Held under the aegis of the Melbourne Racing Club, the Peter Young Stakes is a Group 2 weight-for-age race held at the end of February at the beginning of the autumn racing carnival.
The 1800-metre race is held at Caulfield Racecourse on Blue Diamond Stakes day. Other features on the day's card include the Group 1 Futurity Stakes and Oakleigh Plate. Horses compete over 1800 metres of the Caulfield circuit for prize money worth $200,000. The race attracts a number of promising milers that seek to improve the staying ability with an eye on the Group 1 Australian Cup at Flemington Racecourse in March.
Horses may contest in a number of mile and long distance group races prior to entering the Peter Young Stakes. The Group 1 CF Orr Stakes held earlier during the carnival is among the lead up events in the weight-for-age group, which horses may tackle prior to the Peter Young Stakes.
The Group 1 Australian Cup held at Flemington on Super Saturday may be next on the cards for in form gallopers although top place getters in the Peter Young Stakes have not fared well in the Australian Cup in recent times. However, some of the earlier topliners including Vo Rogue, Let's Elope, Durbridge, Dane Ripper, Istidaad, and in recent times Northerly in 2002-03, Theseo in 2003, Lonhro in 2004, and Pompeii Ruler in 2007, continued their fine form to win the Australian Cup as well.
Since the first Peter Young Stakes in 1900, several horses have won consecutive titles, which include Comic Court, Lord, Dhaulagiri, Rain Lover, Vo Rogue, Durbridge, and Northerly being the last to achieve the feat. Among the outstanding talent is the mighty Phar Lap who also won way back in 1931. The race has enjoyed Group 2 status since 1979.
History of the Peter Young Stakes
The race was first run in 1900. At the time, it was known as the St. George Stakes and it is still registered by that name. It was designated as the Peter Young Stakes in 2012.
Peter Young was the chairman during the days when the old Victorian Amateur Turf Club was rebranded to the current Melbourne Racing Club. Peter Young was involved with the building of the Sir Rupert Clark grandstand that replaced the Members’ Stand that burnt down in 1922 and the Guineas Stand that was also destroyed by fire in 1927.
Disregarding the slight differences in trip associated with the change from British to metric measurements, the Peter Young Stakes has always been either 1600 or 1800-metres, save for two exceptions.
It was drastically shortened to 1200 metres for the 1979 race. It was won that year by an obscure horse named Quiet Snort. One usually authoritative source we consulted shows the horse winless in 14 starts, so it would appear we have a slight historical discrepancy. We mention him because we enjoyed the creativity of his namers. Quiet Snort was by Good Brandy, hence the Snort, out of Hush Talk, hence the Quiet.
The other time the Peter Young Stakes strayed from the 16 to 1800-metre trip was in 1995, when it was stretched to 2000-metres, just ahead of a 1996 project at Caulfield that shifted the race to Flemington for the 1996 race. The interesting aspect of this change to the trip was that the race was won at 1800-metres by Durbridge and at 2000-metres for the 1996 race.
The race was also shifted to Flemington, as were all Caulfield races, during World War II.
From inception to 1978, the race was classified as a Principal Race. When the Group classification system came along, the Peter Young Stakes was made a Group 2 race.
Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne is famous for holding the Caulfield Cup. That race used to be held during the autumn, but it was moved to the spring and has served as the lead up to the Melbourne Cup for many years.
Major renovation in 1995 after that year’s Caulfield Cup made the course wider and 43 metres was added to the straight. Horses unwinding for the final dash to the line can carry a lot of speed into the closing straight, as the turn leading home has a banking of four per cent.
Racing History of the Peter Young Stakes
The race has always attracted the better horses.
The first significant winner was 1902’s Wakeful. She was a versatile mare that won over trips as short as 1100 metres to as far as 3600 metres. Between 1901 and 1903, she won 17 major races. From 44 starts, she won 25 and placed in 16, missing the podium only three times. She won the Doncaster in 1901, the Caulfield Stakes in 1901 – 1902 the Melbourne Stakes in three successive jumps from 1901 – 1903. She battled leg issues that prevented her from racing until she was four years of age. She placed second the 1903 Melbourne Cup, her very last start, carrying almost six kilograms above what she would have been given were the Melbourne Cup run under weight-for-age conditions.
Comedy King was the 1911 winner after winning the Melbourne Cup the previous year. He would sire two Melbourne Cup winners, 1919’s Artilleryman (Peter Young winner in 1920) and 1922’s King Ingoda.
Nineteen-eighteen produced Desert Gold. She won 36 times and placed 17 times in 59 jumps. She was New Zealand born. Her big wins in Australia were the Peter Young Stakes and the 1918 AJC All-Aged Stakes.
Eurythmic won in 1922, following the year in which the race, and other Melbourne races, was scratched due to the coal strike. His win in the Peter Young Stakes came nearer the end of his career, but he won the Caulfield Cup in 1920, two Melbourne Stakes and three each of the Memsie Stakes and the Caulfield Stakes.
Nineteen-twenty-four and twenty-five supply the first dual winner in The Hawk. He was exceptional for many reasons, but the element of his career that leaps off the page for us was that he made 136 starts, racing until he was 13 years old.
Space restrictions compel us to fast forward a bit, but some important Peter Young Stakes winners that are well known all these years later were Whittier (1926) and Heroic (1927)
Black Duchess was the repeat winner in 1928 and 1929.
