The Group 3 Victoria Handicap at Sandown Racecourse is an open handicap race of 1400 metres for any gender horses aged two years and above, provided that said horses are not maidens that have never won a race.
Prizemoney for the race is $200,000, with the winner’s share of $120,000 going to a four-year-old gelding by the top sire Choisir named Cardinal Gem. It was an easy win by 2.25 lengths.
Victoria Handicap Race Details
Race Distance: 1400m
Prize Money: $200,000
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When Is The Victoria Handicap: 30/3/24
What Time Is The Victoria Handicap: TBA
Where Is The Victoria Handicap: Caulfield Racecourse
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Cardinal Gem is spelling, as of late June 2023 and last raced at Eagle Farm on 23 June, running 14th in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap. To date, he has made 22 jumps for six wins and seven placings for almost $700,000 in prize money.
More Details About The Victoria Handicap
The race shifted to Sandown Lakeside for the 2023 jump. Caulfield Racecourse has been the traditional location.
Further along the lines of tradition, the race usually jumped at a Saturday meeting on the day before Easter. The 2023 edition of the race, despite what we consider a reliable source for race schedules reported, was held a week earlier – 8 April. It appears that the race will resume its Easter Saturday slot in 2024, unless the Pope gets another idea about when Easter will be observed.
We believe that the race will be at Sandown in 2024. There was a full card of nine races at the 2023 meeting, with Group 3 races the Easter Cup and the Victoria Handicap leading the way accompanied by the Listed grade races the Galilee Series Final and the Bel Esprit Stakes.
Our experience with Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) races has often been that they will change the names, grade, dates and distances of races in a way that seems almost whimsical at times, although we are confident that their heads are out in the open over most racing matters.
History of the Victoria Handicap
The Victoria Handicap debuted in 1949.
It has always been called the Victoria Handicap, but various sponsors have attached their names. In 2023, it was the Ladbrokes Victoria Handicap, while in 2022, the race was sponsored by Neds.
In the year 2020, the race was run as the Elvis Thurgood 40th Anniversary Cup in honour of a former jockey named Ricky Elvis Thurgood, whose career was terminated in 1980 due to racing injuries.
While we suspect that Ricky might have been Richard, we cannot slight the MRC for using Elvis, as we ourselves would not have seen any reason to resist.
It was a Principal grade race until the Group classification system made it Listed grade in 1979, with Group 3 status granted in 1980.
The race was listed as seven furlongs prior to metrication that found the race jumping at the metric equivalent 1400 metres for the first time in 1973.
Venue for the Victoria Handicap
Since Sandown seems to be the venue for the race and we have written extensively about Caulfield Racecourse, here are some details pertaining to Sandown.
The Sandown facility is the only Australian Thoroughbred racing facility built in the 20th century. It is a multi-purpose venue devoted to all things related to things going fast while chasing and being chased. There are facilities for racing motors, jumpers and dogs at the site.
Most of the horse racing action at Sandown during November, when two Group 2 and 4 Group 3 races traditionally being associated with the track.
Just speculation, but since the Victoria Handicap is an autumn race at the moment, it might soon be found again at Caulfield.
For 1400-metre races, the barriers are at the top of the back straight, allowing for 600 metres of straight going, followed by a long, continuous turn spanning 180 degrees onto the home straight to the finish.
Racing History of the Victoria Handicap
The element of the winners’ list for the Victoria Handicap that is immediately apparent is that the best horses were finding better places to race, but there have been some multiple winners and some better types have won the race in the last decade.
Rather than expend our effort on the earliest winners, where most of what we can provide is confirmation of the lack of extensive historical data, we will concentrate on the most recent three decades of the race, with a few exceptions for multiple winners or truly notable winners.
Ungar was the winner the first time the Victoria Handicap was run in 1949. He had big wins between 1948 and 1951, with two wins in the Standish Handicap near the end of his career, while earlier, he had notched wins in the Doomben 10,000, the C. F. Orr Stakes, Merson Cooper Stakes and VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes.
Ungar had a limited stud career.
The instantly recognisable name of Lord graces the Victoria Handicap winners’ for 1958.
Born in New Zealand, Lord was quite adept at horsing.
He made 80 jumps for 28 wins and 24 placings. He earned nearly 60,000 Aussie pounds for his efforts, which we can only say is a lot, no doubt millions in today’s currency, judging solely by the races he won.
Lord kept fast company, as well, competing against Sky High and Tulloch to mention two, and his major race wins include four Memsie Stakes, three Caulfield Stakes, two each C F Orr and St. George Stakes. Add in two wins in the VRC Queen’s Plate, a Futurity Stakes and an All Aged Stakes to form a more complete picture of Lord.
Beyond Lord, our next hopping off spot is 1972, the year the race was dead heated by Abdul and Count Karl. As the only tie in the history of the race, we discover that Abdul was the winner of the 1970 Cox Plate by beating the better racing type Tails. He had a remarkable win in the 1971 AJC All Aged Stakes by crossing ahead of Planet Kingdom and Baguette.
The co-winner for that year, Count Karl, eluded us completely, meaning that there was no record of this horse in the databases. What is amiss, we cannot say. A name change might explain it. It would be a solid guess, though, to think that a horse that could dead heat something of Abdul’s ability must have been at least better than handy.
