The JRA Cup is a Group 3 race for Thoroughbreds staged at Moonee Valley Racecourse in Melbourne in late September/October.
It is run under quality handicap conditions over 2040 metres – the identical trip to the Cox Plate held in October.
JRA Cup Race Details
Racecourse: Moonee Valley
Race Distance: 1400m
Prize Money: $200,000
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When Is The JRA Cup: 25/10/24
What Time Is The JRA Cup: TBA
Where Is The JRA Cup: Moonee Valley Racecourse
How To Live Stream The JRA Cup
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More Details About The JRA Cup
Prizemoney for the race is $200,000 as of the 2021 running. Secret Blaze was the winner in 2021 and took in the $120,000 top prize, which included a $1500 bonus to bring his total for the win to $121,150.
History of the JRA Cup
The race is named for the Japan Racing Association (JRA), a publicly traded company from Japan that is a central managing agency for racecourses, punting operations and horse training facilities.
What we want to know is if there is an Australian Racing Association staging races in Japan. It would be the ARA Cup, wouldn’t it?
For the record, the JRA Cup at Moonee Valley is staged by the Moonee Valley Racing Club.
There was a race run in the same slot known as the Geoff Madden Handicap that was run as an unlisted event.
It became Listed quality in 1996 and was promoted to Group 3 in 2010.
Some of the winners have gone on to win the major Australian staying events, including the Melbourne Cup and the Cox Plate. Some winners have had success in the Caulfield Cup.
Other targets for the horses in the JRA Cup are the Hotham Lexus Stakes and the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
For a race in Victoria, it is mildly surprising that the trip has never varied, but it could be adjusted in the future for all we know.
Venue for the JRA Cup
The race has always been staged at Moonee Valley Racecourse and there has never been a situation that would have compelled it to move to another track.
Moonee Valley was established as a racing facility in 1883. It was sited on a farm owned by John F. Feehan, who apparently liked racing more than growing crops, a viewpoint with which we heartily concur.
William Samuel Cox bought the land with the intent of establishing a proper racing facility along with a proper racing club that came to be known as the Moonee Valley Racing Club (MVRC).
The course is only six kilometres from the Melbourne CBD in the suburb of Moonee Ponds. The club has taken to marketing the facility simply as The Valley, in line with the current trend of making everything shorter and many people called the course The Valley for the same reason, to save the two syllables required to say Moonee.
The most notable race staged at the course is, of course, the W S Cox Plate. A notable Group 1 race is held at the same meeting as the JRA Cup. That is the A J Moir Stakes. Other Group 1 races are the Manikato Stakes and the William Reid Stakes. The Valley offers up 11 Group 2 and 6 Group 3 races over the course of a year.
For a race of 2040 metres, such as the JRA Cup and the Cox Plate, the gallopers start at the top of the home straight and run due south past the finish, and then complete an entire circuit to determine the winner in front of the grandstands at the end of the home straight.
Racing History of the JRA Cup
There is not a lot of history to the JRA Cup, as it has only been run 25 times as of mid-2022.
There have been no repeat winners, even though the conditions for the race are not age restrictive.
Some good horses have won the race, but none of the big names.
The good news in that regard is that detailed record keeping was commonplace by the time the JRA Cup started in 1996, so we can look at the past winners in detail, looking for those that went on to better things, or gave up racing for stud careers.
The first winner from 1996 was Section.
We thought that Section was a cool name until we saw how many times it had been used. The most recent section was a mare by Fastnet Rock. Our Section, though, was from before Fastnet Rock was even a gleam in Danehill’s eye.
Our Section dropped in 1991 and while he had only three wins, he placed on 21 occasions and made 79 jumps, so we automatically like him. Another source we consulted claimed that Section made only 40 jumps, so we will hold off on inducting him into the ersatz Pro Group Racing Hall of Fame until we can clear up the 39-jump discrepancy we discovered. The sources we consulted also had a discrepancy for Section’s resume, listing him as winning 10 races and placing in 11, as opposed to the 79-3-8-13 listed by another source.
The JRA Cup win by Section was his last win. He tried three more races, all Group 2s, without anything better than fourth.
The next winner, 1997’s Sunny Lane, was a handy mare that made 64 jumps for 12 wins and 20 placings. She was a Tassie lass that earned $577,000. She was having a hot patch when she won the JRA Cup. After that win, she ran second, third and won the Listed Werribee Cup at Werribee, a Victorian country track 30 km from Melbourne.
