The Crystal Mile is a Group 2 weight-for-age race held at Moonee Valley Racecourse on Cox Plate day in the latter part of October.
It was first held in 1982. The meeting that features the Cox Plate also offers the Group 1 Manikato Stakes, although that race is part of the Friday evening program.
The Crystal Mile is one of four Group 2 races held on Cox Plate Day, along with the Moonee Valley Cup, the Moonee Valley Oaks, and the Moonee Valley Vase. There are also two Group 3 races held at the meeting, bring the total of Group races to eight. There is a 10th race on the day, the Listed Ladbrokes Crockett Stakes that comes right after the Cox Plate.
The current prizemoney on offer is $300,000, with the winner’s share in 2020 being $180,000.
History of the Crystal Mile
The Crystal Mile breaks a pattern we often see when examining the history of Australian Thoroughbred races. It is not unusual, even with a newish race such as the Crystal Mile, to see the trips modified, usually for longer to shorter.
All 39 editions of the Crystal Mile through 2020 have been 1600 metres and while 1600 metres is not precisely equal to one mile, having the word mile in the name certainly sounds nice. More, the race debuted in 1982, after Australian metrification.
The race grade, however, has changed. It was rated Listed (Group 4 if you insist) from the first race through 1985. It ran from 1986 – 1996 as a Group 3 race, becoming Group 2 in 1997.
What could be considered unique, something we do not see often, is that the race changed from handicap to weight-for-age running conditions in 2012.
Now that it is a Group 2 race, the Crystal Mile attracts some good horses, but the horses that can do okay over 1600 metres can often cover the 2040 metres of the Cox Plate and that is where the top horses will be found.
Crystal has always been part of the race name. The Waterford Crystal company held the naming rights from 1982 through 2006, hence, Waterford Crystal Mile. It was the Jayco Crystal Mile from 2007 – 2011, although it is hard to associate using fine crystal when voyaging about in one of their caravans, which seem more like beer-themed vehicles.
Schweppes took over in 2012, hence, the Schweppes Crystal Mile, and we can easily see ourselves sipping Schweppes tonic water with a liberal splash of gin from a Waterford crystal tumbler.
Moonee Valley Racecourse is one of the three metro courses in and around Melbourne.
It has a unique triangular oval shape, with a sweeping final turn leading into the shortest finishing straight in Australia. On form horses with familiarity with the tight turns have a decided advantage over any interstate horses that might be trying Moonee Valley for the first or second time.
Racing History of the Crystal Mile
The Crystal Mile is not one of those races that date back to the earliest days of Australian Thoroughbred racing. By those standards, the race is a relative newcomer, first jumping in 1982.
It has been run fewer than 40 times as of mid-2021.
Similarly, the winners of the race are not the sorts that get postage stamps or biographical movies. The better horses that come out of the race seem to be aimed at other Group 2 and the more prestigious Group 1 races, while those that are less good seem to take the win, and then remain obscure.p>
Our evidence for that claim is that in the history of the race, a race with no gender or upper age limit restrictions, there has been only one dual winner.
Here is a closer examination of the past winners.
The first race in 1982 was won by Getting Closer. We acknowledge that Getting Closer was a great name and we can imagine the fun a good race caller would have. “Down the straight, it’s Seabiscuit in the lead, but here comes Getting Closer getting closer with each stride…It’s getting closer and closer…Getting Closer takes the lead…Seabiscuit tries to answer but can’t get any closer…At the line, it’s Getting Closer by three lengths.”
Getting Closer was actually a good sort, a Kiwi product that won Group 1s in Queensland and Western Australia. He won a couple Group 2s and a Group 3. At the time of his Crystal Mile win, the race was Listed quality.
He did have some impressive ancestors, including Bernborough, Hyperion and Gainsborough, but of course, those were distant relatives.
The 1983 winner was another New Zealand horse – Dynamo. Many have had the name, so it lacks the originality of Getting Closer. Dynamo was not an apt adjective for this horse, though, as he had only four wins from forty jumps, but he was a dynamic sire in Western Australia.
Keepers, the 1984 winner, was pretty good. It would have been nice to have him in a race with a horse named Finders, for race calling purposes.
Keepers won at Group 1 level when he took the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes. He was an unlucky second in several Group 1 races and third in one other Group 1 race.
A series of forgettable gallopers won the Crystal Mile from 1985 through 1989. Chronologically, they were Dazzling Duke, Splendid Speed, Tierra Rist, True Dreams and Fendalton.
Ark Regal was the winner in 1990. Another Kiwi horse, Ark Regal, was the 1990 winner. Ark Regal may have had better results, but he did win the 1990 Futurity Stakes. Some of his second placings in better races were to sorts such as Zabeel, Planet Ruler and Vo Rogue, all champions that were tough to beat.
Yet another Kiwi, Fire Commander won in 1991, but the only thing that stands out about him were his lines that included the likes of Super Imposing, Todman, Biscay and Ireland’s Star Kingdom.
Solvit continues the pattern of New Zealand horses winning the Crystal Mile, which he did in 1992. He was a fine galloper, winner of over $1.3 million. He made most of his money by winning the Cox Plate in 1994. The rest he made from 15 wins and 11 placings from 52 jumps. He returned to try the Cox Plate in 1995, where he ran next-to-last in the year Octagonal won. The Crystal Mile was his first win in Australia, as he spent most of his time racing in New Zealand, where he won the Group 1 New Zealand Stakes in 1993. He returned to Australia to run in the 1993 Cox Plate, running second by 1.5 lengths to another New Zealand horse, The Phantom Chance. Solvit jumped at $11 in the race, so he paid nicely for any who backed him, but he beat Naturalism handily in the race, so Solvit’s case was one of close but no cigar and too much racing in New Zealand.
