The Moonee Valley Cup is a 2500-metre staying race held at Moonee Valley Racecourse in late October. It is part of the race card on Cox Plate Day. It is a Group 2 race held under set-weight-plus-penalty conditions for horses aged four years and above. It offers a prizemoney pool of $500,000.
This is an old race dating back to 1883, predating the Cox Plate by 40 years. There have been a few horses that have won the race twice; none has won it three times. A few of the winners were significant champions. None of the elite Thoroughbreds has won, except for a few that came along after the Cox Plate began and it would be reasonable to conclude that the connections who had top gallopers would opt for the Cox Plate, although a couple of true champions have won and will be detailed further on.
It has been the subject of much change over the course of its existence. It was a 1600-metre race for the first two years of 1883 and 1884.
From 1885 – 1888 is was a sprint event of 1200-metres, and then went to 1400-metres for 11 editions from 1889 – 1899. The following year was the first it was run over 2200 metres, which lasted through 1908.
For 1909, it was over 2400-metres for one race before being shortened to 2000-metres from 1910 – 1918.
The trip continued to shift over the years, with some odd distances such as 2300 and 2600-metres.
The MVRC has held it over 2500-metres since 1995.
We suspect that the MVRC might have tinkered with the distance of the Moonee Valley Cup to cater to certain influential owners and history suggests this sort of thing has happened, just as the Flemington track was softened in 2005 over Lee Freedman’s threat to hold Makybe Diva out of the Melbourne Cup.
Just as the trip was altered frequently, the name of the race has been changed almost as frequently.
It began as the Moonee Valley Cup from 1883 – 1975, went to the Governors’ Stakes and reverted to Moonee Valley Cup from 1980 – 1996. Various sponsorships altered the name and as of 2017, the race has been called the McCafe Moonee Valley Gold Cup.
For the sake of simplicity, we will call it the Moonee Valley Cup.
It was a Principal race from the beginning. When the Group classification system arrived, it was Group 3 in 1979 and Group 2 from 1980 through the current time.
It offers Group 1 money, but staying races seldom get the respect they deserve.
Racing Venue of the Moonee Valley Cup
Moonee Valley Racecourse is the third of the three metro racecourses around Melbourne. It has an interesting tri-oval shape and the finish line comes after a weeping left-hander onto the finishing straight in front of the grandstand.
It is, of course, the course where the Cox Plate, considered Australia’s most demanding weight-for-age race, is run.
A more complete description of Moonee Valley Racecourse will be found here:
Racing History of the Moonee Valley Cup
As the last staying race prior to the Melbourne Cup, the Moonee Valley Cup has had many Melbourne Cup aspirants in the fields over the years, but the race was run up until 1905 before a winner went on to win the Melbourne Cup.
Then, there was Kingston Rule in 1990. More about this champion galloper later.
As mentioned earlier, there have been several horses that have won the Moonee Valley Cup on two occasions and they are covered further along. As an old race, some of the earlier editions have scant historical records, although some of the racebooks have been preserved and can be viewed in historical archives.
Here are some of the significant winners from the past through 2020.
The first race went to Castaway in 1883.
Little is known of her and her win seems to be the only account that has survived, other than that she was sired by Confucius and won the race when it was a mile in length. She was four years old at the time of her win in the then Moonee Ponds Cup.
Little Bob was the first to win the race two times. Not much in the way of records exists for Little Bob. He was by St Albans, a British sire sent to Australia in 1871 out of Queen Mary. The mare, not the monarch, despite any puns anyone might care to invoke around appearances.
Patronus was the 1904 winner. His grandsire was Grand Flaneur, a big winner that won the Melbourne Cup in 1880 and if our information is accurate, made nine starts for nine wins before spending 10 years from 1895 at or near the top of the Australia sires’ list.
It was 1905 before we encountered a memorable winner. That was Blue Spec. He established a then record time for the Melbourne Cup when he ran the two miles in 3:27.50. He did some racing in Western Australia, where he won the Perth Cup and the Kalgoorlie Cup in 1904 and the Perth Stakes in 1907. He was inducted into the West Australian Industry Hall of Fame. When he was sent east to prepare for the Melbourne Cup, he was handed to Walter Hickenbotham and he supplied Hickenbotham with his fourth Melbourne Cup win.
Gladwyn was the two-time winner of the Moonee Valley Cup in 1914 and 1915 and she was probably fortunate to evade service in the AEF during World War I. She was foaled in 1909.
1934 winner Nightly was a multiple big race winner. Something about the name struck a chord with us and when we checked the lineage records, we learned that Nightly was by the British sire Night Raid, a disappointing racer that was a major sire responsible for Phar Lap and Nightmarch, the horse that denied Phar Lap in the 1929 Melbourne Cup. The line also includes New Zealand’s Carbine, a champion that we detail here:
Nightly won the Canterbury Cup, the C. B. Fisher Plate and the AJC Randwick Plate, amongst others.
Gilltown was the next multiple winner, saluting in 1939 and 1940. His other notable win was the 1939 City Tattersall’s Gold Cup.
