Ascot Racecourse in Perth, Western Australia, is the site for the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes.
The race is a 1200-metre sprint run under weight-for-age conditions for horses aged three years and above. Currently, as of 2020, prizemoney for the race is $1 million.
The 2020 edition of the race was won by Elite Street, for which he earned $596,000 and a nice commission for his jockey Brad Rawiller and trainer Daniel Morton. Video of the race can be found at the following link.
History of the Winterbottom Stakes
We assume that the race got its name from its position at the bottom of winter, because we found no record of a horse by that name.
The Winterbottom Stakes was first run in 1952 as a Principal race during the middle weekend of the Perth Summer Carnival. When the Group classification system went into effect, the race went immediately to Group 2 level and in 2011, the race was run for the first time as a Group 1.
From its inception through 1993, the race was 1400 metres, that delicious spot that stretches the pure sprinters and challenges the milers that need to start their stretch earlier than in the 1600-metre races.
It was dropped to 1200 metres and has remained there since 1994.
That shift in trip seems to have attracted some of the better eastern horses to undertake the float to Perth, but the big boost came in 2015, when the prizemoney jumped from $750,000 to $1 million.
Venue for the Winterbottom Stakes
With the exception of 2003, when the Winterbottom Stakes shifted to Belmont Racecourse for one edition, the race has always been held at Perth’s Ascot Racecourse. That bit of information will be important further on in this article, as it presented a scenario that is rare in racing.
The name of the course, we suppose, derives from the famous course by that name in Ascot, Berkshire, England. Further, there is a Belmont racetrack in the state of New York, USA.
In a country that prides itself on dancing to a slightly skewed beat compared to the rest of the world, we often wonder why Aussies could not come up with some original names for its Western Australia metro racecourses.
We have some ideas if Perth Racing Club are interested.
On the other hand, the name of the race is quite charming, almost literary, like something you might encounter in The Lord of the Rings. If there had been a galloper named Winterbottom, we can speculate that if he or she had won a race or two, the MRC would have a race named after him or her.
All levity aside, Ascot, the one in Perth, is one of our favourite courses. When the herd gallops down the long straight on the north end of the course, they run along the scenic Swan River, providing a gorgeous backdrop for the racers.
Like many tracks, Ascot has a triangular shape. Races are run the proper Melbourne way, which is to say, anti-clockwise.
For 1200 metre races such as the Winterbottom Stakes, the races start opposite the grandstand, proceed down the back straight, run through the tight turn of the west side of the course and finish at the end of the straight.
Considering the tight turn that must be negotiated before the finishing straight, it is clear that inside barriers offer an advantage.
For a complete run-down on Ascot, including transportation, dress codes and available amenities, visit our profile of the racecourse here.
Racing History of the Winterbottom Stakes
A race with $1 million in prizemoney attracts a lot of owners and trainers. The Winterbottom Stakes is in an ideal place on the Thoroughbred racing calendar. It comes on the middle weekend of the Perth carnival. The first weekend features the Group 1 Railway Stakes and the Group 2 WA Guineas. The final weekend has the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic and the Group 3 A J Scahill Stakes.
It is within the realm of possibility that a horse could be sent west in mid-November for any of the three Group 3s Ascot holds in that part of the season, and then stick around to run the Winterbottom Stakes, finally concluding with the A J Scahill Stakes, possibly the Kingston Town Classic in the case of a horse that might be able to handle the 1800 metre trip.
All the top sprinters from the east are done with their spring campaigns for the most part and the Winterbottom Stakes offers the opportunity to add to the spring haul.
The early years of the race were dominated by local horses and that is still true, although to a lesser extent, as it is not the huge task it once was to get 450 kilograms of racehorse from one end of the country to the other.
Here is a look at some of the past winners of the Winterbottom Stakes and their contributions to the Sport of Kings.
The winner of the first Winterbottom Stakes in 1952 was Raconteur.
Along with being a great Thoroughbred name, Raconteur was a good horse, even if all his racing was in Western Australia. He won seven good races in his career and he sired 14 stakes winners.
Asteroid was next in 1953 and while Asteroid is not as keen a name as Raconteur, Asteroid was keen enough to win the Winterbottom Stakes a second time in 1955. He won the Strickland Stakes to go along with his two Winterbottom wins and like Raconteur, he was a handy sire that produced multiple stakeswinners. His line connected to Hyperion and Gainsborough, two Pom horses that figure prominently in many Aussie Thoroughbreds that produced good racing in the east.
To avoid getting too far ahead of ourselves, we need mention the 1954 winner Chestnut Lady. First mare to win the race, she was nearer the end than to the beginning of her career. She was foaled in 1948 and had been winning since 1951, including the South Australia Adelaide Guineas.
Another mare, this on Fairflow, won in 1957.
She won many of the same races as had those that preceded her, but she did something the others had not in winning the WA Oaks at 2400 metres.
On Guard was the winner in 1960.
His wins included the Railway Stakes that would eventually rise to Group 1 quality.
Nicopolis won a nice handful of races in Western Australia, including the 1962 Winterbottom Stakes. He also made a raid to the east, winning the Toorak Handicap twice, the Invitation Stakes and the J J Liston Stakes.
