Part of the spring racing campaigns for some of the better Thoroughbreds, the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes is an open handicap race of 1400 metres for horses aged three years and above.
It is staged by the MRC in mid-late September at Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne and currently offers $1 million in prizemoney.
The top horses turn out for what the MRC is calling the Catanach’s Jewelers MRC Foundation Race Day.
The track record for the event is 1:21.2 and belongs to 2003 winner Exceed And Excel, hence our claim of the race attracting the best horses for the trip.
In 2020, the race was won by Behemoth, who won when the prizemoney for the race was $500,000. That win can be seen at the link that follows.
History of the Sir Rupert Clark Stakes
The race now called the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes was known by other names prior to 2006, when it was changed in honour of a former chairman of the Victorian Amateur Turf Club who died in 2005.
It began in 1951 and ran through 1974 as the Invitation Stakes. We found plenty of Thoroughbreds by that name, but none from Australia or New Zealand. If a horse had to be invited to win the race, could it go on to compete in the RSVP Stakes?
During the years of 1975 through 1988, the race was known as the Marlboro Cup. During these years the race, which had always been classified as Principal, was made Group 1 in 1979 when that classification system came into vogue.
The other names used were the Show Day Cup (1889 – 1991) Vic Health Cup (1992 – 1999), Eat Well Live Well Cup (2000 – 2001) and Dubai Racing Club Cup (2002 – 2005).
Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes was first used in 2006 until 2013 and for the next year of 2014, Sir Rupert Clarke Charity Cup. Finally, it was back to just the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes from 2015, so it would not surprise us if that name has run its course and something new will come along.
The race has always been 1400 metres measured as seven furlongs prior to 1971.
Venue for the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes
The race has always been run at Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne. Its debut in 1951 was just a few years beyond the years that Caufield was used by the military as part of its World War II efforts and even when Caulfield was undergoing major renovations back in 1995 – 96, the MRC managed to get all the upgrades done following the 1995 Caulfield Cup before the next spring racing came around.
Caulfield is used for about 25 days of racing each year. The most famous, of course, is the Caulfield Cup. There are currently, as of 2021, 12 Group 1, eight Group 2 and 19 Group 3 races held at the course.
Any who are interested in a complete rundown of Caulfield Racecourse and details around how to get there and so forth can visit here.
Racing History of the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes
The race has always attracted the better gallopers that could stretch above 1000 and 1200-metre trips. Horses that were aimed at 1600-metre races could appear also.
As an open handicap with no upper age limit, there have been multiple winners on many occasions, including one of the first winners that we will examine closely when we get to his years.
The first winner of the 1951 race was Jovial Lad.
Although his lines, at first glance, seem as though you want to ask, “Who were these horses, anyway,” Jovial Lad had the final chuckle, as he was a good racer. He was winning as a three-year-old in 1950 in Western Australia when he won the Group 3 Strickland Stakes at Belmont, the Group 2 WA Guineas at Ascot and the Group 1 WA Derby at Ascot.
Jovial Lad went east and won three Group 1 races, the Rupert Clarke, the Toorak Handicap and the Memsie Stakes.
None of those wins were Group wins when Jovial Lad won them, as there were no Group races yet, but they did eventually rise to the top rung of Thoroughbred racing and serve as our basis for comparing horses from before 1979 with those that came after.
We ran into obstacles when we looked for the 1952 winner, Fetlar.
One source did not acknowledge that Fetlar even existed. When we tracked him down elsewhere, we learned that there was a Fetlar that foaled in 1946, but that he was unraced!
Not even mighty Winx could claim to have won a race in which she did not run.
Our next winner, St. Joel, offered something we believe we have never seen in almost 15 years of examining racing.
St. Joel won in 1953, 1956 and 1959.
We have seen winners with one or two intervening years, but we believe that St. Joel is the only race winner we have seen that won a race three times with two intervening years between each win.
To satisfy our curiosity, we looked for a St. Joel in human form. He was a minor prophet in the Eastern Orthodox Church and scanty information on him announces that nothing is known of his life; much as we know nothing about St. Joel the winner of the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes.
We thought we recognised the name of the 1955 winner.
It was Matrice, a good galloper that won 27 times and placed 13 from 45 starts. He won in South Australia and won the Linlithgow Stakes twice. He raced more time than we are accustomed to seeing from a horse that went on to a successful stud career. He was the sire of Pago Pago, Taj Rossi, Toltrice, La Trice and the sire of Manikato, Manihi.
We come to our first two win the race twice in succession when we get to 1961 and 1962, when it was Anonyme winning the Sire Rupert Clarke Stakes.
Anonyme also won four other races that would become Group 1 level, such as the C F Orr Stakes, J J Liston Stakes, Toorak Handicap and Linlithgow Stakes.
Our next dual winner was 1970 and 1971’s Tauto.
No, not the Lone Ranger’s sidekick. That was Tonto.
