The Moonee Valley Vase is, as of 2021, a Group 2 event for three-year-olds. It is run under set weight conditions over 2040 metres at Moonee Valley Racecourse during the spring racing season. The race is held on the same day as the Cox Plate.
As of 2020, prizemoney is $300,000.
History of the Moonee Valley Vase
The race debuted in 1983 as The Herald Vase, a name used through the 1989 edition. For 1990, it was the Herald Sun Vase. The Next two years used the name BMW Vase.
Many people might still refer to the race as the AAMI Vase. That name was used from 1992 through 2011, when the AAMI insurance company ended its sponsorship affiliation.
The next two years were sponsored by Mitchelton Wines, so it was the Mitchelton Wines Vase.
Abandoning alcohol for the next two years, the race was called the Dilmah Exceptional Teas Vase and for 2016 found the race sponsored as the LUCRF Vase by the investment firm that goes by that name.
Since 2017, the race has been known as the Drummond Golf Vase.
The race began as a 1600-metre trip, but just for the first three years.
In 1986, the MVRC lengthened the race to 2040 metres. The MVRC seems to love the distance; the obvious reason being it is the same as the Cox Plate, other than the Cox Plate being run under weight-for-age conditions by horses three years aged and above.
Originally a Listed race for the years 1983 – 1988, the race was lifted to Group 3 in 1989 and remained so until 1997, when it was elevated to Group 2. It is fast approaching the $350,000 mark that delineates Group 2 from Group 1, but achieving Group 1 status requires some criteria beyond prizemoney.
Most of the racing industry and the punters look at the Moonee Valley Vase as a preparation for the Group 1 Victoria Derby that is one of the features of the Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington.
Preparation it may be, but only five of the winners of the Moonee Valley Vase have managed to win the Victoria Derby.
The first was Raveneaux in 1986. The second was Blevic in 1994, followed by Helenus (2002), Plastered (2004) and Efficient (2006).
Race Venue of the Moonee Valley Vase
Moonee Valley Racecourse is located in the Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds. As the venue for the Cox Plate, mainly considered to be Australia’s weight-for-age championship, the course is familiar to racing fans and punters all across Australia. The course was operating well before the first Cox Plate, though, tracing its roots back to 1883.
Racing History of the Moonee Valley Vase
Given Australia’s vast Thoroughbred racing history, the Moonee Valley Vase would have to be viewed as a newer race, but that does not detract from the quality of the race in any way.
Through 2020, it has been run 38 times and it would appear that the race is established well enough to stick around and attract good gallopers. Only a few of the winners could be considered as being in the top ranks of Australian Thoroughbreds, but winning any Group 2 race requires ability and good racing fortune.
Here are some details on the past winners of the Moonee Valley Vase.
The first Moonee Valley Vase in 1983 was won by Centaine.
He was a brown horse by Century from Rainbeam. The majority of his line is from his dam’s side. Rainbeam was by Vain, a legitimate Hall of Famer that was the Champion Racehorse of the Year for the 1969/1970 Australian Thoroughbred racing season. Rainbeam’s other famous ancestor was Todman.
Centaine was lightly raced, just 20 starts, but he sired 60 stakes winners. Some of his output would do something Centaine never did, which was to win a Group 1 race. He served stud in Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
The 1984 Moonee Valley Vase went to Brash Son. He was one of those sorts that seemed to finish third often, so a little racing luck might have boosted his credentials, but racing luck is not so easy to obtain.
Raveneaux, the 1986 winner and the first to win the Victoria Derby following a win in the Moonee Valley Vase, was otherwise insignificant, despite lines that included some legends, including Canada’s Northern Dancer and Nearctic and the U.S.’s Natalma and Native Dancer and Italy’s Nearco.
A New Zealand horse named Crush won in 1987 and also won at Group 1 level when he took out the SAJC Goodwood Stakes.
Big Grey Roo won in 1988 when the race went by the name The Herald Vase, but other than the fact that he was another New Zealand horse, all we know is that he made 16 starts of five wins and four placings.
1989 belonged to Zamoff that also won the Group 2 Queensland Sires’ Produce Stakes.
Rockets Galore won in 1991, but did not win much of anything else, despite being descended from the likes the U.S. sire Whiskey Road that accounted for the likes of Strawberry Road 1981 Melbourne Cup winner Just A Dash. Rockets Galore also had lines to Canada’s Nijinsky and Northern Dancer and Nearctic.
The first truly notable winner of the Moonee Valley Vase came along in 1991 in the form of Naturalism.
Like many of the previous winners, Naturalism was New Zealand-bred. Naturalism first won in 1991, when the Moonee Valley Vase was known as the BMW Vase. He was a big winner later on as well, with major wins in the Australian Derby in 1992, along with five other races that were or would become Group 1 races.
Naturalism was trained by Lee Freedman, who rated the horse as one of the five best he had ever trained. Caulfield Racecourse stages the Naturalism Stakes to commemorate the champion galloper and ups the ante by giving a free pass to the winner to run in the Caulfield Cup.
Naturalism won over $3.2 million in prizemoney and was further notable for his involvement in the spectacular 1992 Cox Plate crash that decimated the field.
