The Group 1 Railway Stakes is one of Western Australia’s premier races.
The race is staged by Perth Racing, the former Western Australia Turf Club and is one of three Group 1 races held at the track. The others are the Kingston Town Classic and the Winterbottom Stakes.
The Railway Stakes is run over 1600 metres under open handicap conditions for horses three years and above in the latter part of November.
Ascot Racecourse in Perth hosts the race and has every year since 1887 except for 2003, when it shifted to Belmont for one race while Ascot was unavailable.
Prizemoney for the Race is $1 million as of 2020. First prize of $590,000 went when Inspirational Girl won handily from Too Close The Sun. If there were such a thing as a boilover for running third, it would belong to Uni Time that ran third from $101.
History of the Railway Stakes
An old race such as the Railway Stakes has a rich history. For the first running in 1887, the Railways Stakes was held on Perth Cup Day. It was held on New Year’s Day in 1889, with no race held in 1888.
The race was moved to late November in 2001. It was held on a meeting day that used to be known as Super Saturday, when all of Perth’s big races, including the Winterbottom and the WA Guineas Stakes.
Perth Racing has now staggered its major races so that they are the foundation of a three-week long carnival.
Looking at early editions of the Railway Stakes, it will be observed that in some years, the race jumped in late December and early January in other years. Chronologically, then, there are some years where it appears that the race was not run, while other years appear to have held the race twice.
That remained a factor for the date of the Railway Stakes up until the race was moved to the last part of November in 2001, where calendar tricks do not affect its year.
The Railway Stakes was considered a 1-1/4 mile trip, approximately 2000 metres, from the first running through 1925. It was reeled in to a mile from 1926 through 1971. The first year following the adopting of the metric system in 1972, the race was 1500 metres. It was set for the current trip of 1600 metres in 1984.
The race grade was changed from principal race to Group 1 for the first time in 1979.
Interestingly, for a race with no age restriction other than over three years, only Tudor Mak has won the race more than once, those coming in 1966 and 1967. Luckygray won the race twice with an intervening year in 2011 and 2013.
Race Venue for the Railway Stakes
With the exception of 2003, the Railway Stakes has been held at Ascot Racecourse in Pert, Western Australia.
The finishing straight has a slight incline, which comes into play in staying races. If they were to shift to clockwise racing like they do in NSW and Queensland, the horses would get to run downhill to the finish, which strikes us as a good idea, but the incline is mild. We have heard Thoroughbreds that run well in the muck referred to as mudders and mudlarks, but racing needs a term for horses that run uphill nicely.
We’ll leave that to those with more imagination than we possess.
We love to watch racing at Ascot because we love the sight of the horses making their way down the back straight with the picturesque Swan River forming an idyllic background.
Complete details about the Ascot Racecourse can be seen here.
Racing History of the Railway Stakes
The current alignment of the Australian Thoroughbred racing calendar finds the Railway Stakes run on the middle weekend of Perth Racing’s three-weekend racing carnival, alongside the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes and the Group 2 WA Guineas.
Most of the winners, especially in the early days, have been the better horses local to Western Australia.
The race generally has a full field of 16 and some of the eastern owners and trainers have given the race more attention since the prizemoney was raised from $750,000 to $1 million in 2007.
The three top horses to have won the race were Carbine in 1894, Better Loosen Up in 1989 and Northerly in 2000. Better Loosen Up, Old Comrade from 2001, Modem from 2004 and Sniper’s Bullet from 2009 are the horses that have won the Railway Stakes – Kingston Town Stakes double.
Better Loosen Up deserves books and movies – more space than we can spare here, so here is our detailed racing biography of this champion.
Similar could be said of Northerly and we offer any interested in a more complete information to look here:
Carbine, of course, is considered legendary. While some of that legend has no doubt gained polish with the greater time back to that era when horses were so great that they practically competed in sprints and staying races simultaneously, but to say Carbine was versatile diminishes the meaning of the word.
Carbine won the Melbourne Cup in 1890 and the Sydney Cup that same year with a bonus Sydney Cup from 1889 thrown in. He won two 1400-metre races when he took out the AJC All-Aged Stakes in 1889 and 1890.
More about Carbine can be found here.
A significant race such as the Railway Stakes is going to have good horses in the field, even back when it was a dicey proposition to risk the journey from the eastern stables to Western Australia in terms of return on the expense of floating gallopers across the continent.
Racing experts will sometimes mention that the hot conditions found in Perth are favourable to local horses because they are acclimatised to the heat. Those experts will also mention the slight incline of the finishing straight as an advantage to the locals.
Unlike some of the million dollar races in the east, however, the Railway Stakes does not leave the barriers without 15 – 16 horses in the field, so the element of racing luck must be part of the calculations.
An inside barrier draw is an advantage.
At Ascot, 1600-metre races jump from a chute that juts off from the course proper and enters the sweeping turn on the east extremity of the track. Any horses caught outside here will add more than a few metres to their journey.
All that in mind, it is hard for any horse to win at Principal or Group 1 level, so here is a look at past winners that did not rise to the level of a Northerly, Better Loosen Up or Carbine.
