The Group 3 Begonia Belle Stakes is an 1100-metre sprint for mares aged four years and over.
It is run at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne on the first day of the Victorian Racing Club spring carnival. When the race debuted in 2005, it was held on the third day of the spring carnival, alongside the Group 1 VRC Oaks. It remained in that racing calendar slot until 2016, when it was moved to its current date.
Begonia Belle Stakes Race Details
Race Distance: 1100m
Prize Money: $200,000
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When Is The Begonia Belle Stakes: 2/11/24
What Time Is The Begonia Belle Stakes: TBA
Where Is The Begonia Belle Stakes: Flemington Racecourse
How To Live Stream The Begonia Belle Stakes
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More Details About The Begonia Belle Stakes
The running conditions are set weights plus penalties and the race offers $200,000 in prizemoney. That amount came on when the Begonia Belle Stakes was lifted from Listed to Group 3 in 2013.
The most recent winner, as of the month just ahead of the big spring races, was Minhaaj, a now-retired mare by Exceed And Excel from Telaawa.
Minhaaj made just 14 jumps and it seems clear she was never intended to be a race mare. The reason is clear when you look at her lines. On her sire’s side, see is connected to Danehill, Danzig and Northern Dancer and on her dam’s side, the names that pop are those of Lonhro, Octagonal and Zabeel. Her last race was the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 at Eagle Farm in May of 2022. She has not had time to produce any progeny.
A replay of Minhaaj winning the 2021 Begonia Belle Stakes can be viewed at the following link. The commentator in the video is speaking Cantonese, so we assume the video came from Hong Kong, where racing is a top code for punters.
History of the Begonia Belle Stakes
The Begonia Belle Stakes is the officially registered name of the race, although it has never been called by that name.
Begonia Belle was a 1964 outcome of the meeting between her sire, Great Britain’s Court Sentence and her dam, Australia’s Near Belle.
She was primarily a sprinter, with major wins in the VRC Lightning Stakes and the VRC Newmarket Handicap, but she also won some prestigious mile races – the 1967 Thousand Guineas, the 1967 Sandown Guineas and the Alister Clark Stakes.
The race debuted in 2005 as The Heaven Sprint. The next two years found it jumping as the Crown Trophy. It was the Crown Promenade Trophy in 2008, and then the Crown Promenade Stakes for 2009 and 2010.
The race was called the G. H. Mumm Stakes from 20011 – 2015, a name that had persisted longer than any other had.
The next year, 2016, saw the one-time use of the name Sensis Stakes and the year 2017 saw the name Skip Spring being used.
The most recent name for the race is the Furphy Sprint as the race is currently sponsored by a brewery in Western Australia that is part of the Kirin brewing empire.
The trip for the Begonia Belle Stakes has always been 1100 metres. They were too busy switching names to muck around with the distance.
The first four years of the race saw it classified as a handicap. It was promoted to Listed grade in 2009, and finally to Group 3 for 2013 onward.
Venue for the Begonia Belle Stakes
Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne is one of the most famous racecourses in the world, mainly for its staging of the Melbourne Cup, the “Race that stops a nation.”
Racing at Flemington was being conducted as early as 1840, although in those times, the racing would have been more along the lines of “Race you to the river and back,” as the flats along the Maribyrnong River were ideal for such contests.
Other notable races held at Flemington at Group 1 quality are the Victoria Derby, the Australian Guineas and the Newmarket Handicap.
As of 2022, Flemington presents 14 Group 1, 9 Group 2 and 14 Group 3 races.
Flemington is home of the “straight six,” a reference to a chute off the course proper that runs down the home straight that is 1200 metres is length, which is roughly equivalent to six furlongs.
Sprint races of 1200 metres or shorter are held on the straight six, so turning ability is not required and barrier draw is not critical, with the possible exception of firmer turf for the barriers further out from the rail.
Racing History of the Begonia Belle Stakes
The Begonia Belle Stakes is an entirely 21st century race.