In Tauto, we found a legitimate PGR Hall of Fame horse. The reason? Seventy-two jumps, not to mention 16 wins and 24 placings. Along with a slew of races that would soon receive Group 1 classification, he won the 1971 Cox Plate.
We might be skipping some good horses, but when we saw the next name on the list of Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes winners, we had to move to 1978, where we find the familiar name of Manikato.
Manikato deserves more space that we can allocate here, but this was one of the all-time greats. His grandpa was Matrice and we always like it when we find a race winner whose ancestors won the same race. Manikato was Australian Horse of the Year in 1979. From 1979 through 1983, he virtually owned the Futurity Stakes, winning four times, and the William Reid Stakes, which he won five times. It is almost a slur to mention his two wins in the George Ryder Stakes.
Manikato was the second horse in Australia to produce above $1 million in stakes money and he staged epic battles with such heavyweights as Emancipation and Hyperno.
A more thorough exam of Manikato will be found here.
We again skip forward, this time to 1992, where we discovered the name of Mannerism on the list.
Mannerism’s primary claim to fame is winning the Caulfield Cup in 1992, and then trying the Cox Plate a week later. During that stretch of racing, he made four jumps for three wins. His last major win was the Group 2 Craiglee Stakes at Flemington. His stats read 38 jumps for 13 wins and eight placings.
Four years later, it was Encosta De Lago winning the race in 1996.
By this time, it was common for owners to retire stallions sooner rather than later, such as was the case with earlier winner Matrice that made 45 jumps. Encosta De Lago raced only eight times for three wins and three thirds. His other two wins were at Group level; those were the Group 1 Ascot Vale Stakes and the Group 2 Bill Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley.
Encosta De Lago would become a prodigious sire and was the leading sire in the country for 2008 and 2009. We could not count all the foals he sired, but the best by a good measure was the mare Alinghi that won over $3.4 million.
Moving to our next twice-in-succession winner, we find the 1999 and 2000 winner Testa Rossa.
Testa Rossa earned above $3 million from 28 jumps for 13 wins and three placings. He won his first four races as a two-year-old, the final one being the Magic Millions a Gold Coast in 1999.
Running at three, he was second to Redoute’s Choice in the 1999 blue Diamond Stakes by a length, but he rebounded immediately tow win the Group 1 Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington. His next five races produced three wins and two seconds. Right after he won his first Rupert Clarke, he again ran second to Redoute’s Choice in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas, but it was only by a neck this go.
Testa Rossa beat Falvelon to take the Group 1 Lightning Stakes and Miss Pennymoney for the Group 1 Futurity Stakes at Caulfield, extracting in the bargain some revenge over Redoute’s Choice in third.
His final win at Group 1 and for his career came in the Emirates Stakes in 2000.
We found another great when we moved to 2003, when the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes winner for that year was none other than Exceed And Excel.
He raced only 12 times for seven wins and one second, but he managed to turn that into well over $1.2 million. His big win was the 2004 Newmarket Handicap and he did earn the award for Australian Champion Sprinter for 2003 – 04.
His major contribution was as a sire.
Some of his best progeny were Excelebration, Outstrip, Guelph, Bivouac and Microphone.
Regal Roller was next in 2004.
Regal Roller finished the Group 3 Carlyon Cup at Caulfield before Makybe Diva. His big Group 1 wins were the J J Liston and the Memsie Stakes, but those races were Group 2 at the time. His last win in the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes at Caulfield came at the expense of Super Elegant.
Moving to 2013, we find the name of Rebel Dane.
Rebel Dane raced many times after winning the Rupert Clarke and it took him until 2016 to win at Group 1 level again when he took the Manikato Stakes from Fell Swoop and Japonisme. The Manikato was to be his final win. He was third to Winx and Hartnell in the 2016 Warwick Stakes and he regularly lined up against the likes of Redzel and Chautauqua.
2017 went to Santa Ana Lane.
Santa Ana Lane managed to turn 10 wins and nine placings from 44 jumps into over $8.2 million. The Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes was his first Group 1 win and his second win at Group level following his win in the Group 3 Zeditave Stakes. He won Group 1 races at Flemington, Caulfield, Doomben and Randwick, so he could turn both ways. A hefty portion of his prizemoney came from running second to Yes Yes Yes at Randwick in 2019 in The Everest.
The rest of the list is Jungle Cat (2018), Begood Toya Mother (2019) and from the beginning of our article, Behemoth from 2020.
The Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes is one of the premier spring sprints of the Melbourne Racing Carnival. Even though we had to skip many of the winners, there was not a bad horse on the list, although some of those from the early years are hard to classify precisely.
|Year||Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes Winners|
|2019||Begood Toya Mother|
|2017||Santa Ana Lane|
|2014||Trust In A Gust|
|2012||Moment Of Change|
|2005||Barely A Moment|
|2003||Exceed And Excel|
|1997||Cut Up Rough|
|1996||Encosta De Lago|
|1981||Soldier Of Fortune|