The years of 1987 and 1988 deliver the first multiple winner of the Victoria Handicap.
It was Jet Fighter, a decent sort, apparently, that delivered $560,000 in prize money, although he did not present a form line. His race record suggests that he might have fared better than he did had he not been nipped so often by the likes of Street Ruffian, Zedative, Boardwalk Angel and Vo Rogue. Jet Fighter did, however, cross ahead of Redelva behind Zedative in the 1989 Group 1 Futurity Stakes.
Like other winners we have seen, Jet Fighter had northern hemisphere lines on his sire’s side, with just a bit of Aussie on his dam’s side.
Transitioning into the more modern era of the race, we know that at the very least, we will encounter good data.
We begin with 1992, when the Victoria Handicap was won by The Fount. He was, or is, as it seems as though he might still be enjoying the sort of retirement a hard working gelding deserves.
His connections sent him out 88 times and he rewarded them with 16 wins and 21 placings. Nice form, but it amounted to just $216,000.
The Victoria Handicap was by far the best win of his career, with the bulk of the others, other than a couple at Morphettville, were at country tracks.
Anyone who has read our race histories in the past will not be surprised to learn that we latched onto the name when we saw the name of Lord Luskin as the 1997 winner.
Lord Luskin was by the capable galloper Star of Luskin and this horse flips the narrative of northern hemisphere sire’s blood and southern hemisphere dam’s blood.
Proceeding back from Lord Luskin and his sire Star of Luskin, we see Kaoru Star just ahead of Star Kingdom. Lord Luskin had a second connection to Star Kingdom with Todman by Star Kingdom through his grand dam Touch.
We next have the second two-time winner of the race when we look at 2002 and 2003 to find the Victoria Cup winner Debrief.
We suppose Debrief could be called handy, if that is accurate to describe a racer that made 35 jumps of seven wins and five placings to earn $447,000.
Yet another gelding on the winners’ list, Debrief won his first two jumps in minor races, and then had a spell of seven jumps where he placed twice, somehow scratching out a second in the Group 2 Hobartville Stakes at Warwick Farm. He ran third to Bomber Bill and Squillani in the 2003 Group 1 The Goodwood, but he watched from afar as Exceed And Excel won the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap in 2004.
Many people will recall the name of the 2004 winner, Regal Roller.
We cannot say Regal Roller’s pedigree was suspect, but we have seen many with better lines that did not equal his 38 jumps for 12 wins and 8 placings. He earned just under $1.5 million for his efforts. His three Group 1 wins were the Dubai Racing Club Cup (Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes), the Toorak Handicap and the Futurity Stakes.
The good gelding Roman Arch was the Victoria Handicap winner in 2005.
He is the sort we immediately appreciate when we saw his 94 jumps. He won 17 and placed in 12 to earn more than $2.1 million. His impressive wins were the Victoria Handicap win, where the good galloper Niconero was relegated to third. It was Fields of Omagh that he beat in the Group 1 Toorak Handicap in 2003.
At the risk of missing something, we could not resist skipping ahead to 2016, when the Victoria Handicap was won by one of our all-time favourites, Black Heart Bart (BHB).
Bart, as he was often referred to, made 62 jumps for 17 wis and 19 placings to haul I above $4.8 million.
Bart’s last win was the 2019 Group 1 Underwood Stakes. He was one of only two willing to challenge Winx in the 2016 Group 1 Caulfield Stakes. In 2016, he also won the Underwood Stakes.
From his first jump in 2013 at Ascot until his last in June of 2020, Black Heart Bart was a solid racer of remarkable durability.
Other top wins by Bart were the Memsie Stakes, the C F Orr Stakes and the Futurity Stakes.
The next year, 2017, brings us Hooked.
Hooked made 37 jumps for six wins and four placings to earn just a smidge below $1 million. He won a couple of Group 2 races and two of his placings were in Group 1 races. His stud career does not appear promising. Now aged 12 years, we find just two offspring with zero race wins between them.
Very little by way of introduction is necessary with the 2019 Victoria Handicap winner, Streets Of Avalon.
This good gelding made 71 jumps for 10 wins and 22 placings. He earned above $2.4 million in prize money, with additional major wins in the Moonga Stakes, the Futurity Stakes, Australia Stakes ad the C F Orr Stakes.
In winning the 2020 Futurity Stakes, Streets Of Avalon was better than Super Seth and Melody Belle.
The 2021 winner was the fast Mr. Quickie.
Another gelding, Mr. Quickie won over $2.1 million from 30 jumps for 11 wins and 9 placings.
Our random examination of the list of Victoria Handicap winners showed a pattern of sorts.
Most of the winners were in the latter stages of their racing careers when they won the race.
We also include that it seems as though the race started attracting better types in the last couple of decades, although Lord for one and perhaps a couple of others were of sufficient quality to earn good prize money and win a handful of Group 1 races.
We did not find a notable horse from the breeding perspective and many with good pedigrees raced as geldings, and as to the mares, we did not find many.
Victoria Handicap Past Winners
|2020||Bam's On Fire|
|2019||Streets Of Avalon|
|2016||Black Heart Bart|
|2008||Gotta Have Heart|
|2000||Go Flash Go|
|1995||Simple As That|
|1979||Bit Of A Skite|
|1974||Cut And Deal|