The Group 1 Newmarket Handicap is one of the marquee races of autumn Thoroughbred racing.
It is run under open handicap conditions, with the only stipulation being that racers must have won in the past at least once. The trip for the Newmarket Handicap is 1200 metres and the race is held on Flemington’s “Straight Six.”
Newmarket Handicap Race Details
Race Distance: 1200m
Prize Money: $1,500,000
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When Is The Newmarket Handicap: 9/3/24
What Time Is The Newmarket Handicap: TBA
Where Is The Newmarket Handicap: Flemington Racecourse
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More Details About The Newmarket Handicap
The prizemoney for the race is $1.5 million.
The 2023 winner was In Secret. She is by I Am Invincible out of Eloping, so both parents bring some better DNA to the union – a pedigree sprinkled with the likes of Danzig, Northern Dancer and Canny Lad on the sire side, with Choisir and Danehill on the dam side, with a little Bletchingly, Biscay and Baguette added for good measure.
She is having a spell after winning the Newmarket, but then losing out to some she beat earlier in the Group 1 T. J. Smith Stakes, where she produced her only race without a placing. Her impressive form line is 10 jumps for 6 wins and 3 placings for above $2.8 million in earnings.
In Secret collected $905,000 for her Newmarket Handicap win.
Like many Victorian Racing Club events, the Newmarket Handicap is shifted around the racing calendar. There were times when the race was run on what was dubbed “Super Saturday,” with the Group 1 Australian Cup and other top level Group grade races, but for now, the Newmarket is the feature race at a meeting with two Group 2 and three Group 3 races.
Those looking for form might look at any 1200-metre race at Flemington, which at time has included the Lightning Stakes, the Oakleigh Plate or the Australia Stakes. From the Newmarket, some gallopers might head to Moonee Valley for the Group 1 William Reid Stakes or the T. J. Smith Stakes at Randwick.
For certain, the fastest horse on the day wins the Newmarket Handicap, because the barrier draw and any negotiating of turns are eliminated as deciding factors. About the only strategy to be seen on the Straight Six might be some horses forming a group to the outside of the main pack. The Newmarket Handicap is the only race other than the Melbourne Cup to allow as many as 24 horses to jump.
History of the Newmarket Handicap
The race was first run in 1874 and was supposedly the idea of a VRC committeeman who thought it would be nice to have a sprint race amongst all the staying races that were common in the latter part of the 19th century.
The race is considered one of Australia’s premier sprint races, although it is hard to imagine a horse’s connections from turning noses toward any of the big money sprint races, so it is probably just as well that the Newmarket is held in the autumn while The Everest is a spring race.
As of the 2023 jump of the race, the Newmarket Handicap has been contested 150 times, but has produced just five gallopers that have been able to win the race twice. None have ever won three times.
This, despite the presence of names on the list that had the ability to win the race multiple times, including the 2011 winner Black Caviar. She tried the race just once, because she was never beaten and has her name on the winners’ list just the one time.
Those two to win twice were Aspen in 1880 and 1881, Gothic in 1927 and 1928, Correct in 1960 and 1961, Razor Sharp in 1982 and 1983, and Redkirk Warrior in 2017 and 2018.
The trip for the race was six furlongs from inception through 1972 until metrication in 1973 made the official trip 1200 metres.
For those who care about accuracy, we here supply the info that six furlongs is equal to 1,207.008 metres, give or take.
Similar to the trip, the grade for the Newmarket was Principal until the current grading system started appearing, which make the Newmarket a Group 1 race in 1979.
The only time the race has even been held elsewhere than Flemington was in 2007, when Flemington was undergoing a major renovation, which caused many races to find other venues.
Venue for the Newmarket Handicap
Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne traces it history back to 1840, when the nobles would race their imported gallopers on the alluvial flats of the Maribyrnong River. Admittedly, there could have been some good Oz born horses by that time.
To some, Flemington is simply known as “Headquarters,” the implication being that no other metro course in Australia is more important.
A key feature of Flemington affecting the Newmarket Handicap is the 700-metre chute that leads onto the home straight of the race. Races of up to 1200 metres are held on the “Straight Six,” which makes sprint races entirely a gauge of speed.
The most famous race at Flemington is the Melbourne Cup. Others, including the Newmarket, are the Victoria Derby, Australian Cup and the MacKinnon Stakes.
Over the course of a full racing season, Flemington is host to 14 Group 1, 9 Group 2 and 14 Group 3 races.
Racing History of the Newmarket Handicap
To say that the history of the Newmarket Handicap is an extensive history would be an understatement of epic proportions.