By World War II, horses were not sent to the trenches or used for cavalry charges, so 1945 and 1946 winner Valcurl supplies us with our next multiple winner. Varcurl was a competent stayer that enjoyed a long career that led to wins in the 1948 VRC King’s Plate and he SAJC King’s Cup, both 12-furlong races.
Don Pedro was the 1947 winner. His other big wins were the Toorak Handicap, the L.K.S. MacKinnon Stakes, C. B. Fisher Plate and the Eclipse Stakes.
Hoyle was the dual winner in 1948 and 1949. The only other certain win we can attribute to Hoyle was the 1949 Coongy Handicap, so this horse was probably not the origin of the expression, “If all goes according to Hoyle.”
We ran through many subsequent years of the Moonee Valley Cup without encountering any winners worth mention.
We found a nice horse in 1972 winner Double Irish, although we freely admit we looked at him mainly for one of our old boozer orders from back in the days when we could tolerate that sort of thing. We learnt that Double Irish was by Ireland’s Better Boy that was four times Australia’s Champion Sire that sired 35 stakes winners.
Double Irish was an okay sort, winner of eight with 16 placings from 43 jumps.
Next we have 1982 winner Triumphal March. This was a U.S. bred horse that raced in England and was sent to Australia in 1982. He had eight wins and 11 placings from 39 starts. He won the Easter Cup at Group 3 level and ran second in a couple of Group 2s, including the J. J. Liston and Craiglee Stakes. He managed third placings in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes and the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes.
It would be easy to conclude that the Moonee Valley Cup did not get a lot of respect, as the winners’ list to this point has offered little by way of notable horses, but that changed when Sydeston won in 1989.
Sydeston was one of the better horses to claim the Apple Isle of Tasmania for a place of birth. He laid quite a path of wins. He made 65 starts for 19 wins and 17 placings. His best win was the Caulfield Cup in 1990, along with the Caulfield Stakes. Other good wins were the Sandown Cup, Mercedes Classic, Queen Elizabeth Stakes, J. J. Liston and St. George Stakes. He won more than $3 million and was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2016.
He was involved in and survived the spectacular crash in the 1992 Cox Plate that decimated the field.
We would have to say that other that 1905 Moonee Valley and Melbourne Cup winner Blue Spec that Sydeston was the top horse to win the Moonee Valley Cup, but his laurels quickly faded.
That is because the very next year, 1990, Kingston Rule was the winner.
Kingston Rule was a U.S. import sired by U.S. Triple Crown winner Secretariat, with the grandsire being Preakness Stakes winner Bold Ruler. The dam for Kingston Rule was Kingston Rose, winner of the 1976 Group 1 Doncaster Handicap.
Kingston Rule was not raced beyond 18 starts for four wins and six placings, but one of his four wins was the 1990 Melbourne Cup, where he ran the Flemington two-mile race in the record time of 3:16:30, a time that has not yet been bettered.
Kingston Rule ran third in a couple races to the legendary Better Loosen Up behind Sydeston, but a tendon injury took him out of racing and into stud duty, where he was a productive, although not great sire.
The 2006 winner of the Moonee Valley Cup was Zipping. Zipping won over $4 million from 45 starts. He won the Sandown Classic four consecutive 2007 – 2010. The Sandown Classic is now named the Zipping Classic in his honour and he was six years old the first time he won that race. He was nine when he won the Group 1 Australian Cup and Turnbull Stakes and he had won the Australian Cup the prior year as an eight-year-old. He ran second to Maldavian in the 2008 Cox Plate and in some ways, he reminds us of the likes of Black Heart Bart and Hartnell, both horses that were productive as older horses.
Americain was the winner in 2011. He won the 2009 Melbourne Cup, the 2011 Zipping Classic and was the Australian Champion Stayer in 2011. One of those he beat in his Melbourne Cup win was So You Think.
Prince of Penzance won the Moonee Valley Cup in 2014 and probably produced the boilover to end all boilovers in 2015 when he jumped $101 to win the Melbourne Cup.
Prince of Penzance can be seen winning the 2014 Moonee Valley Cup here:
A good winner was 2015’s The United States, although the horse was bred in Ireland. We wonder what the Emerald Islanders would think of a horse bred in the U.S. and named, well, The Emerald Isle, Luck O’ The Irish or something such.
Who Shot Thebarman was the 2017 winner. This successful gelding won over $4 million, including the 2018 Sydney Cup, a race in which he ran second in 2015 and 2017. He managed third in the 2014 Melbourne Cup behind Protectionist and Red Cadeaux, a couple of foreign raiders. He ran 11th in the Melbourne Cup the year Prince Of Penzance shocked the country.
Ventura Storm (2018), Hunting Horn (2019) and Miami Bound (2020) complete the list of winners prior to the 2021 edition of the Moonee Valley Cup.
The Moonee Valley Cup is one of the better races run at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate Day. There have been some notable winners, especially a few that went on to win the Melbourne Cup.
|Moonee Valley Cup Winners|
|2017||Who Shot Thebarman|
|2015||The United States|
|Prince Of Penzance|
|Court Of Honour|