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Spring Racing 2020 Recap Part 1 - Who won the big races on the road to the Melbourne Cup

Now that the final embers of the 2020 spring racing carnival are dying out we take a look back at the 19 Group 1 races from September to November to see who won, uncover the hard luck stories and who are the ones to follow after their subsequent campaigns.

12th September 2020
Track: Flemington
Race: Makybe Diva Stakes
Prize: $750,000

The first Group 1 race of September saw us head to VRC HQ and the running of the Makybe Diva Stakes contested over 1600m. Betting was rife with, at the time Melbourne Cup favourite, Russian Camelot leading betting over second favourite Fierce Impact and it was those two that ended up fighting out a close finish in the home straight. 

The Weight For Age contest saw early trouble when midfield runner Gatting broke down and impeded several runners at the back of the field. With Russian Camelot running wide and Fierce Impact one off the lead they saw little issue with the unfortunate circumstances. 

Turning the home straight bookies would have been worried as Russian Camelot found clear running room and began to pull away only for Fierce Impact, the son of Deep Impact to reel him in over the 200m mark. Despite lifting late the big Russian couldn’t make up the ground seeing Fierce Impact win by a head. 

After winning the race trainer Matt Smith sent Fierce Impact on to the Hill Stakes at Randwick finishing third in a thrilling race won by Kolding before finishing 6th in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate. 

Russian Camelot remained extremely active in Victoria contesting a further 4 Group 1s winning the Underwood Stakes and finishing 3rd in the Cox Plate as well as 8th in the Melbourne Cup.

19th September 2020
Track: Randwick
Race: George Main Stakes
Prize: $500,000

Sydney’s first Group 1 action of the Spring was the George Main Stakes. A race formerly dominated by Queen Of The Turf Winx. 

It was quite fitting in a way that Winx trainer Chris Waller saw his runners on the day deliver him a first 4 with jockey Tommy Berry riding Kolding to victory in a race with just 7 runners. 

Before the jump fellow Waller runner Verry Elleegant was short priced favourite jumping at $2 and tipped by many to trash the field. 

It was Kolding however that latched onto Dreamforce and sit outside the leader before peeling off the turn and kicking clear. Verry Elleegant found trouble in the straight getting bumped between Star of the Seas and Collette and failing to get going until late. 

This allowed the other three Waller runners to break clear with Kolding beating a late flying Star of the Seas and Imaging. 

Kolding went on to have further success in Sydney winning the Group 2 Hill Stakes beating home Auvilius and Fierce Impact before wrapping up his Spring Campaign finishing 13 of 14 in the Cox Plate. 

19th September 2020
Track: Flemington
Race: Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes
Prize: $500,000

On the same day as the George Main the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes took place down in Melbourne over 1400m.

With a strong field of 16 runners Behemoth was the short priced favourite after strong wins in the Spring Stakes (Morphetville) and the Memsies Stakes (Flemington) earlier in the year. 

The race started at a high tempo with Tony McEvoy runner Dollar For Dollar taking up the running from Streets of Avalon and Be Good Toya Mother. Behemoth settled midfield 5 deep in running with a field of rumps in front he tucked nicely onto the rails. 

On turning into the home straight outsider at $25 Dollar For Dollar kicked 2 lengths clear. Trying to make every post a winning post he held the lead comfortably. With Behemoth hitting traffic at the 300m favourite backers would have been worried. Behemoth tried twice to get out with horses at every turn blocking a clear run. 

Finally at 150m Behemoth broke free and under the ride of Craig Williams came flying home to power over the top of the long time leader winning by a length. 

Behemoth went on to contest the Everest finishing 8th there whilst Dollar For Dollar went on to finish an impressive 2nd in the Gilgai and 12th in the Everest as a late substitute. 

25th September
Track: Moonee Valley
Race: Moir Stakes
Prize: $500,000

The Moir Stakes was the first Group 1 speed race of September being run over 1000m at the Valley under lights. 

Chris Meagher trained Pippie was the victor and what a ride it was with jockey Damian Lane charging to the front and making all to suit the Valley front runner bias. 

Pippie had come into the race having previously won the Oakleigh Plate in February over 1100m but had subsequently found the 1200m to far in the William Reid and Vobis Gold Sprint. 

The 1000m suited Pippie perfectly as she jumped to the lead straight out of the gate recording a blistering 12.79 seconds for the first 200m. Her speed was too much for fellow front runner Jungle Edge who was almost off the bit the entire way to try and catch the 5yo mare.

Turning the bend Pippie was clear by two with Bella Vella putting up a small contest in the straight before fading. Trekking did come strongly for the Godolphin team at the end but the race was already over and Pippie taking home the $500k prize.

Pippie went on to contest the Manikato in late October but failed to replicate the Group 1 form that saw her win the Moir finishing 7th of 9.

