The Western Australian Turf Club runs the Group 2 set weights WATC Derby for three-year-olds over 2400 metres at Ascot Racecourse in Perth during April.
Prize money for the WATC Derby was $400,000 in 2023 and the top prize of $219,200 was claimed by Awesome John.
WATC Derby Race Details
Race Distance: 2400m
Prize Money: $400,000
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When Is The WATC Derby: 13/4/24
What Time Is The WATC Derby: TBA
Where Is The WATC Derby: Ascot Racecourse
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More Details About The WATC Derby
He is truly awesome, as are all Johns. He jumped second favourite in the race, his last in Australia before exportation. The win in the WA Derby was predictable, even though the favourite She’s Fit might be the better galloper, because as everyone, including Awesome John knows, if Bill Pike is steering, Ascot race wins are as certain as the waves coming to the shore.
He made 13 jumps for 3 wins and six placings, with most of his wins coming on NSW country tracks. The WA Derby was his only jump in Western Australia.
Many people say Western Australian Derby when speaking of the race; we will be writing of it and will simply call it the WA Derby.
The WA Derby has undergone many changes through the years, including race dates and grade.
It was initially a summer race until it was moved to April in 1988. Five years later it was again a summer race, but since 2002, the race has occupied an autumn slot on the racing calendar.
With set weight running conditions, colts and geldings carry 56.5 kg and fillies are given 54.5.
History of the WA Derby
The race dates back to the 19th century, first jumping in 1888.
An extensive history such as this includes things such as the race jumping twice in 1993 due to a schedule change and other moves from summer to autumn on two occasions. In 2005, the race was shifted to Belmont.
The 2400 metre trip has never varied, although the trip would have been given as 1-1/2 miles prior to metrication in the early 70s.
The race was Principal grade until the ARB’s Group classification system came along and made the race Group 1 in 1979. It was demoted to Group 2 in 1992 and returned to top grade in 1994 until 2012, when it was once again lowered to Group 2 grade.
Venue for the WA Derby
Ascot Racecourse in Perth is the site for the WA Derby.
The course opened in 1848 and is located eight kilometres east of the Perth CBD. Four years later saw the founding of the of the Western Australian Turf Club.
Modern times find the track host to three Group 1, six Group 2 and nine Group 3 races.
The course layout is a tri-oval that presents a 300 metre slight incline to the finish line that is a challenge for stayers sprinting to the line after 2100 metres of racing.
For 2400 metre races at Ascot, the barriers are erected near the head of the home straight. Stayers then cross the finish line after their first encounter with the slope on the home straight. Next comes a tight turn leading onto a short straight, followed by a long sweeping turn that puts the racers onto the Riverside straight. One more turn leads onto the home straight and the racers take on the incline for the final time to finish on the south side of the course.
Racing History of the WA Derby
A heritage race such as the WA Derby supplies a rich history simply for the number of times it has jumped. The race first jumped in 1888 and there has been a WA Derby for every year that has passed since.
The race was not run in 1987 when it was moved forward to run during autumn racing that year. That would put the lie to our earlier claim of continuity, but for the fact that the race jumped twice in 1993, jumping first in May and again in December.
Include the fact that the WA Derby jumped twice in 1899 and it might appear that there have been more WA Derbies run than there are calendar years since the first jump by one, however, the race was abandoned in 2001, so it’s back to even between jumps and calendar years, with our tongue-in-cheek speculation that there was no WA Derby in 2001 because no one could figure out when it was.
The race has been won mostly by the more talented locals, particularly in those early years when the cost and logistics of moving racehorses across the country made little sense to the eastern connections and was a needless risk for the western connections.
There are some familiar and notable names on the winners’ list, but not a bundle. We will look at those in chronological sequence, and then we must resort to random picking from the list, with more attention on the late 20th and early 21st century winners that have left some reliable racing and breeding data.
We must mention the inaugural winner of the WA Derby – Harridan.
She had an Aussie sire and dam, with more than a few Australian ancestors, on her dam’s side at least, something not commonly found in late 19th century pedigree lines.
The Crash won the race in a walkover in 1891. We assume this means that he ran unopposed. The owner of The Crash, having a fresh winner on his hands, entered The Crash in the 4800 metre Queen’s Plate and this is where history deserts us. We found one source claiming that The Crash had won the race; another source placed him fourth.
There were two winners in 1899. Ormuz won on the first day of 1899 and Wairiri won on December 30, one day shy of an entire year. This is the sort of thing a calendar will do if you are not careful – you wind up with a race jumping twice in one year due to the way the weekends and the Saturday meetings line up. We could include our views on leap days and Daylight Savings Time, but we have exhausted our audience on those topics.
There is little to be said about Ormuz and perhaps less for Wairiri, other than her sire being 1884 Melbourne Cup winner Malua.
We found a good winner from 1909 named Jolly Beggar.
Jolly Beggar won seemingly every race in Western Australia. He won the Perth Cup in 1910 before turning up in NSW in 1913 to win the Doncaster Handicap and the All Aged Stakes. He was competent in 1914, with wins in the St. Geroge Stakes and the C M Lloyd Stakes.
His foal-getting record does not look complete – just 19 named foals – all of which apparently went begging at the track.
The 1919 winner was the legendary Eurythmic.