We will devote some space to the early years of the race, but the past two decades from 2003 through the present are filled with truly notable names, any one of which could be an article unto themselves.
We begin with the 1974 winner, because the first to do anything is instantly granted historical significance.
That 1874 winner was named Maid Of Avenel, so before we can begin to wonder if we will find a filly or a mare as the winner, we have ours.
Not much as survived the years by way of a racing record, but we do know that she won the Craven Plate, which is now a Group 3 race at Randwick. Neither do we have a progeny record for her.
We skip ahead now to the first dual winner of the race, Aspen, that won in 1880 and 1881.
Her two wins in the Newmarket are her claim to fame. We found one named foal for her, an 1886 filly by Larpent that does not seem to have had a major impact on racing.
A true notable was the 1884 winner, Malua.
Malua dropped in 1879 and started winning major races in 1884, with the Adelaide Cup in addition to the Newmarket.
He started racing in Tasmania as Bagot and along with winning over sprint trips, he won the 1884 Melbourne Cup seven months after winning the Newmarket, leaving us to wonder if we will ever see a day when sprinters can win staying races. Malua did something else that would be hard to fathom in today’s racing era. Two days after winning the Melbourne Cup, to win the Flying Stakes.
He was converted to a jumper in 1888 and won the VRC Grand National Hurdle.
Malua was in the second crop to enter the Australian Racing Hall of Fame. He was not an especially promiscuous breeder, but he was sire to 1891 Melbourne Cup winner Malvolio and 1900 Caulfield Cup winner Ingliston.
Wakeful was the winner in 1901.
She was in the first crop inducted into the Australia Racing Hall of Fame.
Her 44 jumps encompassed 25 wins and 16 placings, leaving her with just three unplaced jumps. She won everything in the years between 1901 and 1903, too many to mention, so we will just include that she won the Caulfield Stakes in 1901 and 1902, and the Melbourne Stakes in 1901, 1902 and 1903. Like Malua, she was versatile and proved such by winning the 1902 Sydney Cup. She ran second in the 1903 Melbourne Cup and was by that time so feared that she did not carry a jockey in the Cup – she carried another horse.
We next hit the pause button at 1926, the year a certain Heroic won the Newmarket Handicap.
Heroic won 11 races that are currently Group 1 grade. He went into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame the same year as Malua did. His big win, off a staggering form line of 51 jumps for 21 wins and 15 placings, was the 1926 Cox Plate.
He was a good sire after racing, where we will mention progeny such as Ajax, Hall Mark, Hua and Nuffield.
Heroic was followed by the next two-time winner, Gothic in 1927 and 1928. The two Newmarkets were not his only dual win; he also won the C. M. Lloyd Stakes in 1928 and 1929.
Gothic came to Australia in 1925 from his birthplace in England.
He was of good enough quality to beat Amounis in the 1928 Melbourne Stakes, but Amounis was too good for Gothic in the 1927 Cox Plate.
Our next notable winner was 1938’s Ajax, following in the hoof steps of his sire Heroic.
Ajax made 46 jumps, winning 36 and placing in nine. His best win was the 1938 Cox Plate, but he won the Linlithgow Stakes twice, the All Aged Stakes three times, the Memsie Stakes three times, Underwood Stakes three times and Melbourne Stakes two times. There was one stage of his racing career where he won 18 consecutive races.
He was not quite the stud his sire Heroic was, but neither was he a slouch by any measure. Thirteen of his output would win major races, such as the Epsom Handicap, Sires’ Produce Stakes, Doomben 10,000 and Australian Derby.
We feel compelled to mention Bernborough as the 1946 winner of the Newmarket Handicap.
This inaugural inductee to the Australian Racing Hall of Fame galloper won 12 major races in 1946, including 10 that are now graded as Group 1 races. He compiled the almost hallucinatory form line of 37 jumps for 26 wins and 3 placings.
He produced plenty of offspring, including nine that won above $100,000 back in the 50s, when that was a considerable amount, but his larger contribution in our view is the 13 sturdy offspring that each made more than 100 jumps, including one that started over 180 times.
The winner from 1948, Royal Gem was the owner of 51 jumps for 23 wins and 13 placings. His claim to fame was winning nine races that are now Group 1 grade, including the 1946 Caulfield Cup.
He was sold to connections in the U.S. for stud duties and had enough success to produce Dark Star, winner of the 1953 Kentucky Derby.
Forward once again to the third runner to win two Newmarket Handicaps, the 1960 and 1961 winner, Correct.
Correct was a 1956 born gelding of mainly French and British descent.
Not much has survived of his racing record, but he won at least one other important Australian race – the 1960 Victoria Handicap.
