Each spring, around the end of September, Caulfield Racecourse stages the Group 1 Underwood Stakes.
The race is run over 1800 metres under weight-for-age conditions by horses aged three years and above.
Underwood Stakes Race Details
Race Distance: 1800m
Prize Money: $1,000,000
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When Is The Underwood Stakes: 24/9/2022
What Time Is The AUnderwood Stakes: TBA
Where Is The Underwood Stakes: Caulfield Racecourse
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More Details About The Underwood Stakes
Prizemoney as of 2021 is $1 million, so the race attracts the top gallopers. The winner also receives a ballot exemption for the Caulfield Cup.
Zaaki won the 2021 edition of the race, which was held at the Hillside Track of Sandown Racecourse. He earned $600,000 for his easy, two-length win over just four others, jumping with Winx-like odds of $1.18.
History of the Underwood Stakes
The Underwood Stakes made its debut in 1924, two years after the first Cox Plate for some historical perspective.
It has always attracted the best of the gallopers that thrive in the middle distance zones between 1600 and 2000 metres. We will see some legendary names further on when we take a closer look at the past winners of the Underwood Stakes.
As a weight-for-age race, there have been numerous winners that have won on two or more occasions.
The race was run at the Williamstown Racecourse under the auspices of the Williamstown Racing Club from the inaugural race through 1947. It was still there when the race was skipped in 1942, during the dark, early days of World War II. Many will recall that Caulfield had been appropriated by the military for military purposes and its major races shifted to Flemington. How this caused the 1942 race to be cancelled at Williamstown is unclear. It was in Williamstown in 1944, when there were so many applicants for a barrier slot that the race was run in divisions.
The race was first run at Caulfield Racecourse in 1948.
The Underwood Stakes was considered a Principal Race until 1979, when the Group classification system went into effect. It has been classified as Group 1 ever since 1979.
The length of the race has been adjusted on numerous occasions.
It was 1600 metres when it started. In 1943, the race was shortened to 1400 metres. After the race was established at Caulfield, it lengthened to 1800 metres from 1949 through 1953. It became a 200-metre event in 1954 and stayed so through 1993, although this time span covers the period when the country metrified.
The current 1800-metre trip returned in 1994.
Venue for the Underwood Stakes
The current venue, Caulfield Racecourse, is one of the best-known tracks in the country and is well known around the world.
Local racegoers affectionately refer to the track as “The Heath,” as it was built upon reclaimed marshland.
The big attraction for racing is the Group 1 Caulfield Cup. Those who find the juvenile races attractive will appreciate the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes in February.
There are a total of 12 Group 1 races held annually, along with eight Group 2 and 19 Group 3 races, as of 2021.
More in-depth information about Caulfield can be found on our page devoted to the racecourses of Australia.
Racing History of the Underwood Stakes
The racing history of the Underwood Stakes is quite impressive in terms of the quality of horses that have won the race. It helps that the winner gets a ballot exemption for the Caulfield Cup, although it is easy to envision scenarios where the winner did not bother with the Caulfield Cup because of the now 600 extra metres, or the winner was a horse that otherwise had no solid prospects of getting into the Caulfield Cup.
The first two time he Underwood Stakes was run, in 1924 and 1925, it was won by Whittier.
Whittier did not need the wins to get into the Caulfield Cup, because he won the race in 1922 and again in 1925. He also won multiple times in other prestigious Group 1 races, with victories in the Victoria Derby, Doncaster Handicap Rawson, Warwick C F Orr Stakes and the now Group 1 Winx (Warwick) Stakes and the Group 2 St. George Stakes.
When Whittier won his second Caulfield Cup in 1925, three years after his first win, he became just the fifth horse to win the race twice.
The wait for another legendary Underwood Stakes winner was not a long one.
Heroic won in 1926.
Heroic won all the same races that Whittier had won, plus a few extra. The year he won the Underwood, Heroic won the Cox Plate and the Newmarket Handicap. He beat Gloaming in the easily in the 1924 Chelmsford Stakes.
Heroic was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2003 and he was a good sire or such horses as Ajax, Hall Mark (a Melbourne Cup winner) and Hua (multiple Group 1 wins), as well as a slew of other stakeswinners and Group 1 champions, as he was the leading sire in Australia for six years.
Following Whittier, it was not long until a horse named Highland won two Underwood Stakes in succession.
Highland was the sort that would receive an automatic pass into the PGR Racing Hall of Fame, if there were any such thing.
That is because records indicate that Highland made 117 jumps, almost the equivalent of three of Winx’s careers. He won 25 races and placed in another 28. Not much survives him. We know that he won the QTC Hopeful Stakes in 1923 and the October Stakes in 1928 in addition to his two Underwood Stakes wins. That leaves 21 wins unaccounted for, but knowing that the Underwood Stakes was a big draw for the best horses, Highland would have had to be better than many.
Phar Lap won in 1931 and the only surprise there is that he won just once. It was near the end of his racing career though, with the victory coming in his first race as a five-year-old. He won his next seven jumps before he ran eighth in the Melbourne Cup in 1931. Soon after, Phar Lap was exported to the U.S. and, well…everyone knows how that turned out.
We have a page dedicated to Phar Lap that goes into more detail.
Hall Mark was the next dual winner of the Underwood Stakes, those wins coming in 1933 and 1934. He won many big races, but none bigger than the 1933 Melbourne Cup. Hall Mark won the VRC Kings Plate twice, in 1935 and 1935.
The wins in the race went to Young Idea in 1935 and 1937.
Young Idea made 70 jumps for 15 wins and 24 placings, including Cox Plate victories in 1936 and 1937.