It first jumped in 2005 at around the time when it seemed to be more challenging to come up with something different. A race for mares aged four years and above shows that there are only so many ways to add variety to horse racing.
We will be looking at the list of winners for any exceptional mares that possibly showed promise, but then were reduced to racing in a gender-restricted race as a last effort to recoup some of the investment required from breeding and raising a Thoroughbred to the point of winning money by racing and possibly burnish a mare’s worthiness as a breeder.
We will hopefully find a few Group 1 or Group 2 winners.
For the most recent jumps of the Begonia Belle Stakes, it is doubtful that those winners have yet had much opportunity to produce offspring, but the early years will possibly provide dams that did something notable in the barn by way of offspring that exceeded the racing of the dams.
We should be clear that in most instances, any fillies or mares that were of the top echelon of the Thoroughbred hierarchy would not be in this race if they had the ability to line up with reasonable possibility of success in the better sprint races.
There have been some mares that have tried the race more than once, but none has ever won more than once.
The winner of the Begonia Belle Stakes the first time it jumped in 2005 was named Covet Thee.
She made 36 jumps for 9 wins and 12 placings, but those results did not equate too much by way of prizemoney. Covet Thee earned under $300,000. The fact that she had so many jumps is the most damning evidence that she was nothing more than handy.
The Begonia Belle would be her last win and the race was still graded as a handicap at the time, without Listed or Group status. She won in field of 15 and one thing we would like to note is that the race does seem to field larger fields. Covet Thee jumped for $16 and she beat six shorter priced runners to win by two lengths.
Covet Thee supplied nothing of note with three named foals.
Street Smart was the winner in 2006.
She did most of her racing in Queensland and much of that was on country tracks. She had 13 jumps before she managed to win a three-year-old fillies’ race at Eagle Farm in 2005. Her next win after that was at Randwick in February of 2006 when she won the Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes, another three-year-old fillies’ race.
That win came as a surprise to many, as she jumped $51, third longest in the field of nine. She had ability sufficient to run third in the 2006 Group 1 Doomben 10,000, but she was beaten two lengths at the end.
That result inclined her connections to line her up for the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap at Eagle Farm next up, but she ran 17th of 20. She won the Begonia Belle for her last win. She survived a fall at Ipswich in Queensland when she and three others went down, and then raced twice more before retiring.
She won almost $500,000, but her line of 46 jumps for 3 wins and 13 places ranks her.
Her only named foal was a 2010 gelding by Street Cry named Two Way Street that was a far cry from Street Cry, making only four jumps.
Soleil, the winner in 2007, won the Begonia Belle Stakes in her last race.
Her best win was the Christmas Stakes, Listed grade at the time, at Caulfield in 2006. Her lines were very similar to those of the first two winners of the race, with some good blood on her dam’s side represented by Marscay and Biscay. We did not locate any offspring for her.
Beaming was the winner in 2008.
It was the last and best of her four wins. She produced nothing as a breeder – one foal by Starcraft that only found the track one time.
Very Discreet, the winner from 2009, was quite a bit better than the earlier winners were.
She earned over $350,000, not exactly heady prizemoney, but she needed only 16 jumps for six wins and five placings in order to do it. She won three Listed grade races in a row at one stage, the last being the Begonia Belle.
She was better at stud as well. She was by Exceed And Excel, so she was served by some better stallions, with her best being a 2014 colt by Lonhro that won almost half a million dollars.
There is little to be said for the 2010 winner.
It was Status Symbol and we mention her only because she was the winner that led up to the notable Ortensia winning the Begonia Belle Stakes in 2011.
She was better than most and the winner of Group 1 races in Australia, the Middle East and England. She won the Winterbottom Stakes in Western Australia in 2019, when the win was worth a Group 2 trophy and she won the race again in 2011 after it had be lifted to Group 1 grade. She was first across the line in the Group 1 Galaxy Stakes in 2010, but was later disqualified.