Then came a three-year stretch that offered Amounis (1930), Phar Lap (1931) and Ammon Ra (1932). Those three combined account for 87 race wins.
Thus far, in the history of the Peter Young Stakes, we find many New Zealand horses at the top of the winners’ list.
Cuddle was the winner in 1936, under the steerage of legendary jockey Maurice McCarten.
Some more champions we skim over are Ajax (1939), High Caste (1940, 1942), Tranquil Star 1944 - 45 and Flight (1946). All of those horses are covered in depth on other pages of this site.
Comic Court was the 1949 winner. He was by Hyperion, so expectations would have been high for him as a colt. He delivered on those expectations with Cox Plate (1948) and the Sydney Cup (1949). Included in his wins were two Chipping Norton Stakes wins (1949 and 1950). Comic Court can also trace his lines back to 1925 Melbourne Cup winner Windbag.
The crop of racers from that era was strong.
Comic Court won in 1950 and 1951, followed by Delta in 1952 and Hydrogen in 1953.
We have mentioned the 1957 winner, Redcraze, in connection to other major races, which brings us to dual winner Lord (1959 and 1960).
Lord was another Kiwi racehorse, continuing the tradition of New Zealand gallopers winning the Peter Young Stakes.
The years of 1961 and 1962 produced dual winner Dhaulagiri. He won the 1961 Cox Plate, so while his name is not exactly of the household variety, he was obviously a good horse with a healthy resume of major wins.
The next significant winner was Light Fingers in 1966. Light Fingers is well chronicled on this and other sites, so we will just mention her in passing as the 1965 Melbourne Cup winner and Australian Racing Hall of Fame member. Like many of the others we have mentioned, Light Fingers was a Kiwi horse.
Immediately following in 1967 was Tobin Bronze. He won a slew of major races, but we will leave his record after mentioning two Cox Plate wins (1966 and 1967).
Two-time Peter Young Stakes winner Rain Lover (1969 and 1970) is the next great champion in the long list. He won his first Peter Young in the year that he won his second Melbourne Cup. That first Melbourne Cup win was by eight lengths. His second Melbourne Cup win was marred by controversy in the year Big Philou was poisoned and had to be scratched on the day of the race.
Rain Lover was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2014, long overdue in some minds.
A short interval produced dual winner Leilani (1975 and 1976).
That’s right, another New Zealand horse. She won the Caulfield Cup in 1974. She was the favourite to fill the Cups Double in 1974, but she had the misfortune of lining up and finishing second to a two-time Melbourne Cup winner Think Big, who edged Leilani and denied the windfall punters looking to fill a Cups Double backed.
The earlier mentioned Quiet Snort’s win in 1979 was unique in that the Peter Young Stakes was turned into a sprint event for that year only.
My Brown Jug produced a dead heat in 1981. The dead heated horse was none other than Hyperno, a Kiwi Melbourne Cup winner. It appears that tying Hyperno was about the only thing that keeps My Brown Jug’s name from complete obscurity.
The name of Vo Rogue graces the Peter Young Stakes winners’ list for 1988 and 1989. Unlike many of the others, Vo Rogue was an Australian bred horse. He never quite won the big-big races, but over the course of his career, he beat the likes of Bonecrusher, Super Impose and Better Loosen Up. Vo Rogue won three consecutive C F Orr Stakes, and two consecutive Turnbull Stakes, Blamey Stakes, the two Peter Young Stakes and the two Australian Cups. He is firmly entrenched in out all-time greats list for his 83 starts.
Sydeston was the winner in 1991, followed in 1992 by Let’s Elope.
Sydeston was not from New Zealand, but we can almost say that he was, because he was foaled in Tasmania. He won the Caulfield Cup in 1990, along with the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and was regularly found racing against Vo Rogue, Super Impose, Better Loosen Up and other great horses.
No extra points for anyone who guesses that Let’s Elope was foaled in New Zealand.
Durbridge was the dual Peter Young winner from 1994 and 1995. His is not the most familiar name, but he made over 70 starts, won over $3.3 million, and won six Group 1 races in his career.
We will mention the 1998 winner, Dane Ripper as a Cox Plate winner, on our way to dual winner Northerly, which led the way to another good crop that included 2004 winner Lonhro and Elvstroem.
Those three need little expounding, as they are recent horses and are covered more extensively in other sections of this site.
Another New Zealander, this one Princess Coup, won the Peter Young Stakes in 2008. She won above $NZ 3.7 million, even though she did not fare especially well in Australia. Other than the Peter Young win, her best was a third in the 2007 Caulfield Cup.
The recent winners’ list includes Fiorente (2014), Gailo Chop (2018) and Avilius (2019).
Here is video of Avilius’ win.
The Peter Young Stakes, were it graded solely by the winners’ list, deserves consideration to be lifted to Group 1. It just needs an infusion of prize money and some backing by the authorities.
It may seem as though the race could be named the New Zealand Something or Other Stakes, given the number of winners that have come from Australia’s neighbour, but the conservative lot that names races probably thought the change from St. George Stakes to Peter Young Stakes was more than radical enough of a switch.
|Year||Peter Young Stakes Winners|
|2011||Heart Of Dreams|
|2006||Our Smoking Joe|
|1993||Star Of The Realm|
|1981||My Brown Jug
|1915||Land Of Song|