The Champions Sprint (VRC Sprint Classic) is a Group 1 weight-for-age sprint of 1200 metres held at Flemington Racecourse, currently on the last day of the VRC Spring Carnival.
The race is considered one of the top spring sprints, although it experienced a drop in prizemoney for 2020 to $1.5 million, while in 2022, the prizemoney pool went to $3 million. It had been $1 million for 2018.
Champions Sprint Race Details
Race Distance: 1200m
Prize Money: $3,000,000
How To Bet On The Champions Sprint
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Champions Sprint Betting Tips
1. Tips Will Be Updated Closer To The Race
When Is The Champions Sprint: 9/11/24
What Time Is The Champions Sprint : TBA
Where Is The Champions Sprint: Flemington Racecourse
How To Live Stream The Champions Sprint
To live stream the VRC Sprint Classic (Champions Sprint), TAB Account Holders can watch the race live.
More Details About The Champions Sprint
Run on the Flemington “Straight Six,” the race attracts the top sprinters, some of which come into the race after running in The Everest at Randwick. True, the pay is not as good as it is for The Everest, but horses have to race and the VRC Sprint is as good a spot as any.
History of the Champions Sprint
When the VRC Sprint Classic at Flemington was first run, the Melbourne Cup had jumped 99 times. While the VRC Sprint Classic is not classic in the sense of dating back to the early origins of Australian horse racing, it is a classic in the sense that it attracts top sprinters. A look at some of the recent fields for the race reveals multiple Group 1 winners, which makes the race a challenging punt.
The 2020 race the sprint stars Bivouac (winner), Nature Strip (second) and Libertini (third). Zoutori, Hey Doc and Graff were in the field as well. With such a strong field, it is only a minor surprise that 2018 winner Santa Ana Lane could finish no better than ninth of ten.
When the race was first run in 1960, it was called the Craven ‘A’ Stakes, a name that persisted through 1979. Pure-Pak Stakes was used from 1980 – 1984. Various sponsors have added their names to the list over the years. These were Gadsden and Southcorp Packaging covering the years from 1985 – 1995.
Many will remember when the race was known form 1996 – 2006 as the Salinger Stakes. It was The Age Classic for the year of 2007.
Many punters and racing fans still refer to the race as the Patinack Farm Classic, although that name was used only from 2008 – 2012.
The name VRC Sprint Classic first appeared in 2013 before yielding to Darley Classic from 2014 – 2017, with VRC Sprint Classic re-emerging for 2018.
Darley was back in the name in 2019. It remained unchanged for 2020. Given the pattern over the years, it would seem a new name would come along around 2024.
The race has always been 1200 metres, if we can be forgiven for equating the old trip of six furlongs to 1200 metres.
Something that has changed is that the VRC changed the running conditions from handicap to weight-for-age for the 2007 race, making 2006 winner Dance Hero the last to salute the race as a handicap.
Weight-for-age does eliminate all the whinging over weight impounds, as every trainer, every connection and every fan of a galloper is convinced that their horse is being unfairly burdened.
The race has shifted around the calendar a bit.
In 2006, the VRC moved the race from the first day of the VRC Spring Carnival to the last day, perhaps the result of having too many Group 1 on the first day of the carnival, Derby Day.
The race was classified as Principal from the first year through 1978, after which it was given Group 1 status.
Race Venue for the Champions Sprint
The race has always been held at Melbourne’s Flemington Racecourse. As a 1200-metre sprint, the race uses the Flemington straight. This makes the barrier draw irrelevant for the most part. We have observed that most of the gallopers are steered out from the rail a bit to run on turf that has not been trampled by earlier races in the meeting.
Flemington is to Australia what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris or the Grand Canyon is to the U.S.A.
If you are in France or the U.S., it is almost mandatory to see those places and if you were in Australia, the visit would not be complete without a gander at Flemington, hopefully on a race day. We suppose you should also see the Opera House in Sydney, hopefully on a day when sopranos are not screeching and breaking glass.
A more complete run down on Flemington can be found here:
Racing History of the Champions Sprint
With its prime spot on the racing calendar, the VRC Sprint Classic is sort of the dessert of the Spring Carnival. When it was on the first day, it was the appetiser of the Spring Carnival. Come to think of it, the slot it now occupies, combined with Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes, sort of makes it a dual main course of the Spring Carnival.
With a healthy prizemoney pool and the apparent preference for sprint races, it is no surprise that the VRC Sprint Classic attracts the top horses.
What is a bit surprising is that for a race that has never had an upper limit for an age restriction, there have not been more multiple winners. Possibly this goes to show the strength of the fields for the race or the factor that the slightest misstep coming out of the barriers in such a short race is costly. Yes, there can be cases of good winners choosing to run elsewhere rather than accept the challenge of the race.
For certain, if we had been fielding a horse when Black Caviar was trying the race, we would have prepped our galloper for a Wednesday meeting at Sandown, or even somewhere further beyond the metro tracks.
Here is a look at a few of the significant winners to win the VRC Classic and a bit about their racing careers.
The winner in the first race was Karina in 1960.
We often associate New Zealand horses with staying races, but Karina was a mare that could run fast over the shorter trips. She raced before digital record keeping came into use, but we do know that she was born exactly two months before the persons writing this article.
Learning this about her made us like her more. It also kept us away from reading obituaries in the daily to look for dead people that were born on the same day or after us.
When a race is new, as was the VRC Sprint Classic back in the 60s, it sometimes takes a while for the trainers and owners to build the race into their preparations, so the first winner that left much of a record was the New Zealand mare Ripa, the 1963 winner.