Another notable arrives as the 1971 winner – Baguette.
Baguette was the first winner of the Australian two-year-old Triple Crown, the term used to denote winners of the Golden Slipper Stakes, ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes and the Champagne Stakes, all NSW races we point out. In all, he won 14 major stakes races.
It was at stud where Baguette truly distinguished himself.
While only a few of his offspring were successful monetarily, but he produced offspring that in turn went on to sire better types, although he was sire to some good racers in Crown Jester and Dark Eclipse.
The next-to-last dual winner of the Newmarket Handicap was the gelding Razor Sharp in 1982 and 1983.
He made just 19 jumps, but he won 15 of those jumps. The Newmarket wins were his only at Group 1 grade, but he won the Group 2 Challenge Stakes three times from 1982 – 1984.
We are at a point now in the history of the Newmarket Handicap where we have not choice but to ignore some great racers, such as All Our Mob (1995), Rubitano (2002), Exceed And Excel (2004), Alinghi (2005), Takeover Target (2006), Miss Andretti (2007), Weekend Hussler (2008), and Scenic Blast (2009).
We want to write a few words about the 2011 winner, a certain mare named Black Caviar.
She could be racing and winning today, even though she is 17 years old as of this writing in April of 2023.
She was shut down from racing after winning 25 times from 25 jumps for just under $8 million, ostensibly to protect her value as a brood mare.
Unfortunately, in another instance of Thoroughbred fate, she has supplied five fillies and two colts but such capable sires as I Am Invincible, Exceed An Excel, Snitzel, Written Tycoon, Sebring and More Than Ready without producing one effective racer.
We now move to Redkirk Warrior that won the Newmarket Handicap in 2017 and 2018, the last to repeat.
He made 24 jumps for 8 wins and 2 placings, good for above $2.7 million in prizemoney.
Redkirk Warrior earned good sums outside of Australia. This northern hemisphere gelding raced and won in England and Hong Kong to supplement his $2.7 million AUD winnings.
He was beating quality horses to win races, including Brave Smash, two-time winner of The Everest Redzel, Voodoo Lad, Scales Of Justice and Merchant Navy.
He returned to try his third Newmarket in 2019, but time had caught up with the 2011 foaled galloper, and he bowed out of career by running 21st of 22 in his last jump.
He was beaten by the great Sunlight in that last jump.
Sunlight was known to have class by the time she won the Newmarket Handicap in 2019. She left a form line of 24 jumps for 11 wins and 8 placings for over $6.5 million.
She won a fat bundle by taking out the 2018 Magic Millions 2YO Classic. She also won the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes and the Group 1 William Reid Stakes.
The good winner from 2020 was Bivouac.
His form line of 22 jumps for 7 wins and 8 placings speaks to the practice of taking promising stallion off the track to work the sheds.
He won over $5.6 million while beating the likes of Yes Yes Yes in the Group 1 Golden Rose Stakes directly after beating the same racer in the Group 2 Run to the Rose. It was Loving Gaby he beat to win the Newmarket by 2.5 lengths. He beat Nature Strip to win the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic in 2020 by over three lengths.
The 2022 winner was Roch ‘n’ Horse.
She is listed as active and she is the product of a U.S. sire and a New Zealand mare.
As of this writing, she has made 22 jumps for 5 wins and 7 placings to earn above $3 million.
Hard to imagine that much money earned only to discover that she jumped $101 in the Newmarket, finishing well in front of a couple of $4 chances in Lost And Running and Home Affairs.
She was the only racer that jumped for a three figure price, causing a profound boil over.
Her last jump was a 9th of 11 in the 2023 All Aged Stakes.
The Newmarket Handicap is one of the top class sprints in all of racing and more so when the realm is edited to autumn racing.
The list of winners is far more than we could cover in the allotted space and we only hope we will recall this list the next time we are chronicling some dismal Group 3 race with only a few years’ history.
The Newmarket Handicap might not have the prizemoney of some of the mega races that have cropped up in recent years, but for connections, trainers and jockeys, the prestige associated with a Newmarket win furthers careers and brings all manner of benefits.
A large appeal to the race for everyone involved is that by taking place on the Straight Six, the luck of the barrier draw is removed from the equation, as is the necessity of having a galloper that runs well in the clockwise races, or in the case of the Newmarket, anti-clockwise.
Newmarket Handicap Past Winners
|2022||Roch 'n' Horse|
|2004||Exceed And Excel|
|2003||Belle Du Jour|
|1995||All Our Mob|
|1911||Queen Of Scots|
|1874||Maid Of Avenel|