Despite all the racing, Sunny Lane delivered seven named foals, three of which would win stakes, with the best being Phoenix Express by Desert Sun in 2000 that won a bit above $160,000.
Il Don from 1998 was more or less the typical sort we expect to see winning a Group 3 such as the JRA Cup. Along with this race, Il Don won the Group 3 Red Tulip Easter Cup in 1999 and produced a third in the 1998 Group 1 Australian Guineas.
The next winner was Brave Chief from 1999.
He was better than we first thought, the winner of over $885,000, but he did need 71 jumps for 18 wins and 5 placings to get to that figure. He was versatile, winner of 1000-metre sprints and staying races out to 2400 metres. Brave Chief was a Moonee Valley Monster and won multiple races with the identical 2040 trip of the Cox Plate. Unfortunately, none of his wins at that distance was actually the Cox Plate. He lined up for the JRA Cup in 2000, but wound up eighth. We saw the win at 2400 metres and immediately thought Caulfield Cup, but it was the Group 2 Sandown Classic and it was his highest ranked win.
It was Prince Benbara in 2000 that denied Brave Chief the win, along with six others that finished ahead.
Prince Benbara was another gelding, as have been all the winners save Sunny Lane in 1997.
Prince Benbara was a decent galloper that won almost $700,000 from 78 starts for 14 wins and 14 placings. He lined up for the Group 1 Toorak Handicap, but from examining the rest of his record, we had to scratch our heads, as this was a true country horse. The JRA Cup was still Listed quality when Prince Benbara won.
Rain Gauge from 2001 is the first stallion we have seen for the winner of the JRA Cup. He managed to collect $725,000 from 46 jumps for 6 wins and 14 placings. He had a better win when he took the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup quite easily as the second favourite.
Rain Gauge was a modest sire of four named foals, with two minor stakes winners.
The 2002 winner, Cheverny, was yet another so-so gelding. All we will say is that his connections lined him up in the Group 1 Doomben Cup in 2003, for reasons we cannot explain other than to say every race needs a galloper to finish last. Cheverny obliged in that Group 1 race and then duplicated the result in his next race, a Listed grade race.
General Booth was the JRA Cup winner in 2003. Judging from his paltry record of 31 jumps, 4 wins and 5 placings for $185,000 in stakes, he might have been more aptly named Phone Booth, because he ran about as fast as one.
Beswinging from 2004 was another hard working/nothing to show for it galloper. He made 66 jumps for six wins and eight placings. Beswinging made Cheverny look like a legend. Beswinging took the role of being the designated last-place finisher in his last four races.
The first notable winner of the race was 2005’s El Segundo. His big win was the 2007 Cox Plate. He had major wins in top races such as the Memsie and Underwood Stakes in 2006 and the C F Orr Stakes in 2007.
El Segundo won just under $4 million from just 35 jumps for 12 wins and 8 placings. After winning the JRA Cup, El Segundo backed with a Group 1 win in the Yalumba Stakes at Caulfield, where his quality was cemented with a two-length win over Fields Of Omagh. When he won the Memsie Stakes, it was still a Group 2 race, but he beat Apache Cat, something of which only a few can boast.
The second mare to win the JRA Cup was 2006’s Pavlova.
Pavlova was unremarkable as a racer and the JRA Cup was her best win in the last year the race would be classified as Listed. She was shipped to New Zealand and fetched just $4,000 at the 2015 Gold Coast National Broodmare Sale.
Zabeel must have been in a lull from his stud duties, as he served Pavlova twice for foals that combined would earn around $20,000.
The New Zealand gelding Maldivian would win the race in 2007. He won over $2.8 million from 30 jumps for 9 wins and 10 placings.
His first major win was the Group 3 Easter Cup in 2007, a win that capped a campaign that featured four consecutive wins. He beat Miss Finland to win the Group 1 Yalumba Stakes by 1.25 lengths. His big win came in 2008 when he beat Zipping by a length to win the Cox Plate. Maldivian backed that win with the Group 1 C. F. Orr Stakes.
Cefalu from 2008 was another modest gelding that earned just over $500,000 from fifty jumps. The JRA Cup was his last and best win and second-last race in a career that included 6 wins and 10 placings. Cefalu was foaled in China, something we do not often encounter.
Alcopop was the winner in 2009.