A horse with the creative name of Kenny’s Best Pal won in 1992. We’ll call him Kenny for the sake of brevity. Kenny had his moment in the sun. When he won, it was called the BMW Vase. His zenith was a Group 1 win in the Australian Guineas at Flemington.
Kenny was most likely a disappointment to his connections at Yallambee Stud, as he was by Bletchingly the sire of Kingston Town, with Biscay for a grandsire.
Zaremba, the 1993 winner, when the race was the AAMI Vase, showed some early promise, but he fizzled and the race was his last win. The connections kept lining him up, even putting him in the Group 1 Victoria Derby, where he finished sixth, his best result from five Group 1 tries.
Blevic won in 1994. He won the Victoria Derby next up, one of the five horses to fill the double. He also won the Group 1 VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes and took in over $1.3 million in prizemoney from his 26 jumps.
A good gelding that combined northern hemisphere lines on his sire’s side with southern hemisphere blood, including some from South America to produce the Moonee Valley Vase win in 1997 was Gold Guru. He produced eight wins, including three Group 1s, with high finishes in other major races. He retired after the 2001 Victoria Gold Cup at Caulfield with nearly $2.5 million in earnings.
Mossman won in 1998 and managed to eke out a Group 1 win that same year when he won the Castlemaine QTC Classic from the John Hawkes trained Lease. He earned almost a million dollars and if it could be said that he was unexceptional, it must be said that he was versatile in winning from 1200 to 2040 metres.
The next winner, from 1999, was Diatribe. Diatribe came from Desmond Park Stud in Victoria, but he had a U.S. sire and dam, with good lines going back. He had no Australian or New Zealand blood.
Nevertheless, he managed to win over $2.3 million, including a win in the Caulfield Cup and a second in the Cox Plate. He beat the Kiwi horse Kaapstad Way in the Caulfield Cup, but he watched Sunline win the Cox Plate from seven lengths behind. He raced the Cox Plate on a week’s rest, which is the sort of itinerary that is seldom seen in the modern era.
Skalato won the Moonee Valley Vase in 2000, but he was stripped of his victory in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas when he tested positive for Ketoprofen, the equine version of ibuprofen, or Advil, if you prefer a band name.
The 2001 winner, Ustinov, was unexceptional, other than the fact that his dam was the legendary Caulfield and Melbourne Cup double winner Let’s Elope.
Helenus was another of the five that won the Moonee Valley Vase and the Victoria Derby. He was a good racer, winner of over $2.1 million, Australian Champion Three-Year-Old Colt, and winner of the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas and the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas.
Kempinsky almost gave us another Moonee Valley Vase double in 2003, but he lost the Victoria Derby to the Melbourne Cup winner Elvstroem, ironically the same Elvstroem he beat to win the MV Vase.
Jumping forward to 2006, we find the well-known Efficient. Like the other four mentioned earlier, Efficient won the 2006 Victoria Derby and etched his name in Australian Thoroughbred racing history when he won the Melbourne Cup in 2007.
Whobegotyou was the 2008 winner. He was the Australian Champion Three-Year-Old for 2008/2009 and winner of over $3.1 million. This horse must have been bred with the Moonee Valley Dato Chin Nam Stakes in mind, because he won the race twice and finished third on another occasion.
The winner from 2010, Rekindled Interest, was possibly a disappointment to owner Pinecliff Racing, since they probably paid good coin to obtain Redoute’s Choice as a sire, but he did all right, with a third in the 2011 Cox Plate to Pinker Pinker and Jimmy Choux.
Manawanui, winner in 2011, won almost $1.5 million, with a Group 1 win in the 2011 Toohey’s New Golden Rose at Rosehill.
Super Cool, the winner from 2012, came within a length-and-a-half of adding his name to the short list of Moonee Valley Vase/Victoria Derby doubles, losing to Fiveandahalfstar, a horse he beat in the Group 2 Autumn Classic at Caulfield and the Group 1 Australian Cup at Flemington.
The familiar name of Jameka was the 2015 Moonee Valley Vase winner. She had six big wins that produced over $4.8 million in prizemoney, with her biggest win being the 2016 Caulfield Cup.
Sacred Elixir won in 2016 and ran second to Prized Icon in the Victoria Derby. He won the Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes at Eagle Farm that same year.
2017 winner Aloisia was a handy mare and winner at Group 1 level when she won the 2017 MRC Thousand Guineas at Caulfield.
Stars Of Carrum won in 2018 and it was to be his only win from 27 starts. Like several other Moonee Valley Vase winners, he ran second in the Victoria Derby, losing by a length to Extra Brut.
Soul Patch, the 2019 winner, was sent to stud after eight starts, and is currently standing at Rangal Park Stud in Victoria.
Soul Patch’s win can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bFtBru92ZU
The most recent winner was 2020’s Cherry Totoni. In 2021, he ran second to Lunar Fox in the Group 1 Australian Guineas at Flemington.
While the Moonee Valley Vase plays second fiddle to the Cox Plate, it is a good race all the same.
The winners are not exactly the stuff of legends, with the possible exceptions of Naturalism, Efficient, Whobegotyou and Jameka, but most of the winners were solid gallopers that raced successfully and repaid their connections’ investments.
|Year||Moonee Valley Vase|
|2018||Stars Of Carrum|
|1992||Kenny's Best Pal|
|1988||Big Grey Roo|