With the restrictions limiting the horses in the field to those four years old and older, the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes is often attractive to quality mares and geldings. Prize money for the race over 2000 metres at Flemington Racecourse is worth $500,000.
Winx was one of those and she won the Turnbull Stakes two times in a row in 2017 and 2018. Prior to those two wins, the 2016 race was won by Hartnell, a quality horse that had the misfortune to chase Winx unsuccessfully at tracks in Victoria and NSW.
Significance of the Turnbull Stakes
The Turnbull Stakes was first run in 1865, so the aspect of tradition adds some lustre to the race.
The race offers a ballot exemption for the Group 1 Caulfield Cup, so those connections with aspiring stayers use the Turnbull Stakes to assess the chances of one of their horses potentially making a good run in the Caulfield Cup and after, the Melbourne Cup.
The Turnbull Stakes Names Throughout the Years
The Turnbull Stakes made its debut in 1865 as the Royal Park Stakes and it remained so called until 1895. Once abandoned, the Royal Park name was adopted by races around the world, including one run in Adelaide at a course known as Victoria Park in 1940.
From 1895 through 1897, the race was called the September Stakes. It was renamed again three years later as the October Stakes.
Beginning in 1936, it became the Melbourne Stakes, which held until 1948.
September Stakes, October Stakes, Melbourne Stakes are not original or creative and the race could have benefitted from a name bestowed by the imaginative minds that devise Thoroughbred names.
It became the Turnbull Stakes in 1948 to honour the then Chairman of the Victoria Racing Club, Richard Turnbull.
Turnbull Stakes Race Grade
Like many of the better races in Australia, the Turnbull Stakes was considered a Principal race from its inception up to 1979.
It was declared Group 2 at that time. It remained so from 1979 – 2005, and then was elevated to Group 1 for 2006.
Turnbull Stakes Historical Race Distances
The Turnbull Stakes was at one time a traditional test of stayers, with the trip being the identical 3200 metres of the Melbourne Cup, if the difference between miles and metres is overlooked.
The race was 2800 metres in one year only, 1884. That odd trip reverted to 3200 metres from 1885 – 1890 before going to an equally odd trip of 2600 metres in 1891.
Several other changes were made to the distance, including a long period of 1600 metres spanning 1925 – 1947. It spent 23 years as a race equivalent to the 2400 metre Caulfield Cup and then settled at 2000 metres from 1971 until the present.
The list of star horses to win span the history of Victorian Thoroughbred racing, beginning with The Barb in 1868, Wakeful (1903), Eurythmic (1920), Whittier (1923/24), Amounis (1930), Ajax (1938 and 1940), Bernborough (1946), Comic Court (1949/50), Rising Fast (1954), Tobin Bronze (1966) and Vo Rogue (1987/88).
More Notable Winners
A Who’s Who of racers dominated the event from 1989 to 1992, beginning with Super Impose (1989) Better Loosen Up (1990), Let’s Elope (1991) and Naturalism (1992).
Sunline (2001), Northerly (2002), Elvstroem (2004), Makybe Diva (2005) and Zipping (2010) nearly complete the list, with apologies to more than a few notables overlooked here. After Zipping, the notable winners were mentioned earlier and will not be repeated here.
|Year||Turnbull Stakes Winners|
|2019||Kings Will Dream|
|1995||All Our Mob|
|1993||The Phantom Chance|
|1990||Better Loosen Up|
|1872||King Of The Ring|