The Group 2 Western Australia Guineas is a 1600-metre race for three-year-olds. It is open to either gender and is run at set weights, with colts carrying 56.5 kg and fillies 54.5 kg.
The race jumps at Perth’s Ascot Racecourse in November, on what the Perth Racing Club calls Super Saturday on the middle weekend of the Perth Summer racing carnival. The feature race of the meeting is the Group 1 Railway Stakes.
Prizemoney is $500,000, which is well above the ARB threshold of $350,000 that is the minimum for Group 1 status, but there are other factors involved in race classification.
The most important effect of race grade is observed in the stud fees. A Group 1 winner can expect a higher stud fee, while an equally talented horse that has not won above Group 2 will expect lower fees.
The winner of the WA Guineas in 2020 was Watch Me Dance.
Anyone who wants to watch a reply of Watch Me Dance running to win the race can do so at the following link.
History of the WA Guineas
First run in 1937 as a birthday observance of the Queen’s Official Birthday, a floating holiday that is moved to suit the calendar. Western Australia celebrates Western Australia Day, or Foundation Day for the traditionalists, on the first Monday in June, which is fine, because the day can be tacked onto a weekend.
The Governor of Western Australia determines the date of the holiday. When there is a King, as opposed to a Queen ruling the show, it might be called the King’s Official Birthday and that was the case in 1937 when the WA Guineas jumped for the first time. Following the death of George V in 1936 and the ascension of Edward VIII, the WA Guineas was first held after Ed Eight’s coronation.
Both those monarchs had birthdays in June, but that seems more or less coincidental, as the holiday is observed at a convenient date that is spaced properly between other public holidays.
When you are the King or Queen, you get to decide which day will commemorate your birthday, which is one of the last perks of being a Royal.
Flexibility is a key ingredient in the holiday scheduling business and the WA Guineas has always been run in November. The race date has been constant, the Saturday meeting that marks the second of the three weekend racing meetings that comprise the Perth summer carnival.
The race grade has been consistent, too. It was classified as a Principal race from the 1937 inception through 1978 and was one of the earlier races to be run after the ARB moved to the current Group classification system. It has been run at Group 2 level ever since.
The trip has been consistent as well. It was a mile until metrification, and then became 1600 metres in 1972.
Fun fact: The difference between a mile and 1600 metres is nine metres, with the mile being the larger. The race has been run 49 times through 2020, with the gallopers saving 441 metres of work in that period of time. That is 141 metres further than the length of the Ascot Racecourse home straight.
Venue for the WA Guineas
Other than 2003, when Ascot was out of service and the race shifted to Belmont, the WA Guineas has always been run at Perth’s main metro racecourse, Ascot Racecourse.
Most racing followers are familiar with the Royal Ascot Racecourse in England, but only a few recall that from 1904 – 1941, there was an Ascot Racecourse in Sydney. Like Caulfield, the military used the location for a military camp during World War II, but unlike Caulfield, the course did not reopen after World War II. The site is now part of the Sydney Airport. The last remaining trace of the Sydney Ascot course are fig trees that used to line the entrance to the course that are now near the airport’s car park. These trees are being preserved as a cultural heritage preservation scheme.
We have a detailed examination of Ascot on the section of our website that covers all the major tracks. That examination can be seen by here.
Racing History of the WA Guineas
As might be expected, the WA Guineas has been dominated by local horses. While the prizemoney now is respectable enough to lure some of the eastern gallopers, it was not always the case.
In 1992, for example, many years after the race had achieved Group 2 status, prizemoney for the race was just $75,000, with $52,500 going to the winner. That is not the sort of money that would convince trainers and connections to undertake the effort and expense to get their good three-year-olds across the country.
By 2000, the race was above $100,000 in prizemoney, but the winner received $68,000, while second was worth just $18,000, third $8,000, fourth $4,000 and fifth $2,000.