Ortensia made 38 jumps for 13 wins and 7 placings, earning almost $2.5 million. She was by Testa Rossa, but she died at the age of 10 while in foal to Redoute’s Choice. She produced two named foals, but neither accomplished much.
She is probably the winner that would cause us to wonder what something of her quality was doing in this race.
The next winner in 2012 was Honey Flower.
She beat Dystopia narrowly to win the race, but it was her last and best win. When she returned to try the race in 2013, she was beaten handily by Dystopia in her last race.
She had foals by Written Tycoon, All Too Hard and Press Statement, but none of those met with any substantial success.
When the race was promoted to Group 3 grade in 2013, Dystopia was the mare in the right place at the right time.
She was good, although not better than Ortensia. She won over $640,000 from 34 jumps for 7 wins and 13 placings, supplying a decent return on investment for Redoute’s Choice stud fee. Dystopia’s win came in her third try at the race.
With the Begonia Belle Stakes now a Group 3 race, the quality of the winners began to improve.
Vain Queen from 2014 won over $550,000, but she made just 16 jumps for 7 wins and 1 placing. The Begonia Belle Stakes was her last win, but it was a doozy – almost four lengths to second place Bounding.
She was better as a racer than as a breeder, as Redoute’s Choice and Sebring were the sires of her two foals, foals that did nothing of note as racers.
A replay of Vain Queen winning the Begonia Belle Stakes can be viewed at the following link.
A mare by Ireland’s Street Cry, Pittsburgh Flyer was the winner in 2015.
It was her last and best win. Four subsequent jumps produced nothing better than a fourth, a 12th and two next-to-lasts.
Pittsburgh Flyer was the best breeder of the lot. She only supplied two named foals, both fillies. One was by the American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and the other was September Run by Exceed And Excel that would win over $2.2 million from 20 jumps.
Sheidel from 2016 was a better type.
She won almost $1.7 million from 35 jumps for 15 wins and 7 placings. She raced and won extensively in Western Australia. She had good results in Group 1 races and finally broke the Group 1 duck in 2017 when she won the Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield.
We did not locate a progeny record for Sheidel. We assume she did not produce any.
The 2017 winner was Lyuba.
Who? You might say, but she was a bit of all right. She won close to half a million dollars from 19 jumps for six wins and seven placings.
Lyuba beat a good galloper in Savanna Amour for her win in the Begonia Belle Stakes. She has not foaled yet and may never. Divine Quality by Sepoy out of Nun Faster was the 2018 winner.
She had no business running in the 2019 Group 1 Newmarket Handicap and her 19th place finish proves the point. We suspect she does not have any offspring.
We found a notable in the 2019 winner, Tofane.
She won over $3.6 million from 30 jumps for 8 wins and 9 placings. Her first Group win was the Group 3 Northwood Plume Stakes at Caulfield and she won the Begonia Belle Stakes next up.
Tofane beat Pierata to win the Group 1 All Aged Stakes at Randwick in 2020. She then won Group 1 races back to back in 2021 when she won the Stradbroke Handicap from Vega One and the Tatt’s Tiara at Eagle Farm. Her final win was the Group 1 C. F. Orr Stakes in February of 2022. Her final four jumps produced a third in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes, an eighth in the special condition All-Star Mile, a second in the Group 1 All Aged Stake at Randwick and a 12th in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes at Caulfield.
Finally, we have the 2020 winner, Fiesta.
A technical glitch prevented us from gaining a thorough examination of her race record, but we can allow her 33 jumps for 5 wins and 10 placings and earnings above $1.5 million.
She was by I Am Invincible from Now Now and in her jump previous to winning, she won the Group 3 Northwood Plume Stakes from Felicia.
Make no mistake; the Begonia Belle Stakes is a charity race for older mares that have not been blessed with the ability to win major races, with rare exceptions.
Only Ortensia and Tofane offer anything noteworthy. There were a few that won at Group level and several that did okay at stud, but that is about it.
Begonia Belle Stakes Past Winners
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