Not long after the first W S Cox Plate, the Group 1 William Reid Stakes brought another big feature race, this one for the sprinters, to The Valley.
The Moonee Valley Racing Club presents the race during the autumn carnival season, typically in March. It is run under weight-for-age conditions and thus features the top class sprinters, mainly from Melbourne, but with some interstate horses as well.
The William Reid Stakes is 1200-metres in trip. Horses must be at least three years of age.
Prizemoney for the race is $500,000. The winner received $300,000 for the race run in 2020. Second place is worth$90,000 and the third runner claims $45,000.
History of the William Reid Stakes
The race was first run in 1925 as the William Reid Stakes. It is named in honour of a former Moonee Valley Racing Club committee member and Horse Racing Australia owner who had two-time Caulfield Cup (1912, 1914) winner Uncle Sam in his stable. Uncle Sam tried valiantly to fill the Cups Double in 1912, but he ran third to Piastre. It was a big Melbourne Cup win for jockey A. Shanahan, who would win the Melbourne Cup again in 1913, this time aboard Posinatus. Those two shared more than a jockey.
Piastre was by Positano of Great Britain, while Posinatus’ grand dam sire was the exact same Positano.
For the years 1994 and 1995, the race was named the Australia Made Stakes. It then shifted to simply the Australia Stakes for 1996 – 2009.
The William Reid Stakes has always been 1200-metres, excepting the minor difference between the old system, where the race was six furlongs, prior to metrification in 1973.
From the inaugural year of 1925 through 1979, it was a Principal race. The Group system found it as Group 2 quality from 1980 – 1986, after which it was made Group 1 and remains so.
There has never been a William Reid Stakes that dead-heated, but the race was not held in 1936 and 1943.
There was one occasion, 1995, when the race was shifted to Flemington Racecourse.
Most recently, the William Reid Stakes has been run on a Friday evening. It is considered the season finale of the night racing season, at least that is the declaration of the official MVRC website.
Moonee Valley Racecourse dates back to the first decades after racing became well established in Australia.
William Samuel Cox was the founder. He bought a farm from John Feehan with the express intent of using the land for a racecourse.
The track is a traditional oval with four more or less equal turns, save for the fourth, which is more sweeping and open than the other three.
There is a straight starting chute at the east end, with a diagonal strip of turf that cuts through between turns two and three.
Racing History of the Group 1 William Reid Stakes
Weight-for-age racing always supplies the top horses and while the William Reid Stakes does not date back to the years when some of the truly great races were established, the list of winners of the William Reid Stakes is a distinguished list.
The first two editions went to The Night Patrol in 1925 and 1926. This horse won the Cox Plate in 1924 and almost made it a brace when he ran second in 1925. Those same years he won the Reid, he took out two Linlithgow Stakes. The Night Patrol was bred and foaled in England by an English royal named Lord Rosebery and shipped to Australia under the ownership of George Rous, the third earl of Stradbroke in Australia.
Next up was Heroic in 1927.
Heroic was a champion by any criterion. Its wins included the 1926 Cox Plate and a slew of other major races, after which he went on to be the leading sire in Australia for seven years from 1933 to 1939. Heroic entered the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2003.
Then came Gothic in 1929.
Gothic was not quite as prolific on the track as was Heroic, but he still won plenty, including two Newmarket Handicaps. That same year he won the Reid, he also too the C. F. Orr Stakes.
A two-time winner from 1934 and 1935 was Heros. Heros was by Heroic and was foaled in 1928, so he was an older horse. His other big win was the VATC Futurity Stakes.
Like the Melbourne Cup winners we mentioned above, Heros can trace his lines to Positano, but three generations back on the distaff side.
The next big winner was 1946’s Tranquil Star. Her victory in the Reid came at the waning years of her career as an eight-year-old. She won the Cox Plate twice, 1942 and 1944. She claimed three St. George Stakes and three LKS MacKinnon Stakes. She also won the 1942 Caulfield Cup, switching from staying to sprinting races as she aged.
Tranquil Star “only” won 23 races, but she made an astounding 111 starts.
