The Moonee Valley Oaks is a Group 2 race over 1600 metres for three-year-old fillies run at set weights. It is run on Cox Plate Day and offers $300,000 in prizemoney. It was first run in 1996.
History of the Moonee Valley Oaks
As a newer race, the Moonee Valley Oaks does not have the extensive history that many Australian races claim, but it is a good race that attracts fillies that need time to develop and whose connections think are not yet ready to compete with males at the top levels of Australian Thoroughbred racing.
Many great Australian champions have been fillies and mares and when the likes of Makybe Diva, Black Caviar and Winx are considered, it could be the case that the Moonee Valley Oaks is for fillies that are too strong for the colts and geldings of the same age.
The race history does reveal that the race has had almost as many names as there have been winners.
It ran from the beginning through 2004 as the Moonee Valley Oaks, which is the official name, although many simply refer to it as the Moonee Valley Fillies Classic.
Over the years, various sponsors have added their name to the race. It was the Woodstock Mile (2005), the Woodstock Classic (2006), the Hollylodge Classic (2007) and simply the Thoroughbred Classic (2008).
Bookmaker Sportingbet added its name in 2009. For 2010, the race was the Moonee Valley Fillies Classic. Sportingbet took over in 2011 and 2012.
Jeep Fillies Classic (2013), Drummond Golf Fillies Classic (2014), Alliance Broking Services Fillies Classic (2015), P.W. Glass Fillies Classic (2016), italktravel Fillies Classic (2017), Aquis Farm Fillies Classic (2018) and Antler Luggage Fillies Classic from 2019 are the other names that have been used. The 2020 race was sponsored by Lexus and was named the Lexus Fillies Classic.
The race used to be held in the autumn and it was originally the identical 2040-metre distance to the Cox Plate, so it could have been viewed as a Cox Plate prelude or something of the sort.
After 2004, the race was shortened to 1600 metres for 2005. It was shortened to 1500-metres in 2006 through 2009 and set to the current distance of 1600-metres in 2010.
The race grade was Listed at the outset. It moved to Group 3 for 1999 and 2000 before being made Group 2 in 2001.
Venue for the Moonee Valley Oaks
Moonee Valley Racecourse was established in 1883 of farm property belonging to John F. Feehan. William Samuel Cox bought the land for the purposes of setting up a racetrack.
Cox would become the first Secretary of the Moonee Valley Racing Club and eventually the honoree of having the Cox Plate named for him.
The track sits in the Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds and is just six kilometres from the CBD.
The track is just over 1800-metres around and has the shortest straight – 173 metres – of any track in the country. The shortness of the straight is offset somewhat by the sweeping turn leading into the straight, but being in front and on the speed is a valuable tactic for the course.
Racing History of the Moonee Valley Oaks
Just A Runner was the winner of the inaugural race in 1996.
The name aptly summarises her career. The race was 2040 metres when she won. She won only three other times from 22 starts and earned less than $100,000. She had no Group wins.
Star Cossack was another of those that failed to make it to the top ranks. Her 1997 Moonee Valley Oaks win was arguably her best, but she deserves some credit for winning a few races over trips ranging from 1100 to 2500 metres.
The race dead heated in 1998, with the victory divided between Kensington Palace and Champagne. Those two met on several occasions and staged some fine battles. Champagne was the winner of the last race in which Kensington Palace took part, the Group 1 Ansett Australia Stakes (2000 m) at Rosehill.
Kensington Palace had a big win in the Group 1 Victoria Oaks in 1997 and although she made only 15 starts, she won over $1 million.
Champagne went on to earn almost $2 million from 19 jumps. Her final two races brought a win in the Group 1 MacKinnon Stakes and a second to Jezabeel, another Zabeel progeny, in the 1998 Melbourne Cup.
A True champion emerged to win the Moonee Valley Oaks in 1999.
The filly’s name was Sunline, one of the more significant champions of the Australian turf regardless of era.
When she won, the race was held during autumn, and the race was still being run at 2040 metres, so when she came back in the spring for the 1999 Cox Plate, it was like old times and she cruised to a 1.5 length win over Tie The Knot, taking the lead by the 800-metre mark.
Her racing record was quite remarkable and included another Cox Plate in 2000.
A New Zealander, she won two Doncaster Handicaps, two All Aged Stakes, two Coolmore Classics and two Waikato Sprints.
She won other big races and was the recipient of numerous awards, including three time Australian Horse of the Year and the Australian and New Zealand Racing Halls of Fame.
She won 32 times and placed 12 times from 48 jumps, including 12 from her first 14 starts.
Sunline won over $11 million.
Further details on this great champion can be found here
Hill Of Grace won the Moonee Valley Oaks in 2000.
She is not well known, nor was she especially successful, although she won over $1.7 million. Hers was mainly a case of persistence. She won only five races and placed in nine others. She was tried 42 times.
Hill Of Grace shares a New Zealand origin with Sunline, and that’s about it. She lost to Makybe Diva and Lonhro, but more than a few could make the same claim. Like Champagne in 1998, Hill Of Grace also won the Group 1 Ansett Stakes at Rosehill in her next race. It was to be her last win. In the 2001 Melbourne Stakes won by Ethereal, Hill Of Grace ejected Corey Brown to post a lost rider result.
