The Group 1 Toorak Handicap runs in October during the height of spring racing at Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne.
It takes place on Caulfield Guineas day, which is considered the first day of the MRC Spring Carnival.
The Toorak Handicap is run as a 1600-metre open Handicap and is one of the main attractions of the meeting, which includes the Caufield Guineas and the Caulfield Stakes as Group 1 races, the Schillaci and Herbert Power Stakes as Group 2s and the Northwood Plume and Thoroughbred Club Stakes as Group 3s.
Prizemoney as of 2020 is $500,000 and the winner earns a ballot exemption for the Caulfield Cup.
Mr Quickie was the winner in 2020 and he took home $300,000 as his share of the proceeds. He won easily by two lengths over second-favourite Buffalo River, with Superstorm half a length further back in third.
Here is the replay of the 2020 Toorak Handicap.
History of the Toorak Handicap
Toorak has to be the name of a famous galloper, right?
Wrong. It is the name of a ritzy Melbourne suburb. There was a mare foaled in 1994 by the name of Toorak. She never won above Listed level and while the cynical amongst us might say that the one win was enough for the Vics to name a race after her, it is simply not the case in this instance.
The history of the Toorak handicap extends back to 1881.
We learned that the name did not start until the race, some race, had been run five times before becoming the Toorak Handicap in 1886. It is just under six kilometres from Toorak to Caulfield, so the name of the race is local.
The IXL was the name of the race from 1981 through 1984. It then became the Elders Mile from 1985 through 1989 and resumed being the Toorak Handicap in 1990.
The trip has been constant at 1600 metres, save for 1891, when it was stretched to 1800 metres.
The race was graded as Principal until 1979. With the advent of the Group classification system, the race was instantly granted Group 1 status.
The race is considered one of the top miles of the spring carnival and the better horses will be found running here. A few have gone on to win the Caulfield Cup that comes at the end of the Caulfield carnival that lasts three days over the week that begins with Guineas Day.
The race favours horses that do well under handicap conditions and more so the types that are suited for the longer sprints and the miles, as opposed to the staying types.
Venue for the Toorak Handicap
With the exception of the World War II years when Caulfield Racecourse was being used by the military and the race shifted to Flemington, Caulfield Racecourse has always been the home of the Toorak Handicap.
It is situated south of the Melbourne CBD, as opposed to the other metro tracks of Flemington and Moonee Valley to the north.
The geographical location makes it easy to understand why some call Caulfield “the Heath,” because it is easy to imagine what the area must have looked like in the days prior to development.
The major claim to fame for the course is of course the Caulfield Cup. Currently, there are another 10 Group 1 races staged in addition to the Caulfield Cup and the Toorak Handicap. Caulfield offers eight Group 2 and 19 Group 3 races.
Further details regarding Caulfield Racecourse will be found at the link below.
Racing History of the Toorak Handicap
As might reasonably be expected, a race such as the Toorak Handicap is steeped in the history of Australian Thoroughbred racing. It has a prime spot on the racing calendar and is part of the big Victorian spring racing that culminates with the Melbourne Cup. Yes, there are other big races that follow the Melbourne Cup, but just by a few days, the last being the VRC Sprint Classic on the weekend meeting that follows the Race That Stops a Nation.
Some indication of the quality of the competition the race attracts is found in the fact that in its long history, the Toorak Handicap has only four two-time winners.
The race was a dead heat on two occasions – 1935 and 1938 – while so many gallopers wanted in in 1943 that the MRC ran it in two divisions.
The list of winners is populated by some of the best milers to take the turf and below is some information about some of those.
The first winner of the race was Josephine in 1881. The wait for a mare to win, unlike some of the other similar races we have studied, was zero years.
Like many in those years of the distant past, Josephine was predominantly of British extraction, with the first Australian horses showing up in her dam Alpha’s lines two generations back.
Josephine left little behind her as far as a racing resume is concerned, but we do know that along with the Toorak Handicap, she won the VRC Coburg Stakes, the Group 1 race no known as the Kennedy Cantala Stakes, so she must have been pretty good.
A mare again won the following year of 1882.
Her name was Verdure and after winning the Toorak Handicap, she ran second to Little Jack in the Caulfield Cup, which at that time had umped just four times.
The gelding Bar One won in 1883, breaking the brief advantage mares had had in winning the first two Toorak Handicaps.
We kept examining the early winners, trying to find something good, but pedigree searches we did of some of the winners were sketchy and it was not rare to find something like “West Australian Mare” listed in the lines of Toorak handicap winners.
We resorted to the same tactic on which we rely for our punting, which is to look for horses with names we fancy.
That resulted in 1909 winner Irishman that won this race and left little behind him. Next was Uncle Sam from 1912. We found 17 horses with that name, only five of which were from the U.S.A.
Uncle Sam proved a dead end as far as finding a racing record, since we are not worthy of accessing the archives of the VRC and MRC from those early years. We did learn that Uncle Sam was by an Australian sire named United States.
We hope the Yanks are returning the favour and naming horses Northern Territory, Tasmanian Devil or Footscray Folly.
