The Autumn Carnival of 2022 could arguably be one of the best for a good while with the stars putting on a show for the punters, true underdog stories emerging and a clash of the titans rounded out a huge carnival.
Even the wet weather couldn’t dampen the talent of these runners and even with a day of the Carnival lost to rain and relocated to Newcastle we saw the cream rise to the top as Group 1 titles continued to be claimed.
We look back at our top five performers of the Autumn. Who were they, how did it happen and where do they go next?
Top Performances Of The 2022 Autumn Carnival
DUAIS - AUSTRALIAN CUP / TANCRED STAKES DOUBLE
Trained by Edward Cummings Duais started off the Autumn with two below par showings in the Apollo Stakes and The The Chipping Norton Stakes however as the distances increased so did the quality of the performances by this four year old mare.
Her first conquest was actually across the border in Melbourne where she captured the Australian Cup at Flemington. It was impressive where she put two lengths on Spring import Spanish Mission to claim a second Group 1 title and it wouldn’t be long before she would claim a third.
The race that really put Duais on the map as a top performer for Autumn however was the Tancred Stakes. In winning the Tancred Stakes Duais would become only the second mare in history to win both the Australia Stakes and the Tancred Stakes.
The other winner of both was the great Makybe Diva who would win three Melbourne Cups in her career so could this be the start of a great campaign for Duais? Her trainer certainly has excellent bloodlines into the Cups King Bart Cummings so could this be the next great distance runner in Australia?
Realistically we won’t see Duais now until this start of Spring with the Winx Stakes a likely return point in August. Given the performances over distance and in weight for age conditions it would be likely for Duais to head to the Cox Plate however given her performance in the Tancred Stakes the Melbourne Cup could definitely be on the agenda for this 5 year old.
SHELBY SIXTYSIX - THE GALAXY
The rags to riches story of Shelby SixtySix has to be one of the biggest of the Autumn having gone from a bush runner winning a Class Two TAB Highway Handicap to a Group 1 winner in just four weeks.
It was a meteoric rise for Shelby SixtySix who raced continuously through the Autumn Carnival when backing up for 7 consecutive weeks at the track. Clearly unphased by the heavy going Shelby SixtySix was stringing together a number of key performances mixing it with Sydney’s racing elite.
He put himself on the map for trainer Danny Williams when finishing second behind Eduardo in the Group Two Challenge Stakes. With the racing community on notice the Five Year old would then return to win the Group 3 Maurice Mccarten Stakes and a maiden Group level title before going one better the following week.
Winning the The Group 1 Furphy Galaxy was ultimately his greatest achievement to date and for trainer Danny Williams one of the greatest training performances of his career.
Williams believes the continuous running and work on track will lead to greater performances for Shelby SixtySix in the future with plans to run him in the Winter Carnival very much on the cards before a brief spell and another run in the Spring. Could an Everest slot be on the cards for a horse that is fast becoming a cult hero of Australian Horse Racing?
NATURE STRIP - TJ SMITH THREE-PEAT
When talking about sprinters you can’t gloss over the veteran and possibly one of the greatest sprinters of all time in Nature Strip who went on to emulate the great Chatauqua and win a third consecutive TJ Smith Stakes for trainer Chris Waller.
It was a well worn path for Nature Strip this Autumn as The Everest winner started his campaign with the Lightning Stakes in Melbourne before sparring with his old rival Eduardo in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes and then onto the TJ Smith.
The Challenge Stakes didn’t go as expected as Nature Strip toiled on the Heavy 9 surface finishing down the track behind the aforementioned Shelby SixtySix and of course Eduardo. The lack of performance raised questions about the 7yo Geldings chances of a third TJ Smith Stakes.
But as true champions do Nature Strip put in a championship performance when i counted and dominated a strong TJ Smith field gapping them by 3.36 lengths when winning. There was confidence from the market on the day of the race and punters were rewarded for loyalty as the big chestnut completed a hat trick of wins in the Group 1 contests.
We’ve seen time and time again that Waller will follow a consistent pattern with his top performers however this year there is real talk that Nature Strip could buck the trend and head to Royal Ascot to compete in the pomes summer sprint festival.