The 2002 winner, Elegant Fashion was sort of the best horse you never heard of, although she deserves more accolades than she received.
She only won eight races, with 13 placings from 29 jumps, but she managed to turn those results into $6.8 million. She won the Angus Armanasco Stakes and the Kewney Stakes, both Group 2 races, just prior to winning the MV Oaks. She made a boatload of money racing in Hong Kong, but when she returned to Australia for her final two races, she posted a ninth in the Cox Plate and a fourth in the MacKinnon Stakes.
Special Harmony won in 2004. She did not make an exception amount of money, at least not by comparison to earlier winners Sunline and Elegant Fashion. She did earn over $1.8 million, though, and was three time Group 1 winner.
The 2005 winner was Dizelle. She was by Zabeel out of Danelagh and she had a stellar pedigree. She managed to win $983,000, with her best win being the Group 1 AJC Oaks that same year.
Zabeel played a role in the lines of 2006 winner Pure Harmony. He was the grand-damsire and Pure Harmony shared much blood with Special Harmony.
Anamato won in 2007 and was a Group 1 winner of the Schweppes Oaks in South Australia. She was sent to the U.S. in 2001, and then spent some time in the U.K. as a broodmare before returning to Australia. She was by Redoute’s Choice, so obviously a sought after breeder she was. She never won in Australia after the Yanks wrecked her, most likely by galloping her on dirt.
2008 winner Absolut Glam was one of those we call a handy type. She won the Group 1 Winter Stakes at Eagle Farm. That race and the Moonee Valley Oaks account for half her win total.
Romneya won in 2009 and had an okay career, but she was a Goldolphin horse that could not meet Goldolphin expectations.
2010 winner My Emotion was another winner with lines that included Zabeel. She was by Cox Plate winner Savabeel.
Another Kiwi horse by Zabeel, Lights Of Heaven, won the race in 2011. She earned beyond $1.5 million and won or placed in 18 of her 23 starts. She won the Group 1 Australasian Oaks to win her fourth race from her first four tries. They put her in the 2012 Melbourne Cup, but all she could manage was a sixteenth.
In 2012, the Moonee Valley Oaks was run twice. After being won by Empress Rock during the autumn, the race went to Kazanluk in October.
Empress Rock was by Fastnet Rock, but she made only six starts for three wins and two placings. Kazanluk made just five starts, was mainly a northern hemisphere horse, and was another Goldolphin horse that did not have many opportunities.
The 2013 winner, Gypsy Diamond, was another winner that experienced elevated expectations as a progeny of Not A Single Doubt, with Redoute’s Choice as a grandsire. She did all right for herself, but the Fillies Classic, as the race was known that year, was without doubt her best win.
Much the same could be said of 2014 winner Lumosty, except she was sent to Japan as a broodmare.
My Poppette won in 2015 and it was her most notable win from seven jumps.
Yet another Zabeel product shows up in 2016 winner Nurse Kitchen. She was by Savabeel, so she was a half-sister to 2010 winner My Emotion.
The 2017 winner, Banish, was by Lonhro with Octagonal as her grandsire. The sire of Octagonal, unless you have already guessed it, was Zabeel. Banish made only eight starts.
Mystic Journey won in 2018. Along with Sunline, it would have to be said that these two were the only truly significant winners of the Moonee Valley Oaks, respect for Elegant Fashion notwithstanding.
She was a bargain at $11,000 as a yearling at the Tasmanian Magic Millions Sale. She won the Group 1 Australian Guineas at Flemington, but she repaid her investment with a win in the first All Star Mile, which brought her over $2.2 million. You can see her win the Moonee Valley Oaks here, but you can’t listen unless you understand Mandarin.
La Falaise won in 2019. She is still racing as of mid-2021, but she is still dealing with a Not To Race stewards embargo.
Yes Baby Yes is the most recent winner in 2020. She is doing okay, but she was far from a bargain compared to Mystic Journey, selling for $120,000 at the 2019 Gold Coast Yearling Sale.
The Moonee Valley Oaks, or the Moonee Valley Fillies Classic if you prefer, is the sort of race that is mainly of interest to budding stayers, as many of the fillies that line up will be found in longer Group 1 races such as the Cox Plate or the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
It was interesting to see the influence of New Zealand horses, especially Zabeel, in the lines of many of the winners.
Sunline was the only winner that went on to great heights, but many of the others acquitted themselves fairly, winning Group 1s and placing well in other big races.
When the race began as an equal trip to the Cox Plate, but run in the autumn, it supplied an interesting foreshadowing of the Cox Plate, except that with the exception of Sunline, no galloper has ever won both the Moonee Valley Oaks and the Cox Plate.
None ever will, either, unless for some reason or other the Moonee Valley Race Club decides to extend the trip. Not likely, given that it is harder and harder to fill a field with good staying horses.
|Year||Moonee Valley Oaks Winners|
|2020||Yes Baby Yes|
|2019||Dead Heat La Falaise - Fascino|
|2011||Lights Of Heaven|
|2000||Hill Of Grace|