Owners and trainers with good three-year-old milers would prefer the Group 1 Railway Stakes for the same trip or the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic for gallopers that might be suitable for the extra 200 metres of that race.
This is not to say that there are not good horses bred in Western Australia. Only that those good horses would probably not want to go to the bother of traveling east to race in Victoria or NSW for Group 3 and Listed Races any more eastern horses would want to run in a race that offers third place runners only $45,000.
Here is our look at some of the past winners of the WA Guineas, beginning with 1937 winner Footmark.
Footmark was a New Zealand entire that also won the Western Australian Derby that same year, so his trip to Western Australia was profitable.
The WATC Derby was run in April when Footmark won. What he was doing in the months between the two races is not known to us, but the WATC Derby holds a dubious distinction for having been demoted from Group 1 level to Group 2 not just once, but twice. The first time was in 1992. The race climbed back to Group 1 in 1994 and was reduced to Group 2 from 2012 forward.
The winners from 1938 through 1940 were Gay Prince, True Flight and Romanette.
Gay Prince won five time in 1938, all in Western Australia. Along with the WA Guineas, the other wins were the Strickland Stakes, the Sires’ Produce Stakes the WA Derby and the C.B. Cox Stakes.
Duplication amongst race names is common and we must note the Sires’ Produce and the C.B. Cox Stakes are different from the Sires’ held in Victoria and New South Wales and the WA Cox Stakes should not be mistaken for the W. S. Cox Plate in Victoria.
True Flight did not seem to do much in terms of major wins other than the WA Guineas.
Romanette won six good races. She won the Karrakatta Plate in 1939 and several other races.
The race was paused in 1941 and 1942 as the financial restraints imposed by World War II dictated that the money go toward the war effort.
With 1943 to 2020 to examine, we will look at each winner, but only record that winner here if it was able win at Group 1 level, to move east and produce victories, had some other compelling aspect, or might qualify for the Pro Group Racing Hall of Fame.
We made it from 1943 until 1951, where we found Chestnut Lady as the WA Guineas winner for 1951. She won in South Australia, which is a liberal geographical application of our win in the east criterion, but she was a good Western Australia horse that posted wins from 1951 through 1955 and she satisfied one of our other criteria by winning the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes, even if her win was 27 years before any horse one a Group race.
The winner for 1951, Raconteur, is the first we have encountered that made a lasting impression. Like Chestnut Lady, he won the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes, a race in NSW and another in Victoria. He was also a good sire that produced 14 stakeswinners.
The 1956 winner Fairflow won the 1957 Winterbottom Stakes and managed to stretch to 2400 metres to win the WA Oaks.
In 1960, Chestillion was the winner. It was a good year for him, with four good wins, the best being the WA Derby that is now Group 1.
Nicopolis, winner in 1962, ticks off some of our boxes by winning the Group 1 Toorak Handicap twice, the VATC Invitation Stakes, the J. J. Liston Stakes and the Group 3 Victoria Handicap at Caulfield.
Rock Drill was a good horse that won in 1964.
While he did not win interstate, he won 11 times, including the Group 2 Perth Cup and the 1965 WA Derby.
Jolly Aster won the race in 1966 and he is credited with winning 16 other times, but nothing in the east, or at least, nothing significant.
Heliolight, 1967 winner, was owned by Lee Steere, namesake of the Lee Steere Stakes and was the Horse of the Year in Western Australia.
A good mare named Millefleurs won in 1972 and sneaks into our article because she won the 1973 STC Queen Of The Turf Stakes and the VATC Invitation Stakes that same year. Our source indicates that she won 10 races.
Ngawyni, winner in 1975, lists 19 wins and eight placings from 43 jumps. He was a big winner in the east, winning the Group 1 Australian Cup in Victoria, and two Group 1s in Sydney – the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the STC Hill Stakes.
The horse Rare Flyer won in 1982 and while it does not appear that he had any success or jumps in the east, he won the Group 1 WA Derby that same year.