This gelding won nearly $2 million from 34 jumps for 10 wins and 6 placings. After winning the JRA Cup from Field Hunter by two lengths, he won the Group 2 Herbert Power by 3.25 lengths from Shocking, the horse that would win the Melbourne Cup in the next race, with Alcopop running a respectable sixth. Alcopop was second in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes in 2010, but he would have needed binoculars for a good view of the winner, So You Think. Alcopop’s last win and second last race was a Group 1 win of the MacKinnon Stakes that came hard on the heels of a second to Dundaden in the 2012 Caulfield Cup.
The New Zealand gelding Precedence was the 2010 winner.
He earned almost $2 million, but similar to the other big earning geldings that won the JRA Cup, Precedence needed 69 jumps for 10 wins and 10 placings to amass his prizemoney total. After winning the race, he was second in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes, first in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup and eight in the 2010 Melbourne Cup. By our count, Precedence tried the Melbourne Cup four times without placing, although he was in the front half of the field every time.
Dream Pedlar from 2011 was another heavily raced gelding that earned $720,000 from 57 jumps for 9 wins and 20 placings.
Like the 1997 JRA Cup winner Sunny Lane, Dream Pedlar was a Tasmanian galloper. He raced for two years before getting onto an Australian metro track. The field for the race that year was just six. They put him in the Caulfield Cup, which says more about the lack of staying horses than it does about Dream Pedlar’s ability. He finished 15th of 18 in the 2011 Caulfield Cup. He tried a race at Bendigo, and then slunk back to Tasmania.
Bianmick from 2012 was another modest gelding. He was often at the back of the field in the races he contested.
Mourinho from 2013 was a better type and winner of over $1.3 million from 47 jumps for 11 wins and 11 placings. He won the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes at Caulfield in 2015 and had a Group 1 win in the Underwood Stakes from Fawkner in 2015. Mourinho tried the Cox Plate next, but although he finished 12th of 14, he was more than 16 lengths behind Winx.
Another gelding, The Cleaner, was the 2014 winner. He won over $1.3 million, but as was the case with geldings before him, he had to make 58 jumps for 19 wins and 16 placings. He raced primarily in Tasmania.
Before winning the JRA Cup, The Cleaner won the Group 2 Feehan Stakes from Mourinho for his best win, and then won the Feehan again in 2015 before a third placing to Mourinho.
Escado won the race in 2015.
He was okay, not good, not great. He had a big win in 2013 when he took out the Group 1 South Australian Derby. The win in the JRA Cup was his last.
He earned over $800,000, but it took him 45 tries for 5 wins and 9 placings to get to that figure.
We have our third mare to win the race in 2016 when Real Love took the race as part of a career that had 39 jumps for 10 wins and 13 placings. She won over $1.4 million, beginning her career in Western Australia. She won the Group 3 Queen’s Cup at Ascot in 2014. She ran fifth in the 2016 Caulfield Cup won by Jameka. Like several of the other winners, the JRA Cup was her last win.
It is too early to say much about her as a breeder.
Jon Snow was the winner in 2017.
He is the second ungelded horse to win the race. He won almost $2 million from just 22 starts for 4 wins and 8 placings. He won the Group 2 Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill in 2017 and backed with a win in the Group 1 ATC Derby at Randwick. One of the horses he beat in the JRA Cup was Boom Time, so it would seem that Jon Snow was more than an annoying character from Game of Thrones who could not be killed, no matter how much you hoped he would be.
As a stud, it is early to reach a conclusion, but he has three named foals so far, all from 2020.
The winner for 2018 was The Taj Mahal. He has remained entire, but he has been exported. He won just under $1 million from 31 jumps for 4 wins and 7 placings. He twice won the Group 2 Sandown Classic.
Captain Cook, the 2019 JRA Cup winner, is listed as active, but at nine years of age, it is wishful thinking to think we have another Hartnell or Black Heart Bart in the making, although we have been wrong before.
The JRA Cup was his most recent win, but he has made 16 jumps since winning with just on3 placing to show for it.
The gelding Al Galayel won the race in 2020.
He has a stat line of 31 jumps for 9 wins and 5 placings for about $600,000 in earnings. The JRA Cup was his best and last win.
The most recent winner, a couple months ahead of the 2022 edition of the race was 2021’s Secret Blaze that was mentioned at the start of this article.
The JRA Cup might be the same trip as the Cox Plate and is held at the same venue, but the two will never be confused.
We did not find much of note in the winners list, mostly geldings and a few mares, with no significant sires or dams.
JRA Cup Past Winners
|2018||The Taj Mahal|