Beyond that racing fans would be expecting the current Everest champion to return in Spring and defend his crown and chase the title, currently held by former stablemate Winx, for the highest earning racehorse of all time in Australia.
FIREBURN - GOLDEN SLIPPER / INGLIS SIRES'
The top two year old in the country Fireburn rose to the top of the pile with impressive wins in the Golden Slipper and Inglis’ Sires for trainer Gary Portelli. The New South Wales trainer was well versed in getting the best from his juveniles after She Will Reign went on to win the Golden Slipper for the yard a few years earlier.
Fireburn had been in impressive form in the lead up to the Autumn Carnival winning all bar one of her starts to date. Before the Golden Slipper she had claimed the Sweet Embrace Stakes at Group 2 level defeating She’s Extreme, a foe she would become accustomed to facing as the Autumn went on.
Her landmark win would come in the Group 1 Golden Slipper when she defeated Best of Bordeaux and Magic Millions winner Coolangatta in an impressive 2.44l win when racing on a heavy track under the ride of Brenton Avdulla.
Avdulla would once again partner with Fireburn for another impressive win in the Inglis’ Sires Produce however his win would take some of the shine off the talent of Fireburn as he gestured to the runner behind, She’s Extreme to catch up as he rode to victory. The gesture would find Avdulla in front of the stewards and be fined for his actions.
Fireburn would go in search of the rare two year old triple crown when chasing victory in the Champagne Stakes on the final day of The Championships but fall short to She’s Extreme over the 1600m distance.
Trainer Gary Portelli has already suggested that he won’t be pushing Fireburn through a winter campaign or a heavy spring campaign as he wants to save Fireburn for bigger prizes through the Autumn.
It will be interesting to see how Fireburn returns as it’s rare to see a Golden Slipper winner go one and achieve in there later years however Portelli has bucked the trend previously with She Will Reign winning the Group One Moir Stakes as a three year old at Moonee Valley.
NASH RAWILLER - QUEEN ELIZABETH STAKES
When realising not all heroes have hooves there has to be a significant level of acknowledgement to jockey Nash Rawiller and his ride aboard Think It Over in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes that was billed by some as the race of the Century.
The Queen Elizabeth Stakes was billed as a blockbuster because of the line up between Verry Elleegant, Cox Plate runner up Anamoe, the in form Duais and star Import Zaaki who to the bookmakers were placed as the only four runners with chances.
Think It Over was a significant outsider for the race at $41 and even trainer Kerry Parker had said in the weeks leading up he would have to rely on desire to win and natural talent as the conditions of the heavy track wouldn’t suit the weight for age six year old.
However, what no one had banked on was the ride of a lifetime by New South Wales native Nash Rawiller!
The veteran hoop would deliver a ride for the ages in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes when taking Think It Over to the stand side rail on his own while the rest of the runners battled on through the middle of the track.
His decision would prove decisive as despite going a few lengths down initially Think It Over would relish the better ground and the rail on the stand side to fly home late and topple Zaaki who had pulled three lengths clear of the rest of the field.
Unlike many of his horses Rawiller will continue to head to the track on a regular basis and partner with the likes of Think It Over again when the big guns head back to the track in Spring.
Despite making our top performers there have to be honorable mentions for a number of runners that grassed the heavy tracks of Rosehill and Randwick during the Autumn Racing Carnival.
Mazu upset the apple cart in the Group 2 Arrowfield Sprint and is yet to be tested at Group 1 level but it will be interesting to see what the Winter Carnival brings for this Snowden runner with alot of ability.
Zaaki won the All Star Mile in Melbourne before coming second in the Queen Elizabeth to Think It Over. If Rawiller hadn’t pulled off an absolute pearler of a ride it would have been Zaaki’s demolition of a talented field we would have been talking about with 4.4l gap on the rest of the field in the Group 1. The Spring looks strong once again for him.
Forbidden Love was a big winner when winning the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes and went back to back at Group 1 level in the George Ryder. Where most runners found the heavy going an issue Forbidden Love flourished in the conditions and put away rivals with ease.