Three-year-old fillies running under set weight conditions race the Group 3 Western Australia Oaks over 2400 metres at Perth’s Ascot Racecourse in late March or early April.
First place prize money of $164,400 out of the $250,000 pool was claimed by She's Fit. The other win by the young filly from her nine jumps was the Listed Grade Natasha Stakes that served as her lead-up to the Oaks.
WA Oaks Race Details
Race Distance: 2400m
Prize Money: $250,000
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When Is The WA Oaks: 30-3-24
What Time Is The WA Oaks: TBA
Where Is The WA Oaks: Rosehill Racecourse
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More Details About The WA Oaks
Pretty much anyplace that stages horse racing has an Oaks race, sometimes more than one Oaks race.
This Oaks in Perth is a challenging staying race for three-year-old fillies where it requires staying talent, always a scarcer commodity, more so for the location, the trip, and the age restriction.
When the race jumped in 2023, it was at a meeting that offered another staying race, this one the 2200-metre Listed Grade Melvista Stakes for three-year-old colts and geldings and a 1500-metre open handicap in the Listed grade Grandstand Cup.
It will mostly be the better locals lining up in the, but there are occasional times where eastern gallopers will seek fortune in the west.
The race was shifted from autumn to spring in 1986, so the race was run twice. It returned to the autumn calendar in 2002.
Other details are that the race was abandoned in 2001 and there was a dead heat in 1979.
History of the WA Oaks
The first jump of the race came in 1953.
The race was moved to Belmont, Perth’s other metro facility in 1983 and 2005, requiring it to have the rather rare quantity of 218 metres amputated. Other than the miniscule difference between distance measurement systems prior to the metric system being applied to racing, the race has been 2400 metres.
The race grade offers a rare but not entirely unique history.
A Principal race until the Group system was installed, the race was given immediate Group 1 status in 1979, but was lowered to Group 2 in 1992, and further reduced to Group 3 beginning in 2006. We recall a handful of instances where races have been reduced one grade, but this is the first one to attract our notice for being lowered twice, at least for the top three race grades.
Venue for the Western Australia Oaks
Ascot Racecourse in Perth, Western Australia serves as the home for the Western Australian Oaks with the earlier mentioned exceptions where circumstances shifted the race to Belmont Racecourse for two runnings.
The tri-oval Ascot Racecourse opened in 1848 and while the big metro courses predate Ascot by a few years, Ascot has received the appellation of the “grand old lady” of Australian Racecourses. Perhaps she is one of those rare old ladies that supply erroneous responses to inquires about their ages.
As of 2023, Ascot annually hods three Group 1 races, six Group 2 and nine Group 3 grade races, but stay tuned should the WATC decide that the Kingston Town Classic, the Railway Stakes, or the Winterbottom Stakes are no longer worthy of Group 1 status.
Situated on the banks of the Swan River, Ascot supplies picturesque views as the racers transverse the back straight.
For a 2400-metre race, the barriers are erected in straight chute that leads onto the home straight. After the finish line is crossed for the first time, they head onto a short straight that leads into a long, sweeping turn. Then, it’s down the back straight to the home turn and a relatively short 348-metre to the finish line, compounded due to the slight incline of the home straight.
Racing History of the WA Oaks
The race generally attracts the best local Thoroughbreds for reasons that Western Australia lies across the continent, making it logistically challenging to transport any racers from the east that care to race in Western Australia. Another reason is the scarcity of stayers in general, so that the eastern connections seek larger Group 1 races for their stayers, rather than ship them thousands of kilometres for a grueling Group 3 race.
We will examine the list of WA Oaks winners with our customary approach, looking for top earners, winners of major races and those that supplied good offspring.
The first winner in 1953 was the Kiwi filly, Copper Beech.
We suspect we will find many winners bred in New Zealand.
Copper Beech won many good Western Australia races, such as the Lee Steere Stakes, W.A. Champion Fillies Stakes and so on.
Her foalage was confined to three, but one of those, Artelo Bay, won the Perth Cup in 1971.
The 1954 winner Finesta was another New Zealand filly, but moving forward through the list, any others we find such as her, with limited racing accomplishments and zero or limited breeding accomplishments will be neglected in this brief facing history of the WA Oaks.
Dawdie was the winner in 1956.
She won four of the better races in Western Australia, moving up in trip. She was a consistent stayer that won as late as 1959 when she raced in Victoria and won the Eclipse Stakes.
Fairflow from 1957 fits the mold of types such as Dawdie that won in WA at various distances just because it was necessary in order to get sufficient jumps.
We have worked our way through the list to 1962, finding racers that won the WA races they had from which to choose, but the case of the reported winner for 1962, Activity, serves to demonstrate clearly that horses and races from Western Australia were given short shrift with regard to record maintenance.
One of our better data sources lists many horses named Activity. It was a simple matter to ascertain that the won foaled in 1958 was the one we sought. That led to the report that Activity was unraced yet was still credited with winning the WA Oaks.