Big Bob won in 1963.
Other major wins include the Railway Stakes and twice winning the WA Lee Steere Stakes. He was a good sire with lines similar to some of the other winners and three of his progeny were responsible for 27 stakes wins.
Railway Boy, winner in 1967, was a good sort that never, unfortunately, won the Railway Stakes. He won the Lee Steer Stakes twice, though. Records from the era indicate that Railway Boy won 20 times.
Sherolythe won in 1969 and is credited with 19 wins, despite having a sire that did not even receive a name.
La Trice was the winner in 1970 and 1971.
She, unlike Railway Boy, did win the Railway Stakes, but was controversially stripped and relegated to second. La Trice is considered one of the better mares to come out of Western Australia.
We do not know much about 1972 winner Acello, other than to say he was the son of the first winner of the Winterbottom Stakes, Raconteur.
The 1974 winner, My Friend Paul, was bred in Kentucky and won six times from 29 jumps with 12 placings. He managed a second in the Railway Stakes and was notable to us because he raced in France, Germany, Italy, England and Australia.
Next, we have two-time winner, 1975/76, Belinda’s Star.
She not only won the Winterbottom Stakes twice, she won the WATC Prince Of Wales Stakes twice. Foaled in 1972, she was initially refused acceptance in the Australian Studbook, but she was admitted following an appeal in 1989.
We almost missed Marjoleo.
He won twice at Group 1 level when he took out the SAJC Marlboro Plate and the Railway Stakes.
We almost missed Marjoleo because we saw the name of the 1979 winner Asian Beau.
All Asian Beau did was to win 12 of his 18 starts and run third in one race. One of his wins was the Group 1 Railway Stakes, although the Group classification system was still a few years distant. Since 1995, here has been a Group 3 race named in his honour, the Asian Beau Stakes. We looked at his lines, expecting to see something from Hong Kong or there about, but the closest we came was a couple of Irish ancestors.
This entire time, we have been looking for Winterbottom Stakes winners that won in the east.
We found our target in 1987’s Placid Ark.
Placid Ark raced 21 times for 14 wins and three placings.
After a Group 3 win at Ascot in January of 1987, he exploded on the Flemington scene by winning the Group 1 Lightning Stakes and one of those he beat was Canny Lass. His next race found him winning the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate, where he beat Special into second for the second time and beating Rubiton into third. His third consecutive Group 1 win was the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington.
Placid Ark next won the Cantala Stakes when it was Group 2. There was one stretch in his career where he made 17 jumps for 13 wins and only one race where he failed to place.
The necessity of moving forward brings us to 2002 and 2003, when Hardrada won twice. Recall earlier in the article where we said we would be revisiting those years. The unique aspect to Hardrada’s two wins was that his first was at Ascot, while the second was at Belmont.
It is rare for something like that to happen and while we may be stretching for an analogy, think of Winx winning the Cox Plate at Caulfield rather than Moonee Valley.
We finally have a true great when we look at 2005 and see the name of Miss Andretti.
The Winterbottom Stakes was a Group 2 race when she won, but five of her other wins were at Group 1 level. She earned almost $2.9 million from 31 jumps for 19 wins and five placings. She was the 2007 Australian Horse of the Year.
Miss Andretti may have been the harbinger of eastern horses making the journey across the outback, because when we look at 2008, we see Takeover Target winning the Winterbottom Stakes that year.
He won or placed 31 times from 41 jumps, earning over $6.3 million in the process. He proved that I Am Invincible was not when he beat that great horse in the Group 1 Goodwood at Morphettville. He beat no less than Apache Cat when he won the Winterbottom Stakes. Another great horse he beat was Dance Hero in a 2007 race at Randwick.
Further details on this fabulous sprinter will be found here.
Ortensia from 2009 also won the race again in 2011. She won all over Australia and she raced and won in the United Arab Emirates and England.
Buffering saluted in the Winterbottom Stakes in 2013 and 2015.
Buffering, like Ortensia, won the Al Quoz Sprint in the UAE in 2016. He won the Victory Stakes in Queensland in 2011 and 2013 and he won the A J Moir Stakes in 2012, 2014 and 2015. He won over $7.2 million from 51 jumps for 19 wins and 17 placings.
Buffering can be seen winning in 2015 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZF6BzrTDc4M
Hey Doc won in 2019.
Retired after 32 jumps for 10 wins, five placing and over $3 million in prizemoney, Hey Doc had the pelts of quality horses such as Prized Icon and In Her Time. His last Group 1 win was the 2020 Group 1 Manikato Stakes, where he beat Trekking.
Hey Doc’s win in the Winterbottom Stakes can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsDGadD9eLo
As it has become easier and more economically viable, top eastern horses have ventured west in search of riches.
In earlier years, the Winterbottom Stakes belonged to the local horses, but as time progressed, some of the Western Australia gallopers made successful forays into the other states.
These days find the race the target of many of the top horses from across Australia that have finished their spring campaigns in the east and need something to do other than hang about the loafing shed.
|Year||Winterbottom Stakes Winners|
|1995||Jacks Or Better|
|1989||Carry A Smile|
|1981||Soldier Of Fortune|
|1974||My Friend Paul|