The first winner of the race in 1887 was Nimrod.
As best we can determine, Nimrod won the race, but left little behind in the way of records. About all we can say is that there have been more horses named Nimrod, twenty-eight, than there were races won by this Railway Stakes winner.
Wandering Willie won in 1890.
Horses of that era were often asked to take trips well beyond anything run today and Wandering Willie won the WATC Queen’s Plate twice when it was a 4800-metre event. He won two Perth Cups over 3200 metres. The Railway Stakes he won in 1890 might have seemed like a sprint to him, because it was 2000 metres at that time.
Man O’ War was the 1907 winner.
He was the first by that name to make it into the pedigree database. Foaled in 1898, he was the first by that name and he would have been an old man when he won the Railway Stakes. Another Man O’ War came along a year later, but it was that foaled in 1917 that was the immortal U.S. horse that won 20 times from 21 jumps.
We noticed something intriguing whilst we were moving through the list of Railway Stakes winners.
The 1923 winner Jolly Handsome, the 1927 winner Jolly Odd and the 1932 winner Jolly Fair were all by Jolly Beggar. Jolly Beggar was a prodigious sire that raced and won in the east, including the 1913 AJC All-Aged Stakes.
The Railway Stakes was almost 100 years old before there was a multiple winner.
That was Tudor Mak and those wins were in 1966 and 1967.
Tudor Mak is credited with 12 wins, which means 10 after the two Railway Stakes wins are taken out. He won three races as a two-year-old and was a good Western Australia horse.
The next year, 1968, brought us La Trice.
This nice mare won some nice races in Western Australia. In 1970, she was first across the line, but she was relegated after a successful protest by Kilrickle that was given the win.
A notable winner from 1979 was Asian Beau.
It is interesting to speculate was Asian Beau might have done, but what he did do was make 14 jumps for 12 wins and one third. Another source credited him with the same number of wins and placings, but indicated that he may have made 18 jumps. He won the Winterbottom Stakes when it was still a Group 2 race. Ascot holds the Group 3 Asian Beau Stakes in his honour.
The next true great we encounter in the winners list for the Railway Stakes was Better Loosen Up in 1989. We mentioned him earlier and supplied a link to a biographical article on our site, so all we will mention here is that he won the 1990 Cox Plate and that his Railway Stakes win came in the midst of a streak where he made six jumps for five and one second. Well, we will also say that some of those he beat were Super Impose, Sydeston several times and Vo Rogue twice.
Bold Extreme, the 1996 winner, was a good horse that made 52 jumps for 16 wins and eight placings. Almost all of his starts were at Ascot or Belmont, with a handful coming from the provincial tracks.
We next find the name of Northerly next to the year 2000.
We supplied a link above to Northerly’s racing biography. Here, we will just mention two Cox Plate wins in 2001 and 2002, the 2002 Caulfield Cup, two Australian Cup wins (2001 and 2003) and two Underwood Stakes wins in 2001 and 2002). He won over $9.3 million. His 2001 Cox Plate win was over the champion mare Sunline, although the victory was sullied by three unsuccessful protests.
The winner for 2001 was Old Comrade.
He was one of the few that got the better of Northerly, which he did in the 2002 Group 1 Australian Cup at Flemington.
Modem from 2004 was mentioned earlier for winning the Railway Stakes – Kingston Town Classic double. He did the bulk of his racing in Western Australia, but he did have some jumps at Moonee Valley, Caulfield and Randwick, but his best result was a third in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes to winner Regal Roller with Super Elegant second.
Sniper's Bullet from 2009 was the last to win the double.
Those were to be his last two wins in a solid career that got its start at Rosehill, Randwick and Warwick Farm. He was a narrow loser to Gilded Venom in the 2008 Railway and a distant third to Niconero in the 2008 Kingston Town. His other Group 1 win was the 2007 Stradbroke Handicap at Eagle Farm.
Luckygray was a two-time winner from 2011 and 2013, although the first win came on an upheld protest for interference against He’s Remarkable. Any who are interested can see his dramatic 2013 win at the below link.
Scales Of Justice from 2016 was a good galloper by Not A Single Doubt that won over $2.3 million. After proving his mettle in Western Australia, he won the Group 1 Memsie Stakes at Caulfield in 2019, beating a couple good horses in So Si Bon and Alizee.
Galaxy Star from 2018 spent her entire racing career, 19 jumps, racing in Western Australia. She beat Gatting on a couple of occasions, but did not have what it took to beat Arcadia Queen when she tried for the Railway – Kingston double.
The final winner aside from Inspirational Girl from 2020 was 2019’s Regal Power.
He is still racing for Grant and Alana Williams and has William Pike for his rider. To this stage, he has won over $3.7 million, with his big win coming in the All-Star Mile at Caulfield.
The Railway Stakes is arguably the top race in Western Australia and has supplied some good winners over its long history.
|Year||Railway Stakes Winners|
|2016||Scales Of Justice|
|1998||Machine Gun Tom|
|1995||Jacks Or Better|
|1989||Better Loosen Up|
|1985||Valley Of Carome|
|1907||Man O' War|
|1891||Will O' The Wisp|