It is no easy task compiling the vast trove of analog statistical data and presenting it in digital format and in the case of this source, we admire that instances such as these are infrequent.
The 1964 winner was Sweet Saga.
After winning the Oaks, she won the Railway Stakes later in the year.
We have space for the 1966 winner Muette.
She was typical of those that won the WA Oaks ahead of her, but she offers the best stud output to date – three colts and four fillies, three of which made it to the track and one that won five minor races.
In a list that has been mostly local WA horses doing the racing and winning the WA Oaks, the 1975 winner Vatilla sticks out.
She was similar in racing ability and racing results, but unlike many that were limited to one or none when it came to foals, Vatilla supplied seven, three of which won money, although hardly at amounts that could be considered significant.
The 1977 winner Adaptable could be rung in for Vatilla if similar racing and breeding results could be substituted for appearance.
The dead heat winners in 1979 were Gay Affair and Brechin Castle.
Gay Affair left a good form line of 24 jumps for 10 wins and 6 placings to take in $115,000 in prize money.
Her racing caught the attention and earned the services of Vain and Bletchingly, to mention two of the better stallions, but none of her five foals, all fillies, did much racing.
Brechin Castle made 48 jumps for 19 wins and 9 placings – enough to more than double the earnings of Gay Affair. Some of her wins were WA races that had been declared Group 2 grade when the Group grading system came into play.
Brechin Castle was a good breeder after racing, with nine named foals, including Palace Rain, a 1989 horse by Beau Sovereign that won over $564,000 from 22 jumps, including a Group 1 win in the Caulfield Guineas. A win in the 1993 Memsie Stakes found Palace Reign crossing ahead of Naturalism.
True Devotion won in 1984, and like all the winners of the WA Oaks between 1979 and 1991, she was credited with a Group 1 win.
Yet, there is no doubt that all of the winners were not interested in the grade of the race in which they were competing.
The 1985 winner, Contwig, raced in a fashion very similar to the other winners, but after racing she was a frequent consort to the Irish uber-stallion Sir Tristam that accounts for four of Contwig’s 12 foals. None of her offspring, including two by the good sire Western Symphony, returned much by way of prize money.
Send Me An Angel from 1986 gets credit for two Group 1 wins, including the Group 1 Australasian Oaks at Morphettville in 1987. She won the 1987 VRC Group 2 A V Kewney Stakes, making her one of the two to win/compete in the east. She won the race when it was being run during spring, while the winner from the April running in 1986 was Cologne.
Cologne won five significant races before supplying four ordinary offspring.
At the slight risk of missing something important, we are compelled to move far ahead in the history of the WA Oaks, in order to be fair to the more recent winners.
We are pausing for 2001, when the race was skipped to provide for moving it from spring and returning it to autumn in 2002.
The winner that year of 2002 was Honor Lap.
She made 24 jumps for three wins and nine placings to earn $356,000. She was of mostly northern hemisphere lines, with lines to a great grandsire named Secretariat, one of the winners of the U.S. Triple Crown.
Her racing ability delivered her the Group 1 WA Derby and the Group 1 WATC Australian Derby.
Her breeding ability saw her deliver seven foals to top sires, such as two by Zabeel, Teofilo, two by Hussonet, Fastnet Rock and Pins, but we can only verify one race win by the lot.
We have space for a few more, so we are pausing at the 2014 winner, Balmont Girl.
The growth of prize money can be seen by jumping forward 10 years or so.
Balmont Girl made 42 jumps for five wins and 11 placings to earn $860,000, yet she never won above Group 3 grade and she never raced anywhere other than Belmont and Ascot. The placings and good money runs in certain races account for her winnings.
It was our great good fortune to recognise the name of the 2015 winner Delicacy.
Although she carried an aristocratic pedigree that enabled her to win $2.1 million from 19 jumps for 12 wins and 5 placings, she could not beat infection and an allergic reaction to penicillin in 2020 was her cause of death.
She won three Group 1 races in 2015 when she took the South Australian Derby and the Australasian Oaks in South Australia, and added the Western Australin Derby, where she beat Boom Time. Her win in the 2015 Group 2 C B Cox Stakes saw her beat Black Heart Bart.
We knew that Tuscan Queen, the 2020 winner, was worth a look.
A daughter of Fastnet Rock, she needed only 10 jumps to win six races and place in one other for $580,000 in earnings.
Lady Chant, winner from 2022, was foaled in 2018 and it has already been decided that her 13 jumps for one win and four placings were enough to prepare her for breeding duty.
Western Australian racing can leave the impression that it is something of a junior league of Thoroughbred racing, the comparison of the VFL to the AFL serving as analogy.
Lower graded races such as the WA Oaks have our respect, as 2400 metres with an uphill finish is a big ask for three-year-old fillies.
WA Oaks Past Winners
|1986||Send Me An Angel|
|1960||Queen Of The Nile|