We’re trying to avoid redundancy, but the 1993 winner, Carson’s Cash, was another New Zealander. Nothing noteworthy about this horse. He won some races, but very little money. The Crystal Mile was his only Australian win. He was by Lord Ballina that was by Bletchingly.
State Taj won in 1994. He earned almost a million dollars, but more than half came from winning the Group 2 Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse. He tried for the repeat in 1995, but came in a comfortable second to Juggler.
Juggler was a more-than-good horse. His 1995 win in the Crystal Mile supplied part of over $2.4 million in prizemoney he earned from 60 jumps for 15 wins and 26 placings. He was strong at Eagle Farm, Doomben and the Sydney tracks. He won the Group 1 Chipping Norton at Warwick Farm in 1996 and the Group 1 Doomben Cup in 1996 from Doriemus. His best win was the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes from Magnet Bay. Juggler gave good races to some top-class horses, including Octagonal, Might And Power and Sunline.
Lochrae won in 1996. Raced only 10 times, his zenith was the win in the 1995 Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington, with the Crystal Mile being his only other significant win.
Holy Roller, aka “The World’s Biggest Racehorse,” was the 1997 winner. He raced only two times after and he always seemed to be in arrears to a New Zealand horse named Catalan Opening. He stood about two hands higher than the average racehorse.
Rustic Dream won in 1998. The next year, he won the Group 1 Futurity Stakes.
Le Zagaletta was the 1999 winner. He earned over $1.3 million. He was the sort we appreciate, because he made 65 starts. He was still racing in 2003 when he beat Super Elegant by a nose in the 2003 Group 2 Memsie Stakes, a race he lost to Makybe Diva in 2005, and he lost to great horse such as Northerly, Fields Of Omagh and Rubitano.
Weasel Will was the only horse to win the Crystal Mile twice, in 2000 and 2001. In 2000, he lost the Group 1 Emirates Stakes at Flemington to Testa Rossa. He missed a third Crystal Mile win in 2002, but he was well behind winner Royal Code.
Royal Code won in 2002, denying Weasel Will’s bid for a third Crystal Mile victory. He won some races, including another Group 2 and ran second to Dash For Cash in the Group 1 Cadbury Guineas at Flemington in 2002. Another horse he lost to was Lonhro, on a couple of occasions, including a narrow loss in the Group 1 MacKinnon Stakes.
Once again, a New Zealand horse, Lad Of The Manor, took the race in 2004. He won over $1.6 million, had Zabeel for a sire and won the Group 1 MacKinnon Stakes. He ran third to Makybe Diva in the 2005 Australian Cup, beat her in the Group 2 Feehan Stakes, with Fields Of Omagh third. He gave the Diva all she could handle in the Group 2 Turnbull Stakes, also in 2005. He beat Apache Cat in the 2006 Feehan Stakes.
The 2005 Crystal Mile was won by Niconero, one of the best of the list of winners. Niconero won over $3.4 million with big Group 1 wins in the Futurity Stakes and two Kingston Town Classics.
Rangirangdoo won in 2009 as part of his $2.2 million in prizemoney. He won at Group 1 level with the Doncaster Mile, the Ranvet Stakes, the Chipping Norton and the Epsom Handicap. Yes, he was a New Zealand horse.
The 2012 race went to Silent Achiever. She won over $3.1 million and like most of the others, was out of New Zealand. She beat Rangirangdoo to win the Crystal Mile, beat It’s A Dundeel to take the Group 1 BMW at Caulfield.
New Zealand horse Turn Me Loose was the 2015 winner. He won a Group 1 level twice, three times if you include the New Zealand 2000 Guineas. He won at Group 1 level when he beat Politeness at the 2015 Emirates Stakes at Flemington and Stratum Star in the 2016 Futurity Stakes at Caulfield. He lost to Winx in the Group 1 George Ryder and he ran behind Black Heart Bart on a couple of occasions.
The United States, an Irish horse, go figure, was the 2016 Crystal Mile winner. He earned over $2 million and when he won the Crystal Mile, he beat 2015 Melbourne Cup winner Prince of Penzance. He beat Hauraki to win the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes.
Lucky Hussler won in 2017 and ran second in the race in 2015 and third in 2014. His big wins at Group 1 level were the William Reid Stakes and the Toorak Handicap.
Cliff’s Edge from 2018 ran second to Lucky Hussler ran second in the 2019 race to Chief Ironside. He won just above $1 million from 30 starts.
Chief Ironside won the race in 2019, but not much else.
Finally, our list concludes with 2020 winner Homesman. He has won and continues to win at the top level. He was six when he won the Crystal Mile and seven when he won the Group 1 Australian Cup and has to date won almost $3 million. His Crystal Mile win can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISnKtohxzqo
New Zealand horses have won an inordinate share of the Crystal Mile, which is slightly odd because we associate New Zealand horses mainly with staying races.
We’re not sure if it is because the Australian horses cannot be bothered with the race, but it is also true that some internationals have won while in Australia for other races.
At any rate, the race has been attracting better horses over the last decade and if that trend continues, we might see more adding their names to the list of Cox Plate winners.
|Year||Crystal Mile Winners|
|2016||The United States|
|2015||Turn Me Loose|
|2011||Testa My Patience|
|2004||Lad Of The Manor|