The 1951 winner of the William Reid Stakes was Comic Court. Comic Court was already made in 1951, having won the Melbourne Cup and other major races in 1950. He made “only” 54 starts, but won 28 times and entered the Hall of Fame in 2009.
The first three-time winner was the lesser-known horse Flying Halo. He would have been well known at the time for winning the William Reid in 1952, 53 and 55. His other big wins included the Caulfield, Underwood and Orr Stakes and the C.M. Lloyd Stakes in 1954 and 55.
Another lesser-known but capable dual winner was Golden Doubles in 1957/58. Like Flying Halo, Golden Doubles was a winner of the C.M. Lloyd Stakes and the Orr Stakes, along with the 1953 Caulfield Stakes.
We now skip forward to 1973/74 to find All Shot winning.
All Shot was a Kiwi horse that we found impressive for having made 77 jumps in what we would consider a lengthy career were it not for Tranquil Star. Like many of the others to have won the William Reid, All Shot won the Orr Stakes, a couple of Linlithgow Stakes. His big win would have been the 1973 AJC All-Aged Stakes.
The 1978 winner was Family Of Man, another campaigner with 78 starts to his ledger. He won 21 times, including the 1977 Cox Plate. Family Of Man set the table for undoubtedly the greatest racer of all-time in the William Reid Stakes.
For the next five years, 1979 to 1983, the William Reid Stakes belonged to Manikato.
Of course, during his reign, most races belonged to Manikato. We cover him in detail elsewhere, https://www.progroupracing.com.au/horse-racing-articles/race-horses/manikato, but here we will mention that along with the five William Reid wins, he owned four Futurity Stakes wins to go with earlier wins in the Golden Slipper and Blue Diamond Stakes from 1978.
Nineteen eighty-eight gave us Vo Rogue, which like many of the others, enjoyed winning the C F Orr Stakes, three times in his case.
The famous Zedative won in 1989. In 1991, formidable sprinter Redelva was the winner.
Hareeba was first past the post in 1995. He also won the George Ryder Stakes in 1995, but was later disqualified. When he won the William Reid, the race was in that two-year period when it was called the Australia Made Stakes.
Many good horses won the race between 1996 and 2004, including Bomber Bill and Miss Pennymoney, but the next significant winner was 2005’s Cape Of Good Hope.
Cape Of Good Hope was based in Hong Kong, but he managed to make some bones in Australia, running third in the Lightning Stakes in 2006. Other big wins include the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes and high finishes in Japan and Hong Kong.
The first decade of the 21st century supplied Miss Andretti in 2007 and Apache Cat in 2008 and 2009.
Those two, some of the better sprinters to grace the turf, set the table for 2011 winner Black Caviar. She won again in 2013. She was never beaten in her career. Anyone interested in further details should visit this page: https://www.progroupracing.com.au/horse-racing-articles/race-horses/black-caviar
Spirit Of Boom (2014) and Lucky Hussler followed, two names most racing fans will immediately recognise.
Sunlight won in 2019 after winning the Magic Millions 2YO Classic in 2018, along with the Silver Slipper Stakes as a two-year-old, followed by the Coolmore Stud Stakes in 2018 and the Newmarket Handicap in 2019.
In winning the William Reid, Sunlight went to the front, was never headed and practically walked home. She can be seen here:
The Group 1 William Reid Stakes has featured some of the top racers from any era, typical of weight-for-age racing, as we have seen from other w.f.a. races.
It is doubtful that any horse will ever equal or surpass Manikato’s five wins, because no stallions are kept on the track long enough to win that many and even the geldings seldom try the same race five times.
The William Reid Stakes will continue to attract top sprinters in the years to come and it seems likely that the next dual winner will not be long in arriving.
|Year||William Reid Stakes Winners|
|2014||Spirit Of Boom|
|2006||Virage De Fortune|
|2005||Cape Of Good Hope|
|1978||Family Of Man|
|1952||Flying Halo 7|
|1926||The Night Patrol|
|1925||The Night Patrol|