Young Idea set the stage for the great Champion Ajax.
Ajax won the race thrice in succession from 1938 – 1940. Ajax was by Heroic and we always like it when progeny win races won by their sires and dams.
Ajax won or placed in 45 of his 46 jumps. He was a generational horse, so much better than his competition that it is easy to envision other horses being held out of races in which Ajax was taking part. He also won the All Aged Stakes three times, 1938 – 1940 and the Memsie Stakes those same three years.
The race was not run in 1942 and we can only assume that World War II had something to do with it.
In 1944, the race was run in two divisions, with one going to Amana and one to Tea Cake. We found nothing about Amana, which is often the case for racers from that era that were not of the top rank. As for Tea Cake, he won the 1945 Essendon Stakes and the 1946 El Alamein Stakes in Queensland.
Our next dual winner was Attley that won in 1946 and 1947.
He won multiple major Group races to the extent that you would think there would be a race named in his honour, but that does not seem to be the case. It would seem that his best win was the Caulfield Guineas, which is Group 1 now, even though when Attley won, it was Principal.
It was just a couple years before Beau Gem appeared to win the Underwood Stakes in 1949 and 1950. He also won the Victoria Derby in 1947.
Flying Halo won the race twice.
He was a good one and winner of the Caulfield Stakes, C. F. Orr Stakes and more than a few other major races.
Lord was a dual winner, but his wins were split – 1958 and 1960.
Lord was nicknamed the “King of Caulfield” because of his 28 career wins, 21 of them were at Caulfield, including three Caulfield Stakes, two C. F. Orr Stakes and two St. George Stakes.
Aquanita was a dual winner from 1961 and 1962.
The name suggests a mare, but Aquanita was a gelding that made 70 jumps for 28 wins and 19 placings. Following his 1962 Underwood win, he won the Cox Plate. Many of his wins were in races that would earn Group 1 status, but the indictment of racing in that era is that all he earned from all that winning was $123,000.
We never thought to see a day when we would overlook winners such as Rain Lover (1969), Big Philou (1970) and several others whose names have appeared on winners’ lists from other races we have examined.
One, we are running out of space and two, neither Rain Lover nor Big Philou won the Underwood Stakes more than once.
By that criterion, we are also skipping 1987 Cox Plate winner Rubiton that won the Underwood prior to the Cox Plate, Authaal (1988) that was lightly raced, mainly in Ireland and the U.S.
New Zealand Horse of the Year (1994) The Phantom won in 1990. He won over $1.6 million on 39 jumps for 10 wins and 13 placings.
The winner of the Underwood Stakes in 1994 was Jeune and while we could skip him because he does not meet our multiple Underwood winner criterion, but he won the Melbourne Cup that same year and won almost $3 million, something a Melbourne Cup win certainly supplies from the prizemoney perspective.
Octagonal won in 1996, but he had won the Cox Plate the year prior. He was the Australian Champion Two Year Old in 1995, Champion Three Year Old and Australian Horse of the Year in 1996.
We have another dual winner from 2001 and 2002 in Northerly.
He won over $9.3 million from 37 jumps for 19 wins and 9 placings. He beat Sunline to win the 2001 Cox Plate. His second Underwood Stakes win was in the middle of a four-race stretch where he won the Group 2 Craiglee Stakes, followed by the Underwood, the Turnbull Stakes and the Caulfield Cup from Fields Of Omagh and he beat that same horse again in the 2002 Cox Plate.
Mummify was the 2003 winner that also won the 2003 Caulfield Cup. He won over $5 million from 48 jumps for 9 wins and 17 placings.
Elvstroem, the 2004 winner, was another $5 million horse that won the Caulfield Cup that same year.
A gelding named El Segundo won the race in 2006 and backed it with a 2007 Cox Plate victory.
Weekend Hussler won in 2008 and won the Newmarket Handicap that same year. He was a hustler, that one was, winning over $3 million from just 21 jumps for 12 wins and one place.
Dual Cox Plate winner (2009 and 2010) So You Think won the Underwood in 2010. He won over $10 million in just 23 jumps. He was beating the likes of Zipping and Whobegotyou, but his effort in the 2010 Melbourne Cup fell short to winner Americain with Maluckyday second.
Ocean Park from 2012 won the Cox Plate that same year, along with the Caulfield Stakes and the Challenge Stakes and eventually earned over $2.6 million from just 15 jumps, with eight wins and four placings.
It’s a Dundeel was the 2013 winner and he amassed over $5.3 million from 19 jumps for 10 wins and 5 placings.
Our last dual winner is one of our all-time favourites.
It was Black Heart Bart.
His wins were split. The first was in 2016 and the second came in 2019.
His second Underwood win came against Homesman, thus denying the 2018 winner a double Underwood win. Even better than denying Homesman, Bart started the race at $101, a bona fide boilover if ever there was one. The replay is at the following link.
We mentioned 2021 winner Zaaki earlier. He is showing indications of being a great one and the replay of his win can be seen at the below link.
The Underwood Stakes has a lengthy history of supplying winners that were some of the best to be found in any era.
Other races find us scrambling to find a decent winner, but the Underwood Stakes actually forced us to overlook dozens of good horses, as all the winners were.
Underwood Stakes Past Winners
|2019||Black Heart Bart|
|2016||Black Heart Bart|
|2013||It's A Dundeel|
|2010||So You Think|
|2009||Heart Of Dreams|
|1998||Tie The Knot|
|1980||My Brown Jug|
|1979||Valley Of Georgia|
|1973||Scotch And Dry|