There was a dead heat in the 1935 Toorak Handicap between Epigram and Journal. Both were foaled in 1930 and that is about all we can say about these two.
At any rate, we had to skip forward to 1937 to find a truly notable winner of the Toorak Handicap.
That year, the winner was a horse named The Trump.
The Trump was the first horse to win the Toorak Handicap followed by winning the Caulfield Cup. The Trump also won the Melbourne Cup that year, along with the LKS Mackinnon Stakes. There have been five other horses by that name. Ours was foaled in 1932 and the name has always referred to the entire horse, not simply the rear half. Even though he won the mythical Cups double, for years after winning the Melbourne Cup, he complained that the race had been stolen from him. He also insisted that the win was by a wide margin and took less than three minutes, leading to demands to investigate the timing devices used by the MRC.
Apologies to those who treat Thoroughbred racing as deadly serious. We are in it for fun and to help punters get in front of the bookies.
El Golea and Ena tied for the win in 1938; it almost seemed as though there was a patch where no horse wanted to win. It was just the second and final time that the race resulted in a tie.
Similar to the other two that dead heated the race, El Golea and Ena did not do enough to impress racing historians, so little remains of their racing history.
When the field for the race was too large in 1943, the race was run in divisions. One winner was Burberry and the other Counsel.
We feel as though there should have been a race-off to determine the winner, but our feelings are seldom consulted when it comes to racing.
Burberry was good enough to win the Cantala Stakes and the Oakleigh Plate. Counsel made no impression.
Royal Gem was the winner in 1946.
He was a versatile galloper that won from 1000 to 2400-metres. He won the Caulfield Cup that same year and won 23 races altogether from 51 jumps. He was the second of five to fill a Toorak Handicap – Caulfield Cup double. Twelve of his wins were considered major races, although we had to squint a bit to permit that to be said of the City of Adelaide Stakes, which he won in 1946 and 1948.
Saxony won in 1948 and 1949.
We do not know if she ever won anything else that would be considered important, but a two-time winner of any race always receives our attention.
There was another dual winner in 1952 and 1953 when Desert Breeze won the race.
Once again, winning twice earned our attention, but not as much as would have been the case if he had been Dessert Breeze.
Moving ahead, we find Galilee as the winner in 1966.
He won the Caulfield Cup, the third to do the Toorak – Caulfield Cup double. Galilee also won that year's Caulfield Cup. He won the Sydney Cup the following year, proving his credentials as a capable stayer.
The following year went to Tobin Bronze. He was the fourth horse to fill the Toorak Handicap – Caulfield Cup double.
See a more complete picture of Tobin Bronze.
Gunsynd won the race in 1971.
He won the Cox Plate the following year and more about him can be found here.
The next champion we encounter is 1974’s Leilani.
She is the most recent horse to win the Toorak Handicap and the Caulfield Cup in the same year.
She raced just 28 times, winning 14 and placing in 12.
More information on this champion New Zealand-bred stayer can be found here:
The next significant winner was Umrum that won in 1999 and 2000, the next-last horse to win the race twice.
Along with winning the Toorak Handicap twice, Umrum made 81 starts, so automatic inclusion in the fictional Pro Group Racing Hall of Fame. Umrum needed all those races to get above $1.6 million in earnings.
Umrum chased Sunline in the 2000 Memsie Stakes, but he did not quite catch her. From his 81 starts, he won 14 races and place in another 20.
Roman Arch was a good galloper that won in 2003.
He joins Umrum in the PGR Hall of Fame for his 94 jumps. He won over $2.1 million from 17 wins and 12 placings. When he won the Australian Cup in 2006, he jumped for $61 and in his Toorak Handicap win, he beat Fields Of Omagh. Fields must have had a bad day because Roman Arch beat him by 1.8 lengths, with 2000 Toorak winner Umrum in third.
Divine Madonna won in 2007.
She won over $2 million that included three other Group 1 wins.
The next giant to win the race was More Joyous in 2010.
She won eight Group 1 races for Gai Waterhouse, winning the Queen Of The Turf Stakes twice and her biggest win probably the 2012 Doncaster Handicap. She won close to $5.5 million from 30 jumps for 21 wins and two placings.
There was one final dual winner in 2012 and 2013’s Solzhenitsyn.
Solzhenitsyn was good enough to win over $1 million. He was a good sprinter – miler, but the Toorak was his only Group 1 win.
Other notables include Lucky Hussler (2015), Tosen Stardom (2017) Mr Quickie in 2020.
Mr Quickie won easily and that win can be seen here:
It was interesting to see the quality of the horses taking part in the Toorak Handicap improve over the years.
Part of that could be the strides in record keeping that came along with the improvement of information technology and electronic records.
We are certain that many of the earlier winners were quality Thoroughbreds because the Toorak Handicap generally attracts full fields of good horses looking for a major win during spring racing.
|Year||Toorak Handicap Winners|
|2018||Land Of Plenty|
|2016||He's Our Rokkii|
|2014||Trust In A Gust|
|2005||Barely A Moment|
|2002||Shot Of Thunder|
|2001||Show A Heart|
|1992||Ready To Explode|
|1968||Tried And True|
|1930||The Gay Mutineer|