Ripa won 12 races in addition to the Sprint Classic and she offers further proof that the Kiwis can breed sprinters. She won the Sandown Guineas, Toorak Handicap and the VRC Newmarket Handicap in record time. She was fast.
Star of Heaven was the next winner in 1964. Foaled in 1961, he was impressive as a two-year-old, narrowly missing the VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes and placed in the Golden Slipper in NSW.
The first truly significant winner we find is 1969’s Vain. He was the epitome of a champion sprinter. He raced just 14 times, winning 12 and running second in the other two starts. Vain won the STC Golden Slipper Stakes by four lengths and the AJC Champagne Stakes by 10 lengths.
He was the great grand-sire of Black Caviar on the sire side and the great-great grand-sire of Black Caviar on the dam side.
Vain was taken from the track to serve stud duty. He sired 44 stakes winners that amassed 96 stakes wins. Some of his notable progeny were Inspired, Kenmark, Mistress Anne, Rainbeam and Sir Dapper.
One of the horses to get the better of Vain was a New Zealand colt named Daryl’s Joy that also won a Cox Plate and the Victoria Derby, and then went to the U.S., where he won staying races on the dirt.
More about Vain can be found here:
More winners of the VRC Sprint Classic can be found on our page regarding Australia’s top horses.
The great mare Maybe Mahal was prepared by Bart Cummings. Along with the Sprint Classic win in 1976, she won six Group 1 races – the Doomben 10,000 twice, the VRC Lightning Stakes twice, the Newmarket Handicap and the Doncaster Handicap.
We find our first multiple winner in 1983 and 1984 in River Rough. Another Kiwi horse, River Rough won the VRC Sprint Classic when it was the Pure-Pak Stakes and the VRC Lightning Stakes twice and a couple other major races.
Jumping forward four years, multiple winner Planet Ruler won the race in 1989 and 1990.
Planet Ruler would be a shoe-in for the Pro Group Racing Hall of Fame, if there were one, for making 61 jumps and winning almost $1.5 million. He was successful in his racing start in Queensland, at one point winning 10 races in a row at Eagle Farm and Doomben. He won the Group 1 Elders at Caulfield in his second start in Victoria. He won major races at Flemington and finished out his career in NSW after doing some racing in Western Australia. A further measure of his ability was a second to Mannerism in the 1992 Group 1 Futurity Stakes.
Hareeba was the winner in 1994 when the race was going by the Southcorp Packaging Stakes. He won the 1995 Group 1 George Ryder Stakes, but was later disqualified.
When he won the Group 1 Australia Stakes in in 1995, he beat Spanish Mix into second and put a margin of 6.5 lengths between himself and the top sprinter Schillaci. He beat Mahogany in the 1995 Group 2 Stanley Wootton Stakes and again relegated Schillaci to third.
The champion Rubitano was the 2002 winner. He won the Newmarket Handicap that same year. It was the Salinger Stakes at the time and it turned out to be Rubitano’s last victory in a 21-race career that produced 11 wins and 5 placings and just under $1.3 million in prizemoney.
Beginning in 2004, the VRC Sprint Classic was won by a veritable Who’s Who of Thoroughbreds.
First on this list is Takeover Target. He won over $6 million and in 2006, he was the highest rated turf sprinter in the world. He beat Snitzel in the 2006 Newmarket Handicap and beat Dance Hero in the 2007 Arrowfield Stud Sprint, although why either of those two were in this race, worth just $100,000, baffles us. Another good horse beaten by Takeover Target was I Am Invincible in the 2009 Group 1 Goodwood Sprint at Morphettville. He raced all over the world and a more complete accounting of his exploits will be found here:
Next, it was Glamour Puss in 2005. She offers further proof that New Zealand horses can race the sprints, winning nine times from 26 starts and earning above $1.2 million.
Dance Hero took his VRC Sprint Classic bow in 2006. He was the last winner before the race was changed from handicap to weight-for-age conditions. This was to be his last win, but one of the horses he bested in that race was none other than the 200 VRC Sprint Classic winner, Miss Andretti.
Miss Andretti held simultaneous course records in Australia and England and is the only Thoroughbred of any gender to be able to make that claim.
The next couple of years had lesser winners, but the next multiple winner on the list, for 2010 and 2011 was none other than Black Caviar. She will be found on our page of champions to which we supplied a link earlier.
All we will include about her at this point is that she raced 25 times and won 25 times.
Buffering was the winner in 2013.
He won well above $7 million and was a multiple winner of the Victory Stakes (2011, 2013), the A J Moir Stakes (2012, 2014, 2015) and the Winterbottom Stakes (2013, 2015).
The next three winners were Terravista (2014), Delectation (2015) and Malaguerra.
Good sprinters all, we sweep these three aside to mention 2017 winner Redzel. Redzel had earlier that season won the first running of The Everest. He did it again in 2018. Those two races alone account for $11.8 million of his $16.4 million career earnings.
Santa Ana Lane saluted in 2018, followed by nature Strip in 2019.
Our final winner is Bivouac from 2020. He was by Exceed And Excel, so it is almost surprising that he made 22 starts before being sent to stand. He beat Nature Strip to win the VRC Sprint Classic. Other good horses to finish after Bivouac were Loving Gaby and Yes Yes Yes.
The VRC Sprint Classic, whether on the first or last day of the VRC Spring Carnival, has supplied many great champions as winners over the years.
The race is one of the premier races on the Australian Thoroughbred racing calendar, regardless of the distance and it is certainly one of the most anticipated and exciting races as a test of pure speed.
Champions Sprint Past Winners
|2022||Roch N Horse|
|2018||Santa Ana Lane|
|1964||Star Of Heaven|