes of Vo Rogue, Super Impose, Better Loosen Up and several other top horses. His best win was the 1990 Caulfield Cup.
The winner in 1991 was Stylish Century. He won over $2.5 million and a couple of his better wins were the Victoria Derby in 1989 and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1991.
Moving forward to 2002, the horse that won the race was named Hail.
Hail managed to turn 50 jumps for nine wins and 13 placings into $1.41 million. His connection to many of the other winners is his New Zealand origins.
We mentioned Zipping earlier, but he deserves extra attention for having won the Zipping Classic four consecutive times.
Zipping earned above $4.3 million from 45 starts for 15 wins and 10 placings. Outside of the Zipping Classic, his other big wins were the Moonee Valley Cup in 2006 and the Turnbull and Australian Cup in 2010.
The following year of 2011 delivered Americain. He was declared Australian Champion Stayer for 2011 after winning the Melbourne Cup in 2010.
We mentioned dual winner The Taj Mahal earlier. His wins in 2017 and 2018 earn him inclusion in our article. He won his first Zipping Classic while under the guidance of trainer Robert Hickmott and his second after being transferred to Liam Howley. After that win, he never won again in Australia from five more tries.
Concluding our list, the 2019 winner was Sothern France and 2020 went to Sound.
Southern France is still racing but as of this moment, he is spelling and we will have to wait to see if he continues to race as a seven and eight year old. He has earned just under $1 million thus far.
Sound, the 2020 winner, is still active, although he was foaled in 2013. He has eight wins and 10 placings from 40 jumps and has earned above $1 million. He started out racing in Germany and he was quite the racer. From 16 jumps in Deutschland, he won seven and finished well in the other races. He has made two starts in the Melbourne Cup, but nothing to show for it, so the Zipping Classic is his only win in Australia.
The Zipping Classic has given us many great champions over the 100 + years of its existence. It is a popular race with stayers, although its spot on the racing calendar prevents it from being used for Melbourne Cup preparation.
|Year||Zipping Classic Winners|
|2018||The Taj Mahal|
|2017||The Taj Mahal|
|2015||Who Shot Thebarman|
|1926||Bard Of Avon|