Importune was a good New Zealand horse that won in 1984.
His chief claim to fame in our view is that he was by Imposing that was by Todman that was by Star Kingdom, with Hyperion another two generations back. His pedigree was sort of our Thoroughbred version of the Book of Genesis. Plenty of horses named Genesis including one from Australia, but none with Book Of as part of the name.
The 1985 winner was Ever Ready.
He was a Victorian horse that won the Group 2 Chirnside Stakes (now the Schillaci Stakes) in 1987.
We mentioned Classy Dresser, the WA Guineas winner in 1992, when we were examining the historical prizemoney of the race. He qualifies for the PGR Hall of Fame for making 83 jumps. He did okay in those 83, winning 14 times and placing 28 times.
Bradson was a good gelding that won the WA Guineas in 1995.
He earned over half a million dollars, which was not so easy to do in that era of racing in Western Australia, from 48 starts for 15 wins and 12 placings. He ran five races in Victoria, with the best result being the second to Tarnpir Lane in the 1997 Memsie Stakes.
Summer Beau was the 1996 winner.
He ran second to Might And Power in the 1998 Group 2 Hollindale Cup. It took a good horse to be anywhere near Might And Power. He won the 1996 and 1997 Group 1 Fruit And Vegetable Stakes, the race that became the Kingston Town Classic. His other Group 1 win was in the Queensland Derby.
Old Nick, the 1998 winner, like Summer Beau, won at Group 1 level in the Fruit And Vegetable Stakes.
2007 winner Megatic won the Kingston Town Classic for his Group 1 win.
Playing God won in 2010.
He earned over $1.5 million, including the Kingston Town. He jumped a few times in Victoria, running third in the Group 1s Australian Guineas, the Australian Cup, the Turnbull Stakes and the C F Orr Stakes.
Academus, winner in 2012 was a NSW bred horse that did quite a bit of racing in Queensland, with his best result being a third in the Group 1 T J Smith Stakes at Eagle Farm.
The WA Guineas winner from 2013 was Ihtsahymn.
He won over $1.4 million and qualifies for the PGR Hall of Fame for making 60 starts for 11 wins and 13 placings. His Group 1 win was the Kingston Town Classic.
The 2014 winner, Rommel won at Group 3 level in Victoria when he won the Zeditave Stakes. We though Rommel was a bad choice of names until we learned that at least 15 other named Thoroughbreds were named Rommel, to which we can only say that at least they were not named Hitler.
Man Booker, the winner from 2015 managed to earn over $1 million by winning 12 times with three placings from 27 jumps without ever winning above Group 2 grade.
Perfect Jewel won in 2017. She did try racing in the east and her best result was a Group 3 win in the 2020 Cockram Stakes at Caulfield. She did come within a nose of beating Mystic Journey in the Group 2 Four ‘N Twenty Stocks Stakes at Caulfield.
It required until 2018 to find a great galloper in the form of Arcadia Queen. She was a Western Australian bred horse that worked for Western Australian royalty, trainers Grant and Alana Williams and mainly ridden by Western Australia king of the jockeys William Pike.
She won almost $4 million form just 16 jumps for eight wins and four placings. After winning the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic at Ascot in December of 2018, she won the Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes at Rosehill by easily beating Trope.
She won the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes from Russian Camelot, the Group 1 Mackinnon from Fifty Stars and also came close in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes, beaten half a length by Probabeel and well in front of Mr. Quickie in third.
War Saint won in 2019. The replay can be seen here:
The WA Guineas has Group 1 money, but not Group 1 status.
The race has provided a few notable winners, but even the best of them, Arcadia Queen, was a local horse.
|Year||WA Guineas Winners|
|2020||Watch Me Dance|
|2002||The Right Money|
|1994||Tip The Pro|
|1988||My Bobby Boo|
|1959||Queen Of The May|