Like Jolly Beggar, he was too good to race for the Sandgropers, so he headed east and won the Caulfield Cup and a slew of other major races, including a brace of Melbourne Stakes (1920 and 1921), and a hat trick’s worth of Memsie Stakes and Caulfield Stakes. He tried the Melbourne Cup as a four-year-old, but lost the only race he lost that season, running fourth. He tried again the following year but was bumped into pulling up.
He died of heart failure in 1925 with less than two seasons of stud work. His offspring were transparent shadows of his racing prowess.
A good winner from 1934 was Hyperion.
Wait, hold on, it was not THE Hyperion. The WA Derby winner foaled a year following THE Hyperion. Western Australia Hyperion was not a bad sort; he won the races all good Western Australin winners should claim, WATC races ranging from seven to 13 furlongs. Reused Thoroughbred names are a bane for us and the WA Derby also offered an 1894 winner named Carbine that was not THE Carbine.
At the minor risk of missing something worthwhile, a major race winner, an earner of big prize money, an exceptional offspring or two, we are moving ahead to the 1979 winner, Mighty Kingdom.
That is not exactly an oft-used name, but there was an Australian Mighty Kingdom that dropped in 1955 that was sired by Ireland’s Star Kingdom.
This Mighty Kingdom, winner of the WA Derby in 1979, dropped in 1976 as a son of Planet Kingdom, hence the grandson of Star Kingdom.
This second Mighty Kingdom was the better racer, with Group 1 wins in the Caulfield Cup, the WA Australian Derby, the Marlboro 50,000 and the Caulfield Stakes.
He was an average sire in terms of quantity and below average in terms of quality, as records indicate that the six offspring that won money from racing accounted for a total of about $225,000.
We were seeking, hopeful even, that 1992 WA Derby winner Heroicity had some lines to Heroic, but there was none. Heroicity was entirely northern hemisphere on the side of his Irish sire Cheraw. That line revealed the legendary U.S. racer Man O’ War. His only southern hemisphere blood was from his Kiwi dam Fleeting World.
Heroicity won above $1.1 million from 37 jumps for 10 wins and six placings. He took The BMW in NSW in 1992 for one of his Group 1 wins, where he put Rough Habit into third by over two lengths. His other Group 1 win was the WATC Australian Derby.
Heroicity was a productive sire for many years, but only his three top earners brought in above $100,000.
The 2000 winner was the mare Old Money.
She came from the sort of line that most owners would view as too valuable to risk racing, so after 11 jumps for five wins and one placing, where she managed to bring in $419,000, she headed for the breeding sheds and supplied four named foals, one of which was Trap For Fools by Poet’s Voice that won nearly $2.3 million.
It would be criminal for us to write about the history of the WA Derby without some mention of the 2004 winner, Mr Sandgroper. It may have been equally criminal to back him, as this gelding won or placed 14 times from 38 jumps.
He was just average, despite having lines to the likes of Nureyev, Northern Dancer, Nearctic and Nearco. The lines on the side of dam Game Warrior were exceptional, too, with the likes of Rancher, Brave Lad, Bold Ruler and Mintaway adding to the mix.
A good filly by More Than Ready, Dreamaway was the winner in 2011.
Her 30 jumps supplied six wins and six placings, earning her just above $800,000. She beat Playing God comfortably to win the WA Derby. Two jumps at Caulfield and one at Flemington exposed her when she went up against the eastern horses in the Group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes and the Toorak Handicap and finished well out of placing to the extent that she returned to Western Australian and produced some good placings.
We identified two colts and two fillies out of Dreamaway, but good sires such as Savabeel and Bernardini failed to get anything from her.
The winner from 2016 was Arcadia Dream by Domesday. Her dam was Arcadia, the same Arcadia that foaled Arcadia Queen.
Arcadia Dream was good. She earned over $600,000 from 14 jumps for five wins and five placings. Her stud output to 2023 shows foals from 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Gatting was the winner in 2017.
This good gelding by Hard Spun has impressive ancestors on that side of the table, while on the side of dam Stubborn, such names as Lonhro, Octagonal and Zabeel are found.
Gatting earned above $2 million from 49 jumps for 11 wins and 14 placings. He beat Mystic Journey and Mr. Quickie to win the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes in 2019, supplying an epic boilover jumping $101 to Mystic Journey’s $2.05.
In 2022, Alaskan God proved to be the best in the field on that day.
This gelding, despite the name, has almost zero U.S. blood, let alone any Alaskan blood, where the breeding tends to trend more in the direction of dog sled dogs. There was a distant connection to Vain on his sire’s side.
He is still racing, with a current form line, as of late September 2023, of 14 jumps for five wins and one placing. That form has supplied $528,000. He last jumped in early September 2023 to run fifth in the Group 2 Feehan Stakes.
Racing in Western Australia is sometimes viewed the way The Victorian Football League is viewed by the Australian Football League – something of a qualifying ground to get into the big money eastern races, although the 2400 metre trip is not an easy distance from which to seek many chances.
The race has provided some better winners, but it is tough to give credit for a Group 1 race win when the WA Derby has been relegated to Group 2 grade since 2012.
WATC Derby Past Winners
|1985||Rant And Rave|
|1931||Isle Of Astur|