26th September
Track: Rosehill
Race: Golden Rose
Prize: $1,000,000

On a packed weekend of racing Rosehill hosted its first Group 1 race of the Spring in the Golden Rose over 1400m

The race was hotly contested withTeam Hawkes runners North Pacific and Ole Kirk taking on Robert Heathcote and JJ Attkins winner Rothfire. 

Rothfire having destroyed the field in the Run To The Rose was extremely short at $1.60 in betting with the Hawkes pair at $7 and $7.50 respectively. Wayne Hawkes in particular questioned the price of Ole Kirk given his finish to the same race that Rothfire won and with the extra 200m to cover in the re-match.

The race itself was a steadily run affair with Rothfire having to push forward from a wide gate and cover the extra ground early. 

Turning the bend Rothfire was clear by 2 lengths but having spent early and the extra ground began to fade. At that point punters would have been looking at North Pacific winding up on the outside as the winner with Ole Kirk swerving inside and out to get clear. 

Ole Kirk finally got a bit of luck bursting through a gap and dueling with his stable mate in a head bobbing victory. Rothfires fade was pretty evident as he went on to miss the places with Kings Legacy finishing 3rd. 

Ole Kirk went on to a fantastic Spring Campaign becoming a duel group 1 winner. North Paciifc went to paddock having run his race and Rothfire, a one time Everest contender, was forced to cut spring short through injury. 

27th September
Track: Caulfield
Race: Underwood Stakes
Prize: $750,000

A star studded line up contested the Group 1 Underwood Stakes at Caulfield on wet a windy Sunday at the end of September.

With the likes of Humidor, Gailo Chop, WA raider Arcadia Queen and Russian Camelot all lining up it was going to be a hotly contested race. 

In the betting punters had already declared the big Russian the winner, backing him into $1.50 before the jump with the rest of the field $5 barr. 

They weren’t wrong as Russian Camelot followed Trap For Fools in an early dart and saw just outside the lead until the home straight. As they rounded the bend Russian Camelot kicked clear and never gave anything else a chance. Humidor came charging through late but never looked closed to upsetting the apple cart. 

As mentioned before the big Russian went on to have a few more rides through spring but it was the Spring Stakes that upset his betting momentum in the Melbourne Cup. 

3rd October 
Track: Randwick
Race: Epsom Handicap
Prize: $1,000,000

Like the weather the racing heated up coming into October as Group 1 racing returned to Sydney HQ and the running of the Epsom Handicap over 1600m.

After a strong showing in the George Main Stakes, Star of the Seas was favourite for the $1m race at $4.60 with Rock and Probabeel leading the second line of betting at $6+. 

In the race, which looked to have a thousand runners it was Niccanova who took up the running leading by 2 lengths into the home straight. The Queenslander quickly looked like he was jumping up and down on the spot though at the 300m mark with Probabeel and Funstar set to battle it out. 

The pair pulled clear at the 200m mark however it was the NZ runner Probabeel who found another gear over the Chris Waller trained Funstar. The 4yo mare kicked clear to have the race won at the 400m mark and send the Epsom Handicap title back to Matamata.

As Epsom Handicaps go there was not much form out of the race with only 3 of the 17 runners going on to win a race in the rest of spring at lower grades. 

3rd October
Track: Flemington
Race: Turnbull Stakes
Prize: $500,000

On the same day as the Epsom Handicap we saw the Victorian Racing HQ hosting the Turnbull Stakes over 2000m. The Turnbull has always been one of the first indicators of Melbourne Cup form we saw a host of hopefuls take to the field with other goals at the fore. 

In a race previously won by the champ Winx, Chris Waller fielded a host of hopefuls looking to land the $500k prize.

On the day it was a new mare that emerged victorious in Verry Elleegant who he had received as part of the Darren Weir fall. The 5yo mare was favourite for the race at $5 and won a thrilling head bobber from stablemates Finche and Toffee Tongue. 

Cup hopefuls Suprise Baby, Django Freeman and last years winner Vow and Declare showed little in the race and flipped Melbourne Cup betting on its head with Verry Elleegant moving into single figures in betting and Suprise Betting moving out to $15 from previous race favourite. 

One to watch out of the race was Toffee Tongue. The 4yo mare sparred well with her stable mates and went on to record a solid run in the Caulfield Cup as well as a narrow defeat in the Matriarch Stakes. 

10th October 
Track: Randwick
Race: Spring Champion Stakes
Prize: $1,000,000

Randwick played host to the $1m Spring Champion Stakes for 3 year olds over 2000m in October with David Payne trained Montefilia the $2.70 favourite. 

There was a lot of excitement around Montefilia having only a week earlier taken out the Flight Stakes narrowly beating home Hungry Heart and finishing 4th in the Tea Rose Stakes two weeks earlier. 

In the race itself the 3yo filly settled worse than midfield with big odds Street Dancer taking up the running from Chris Waller trained Achiever. 

Coming into the straight Montefilia looked to be in trouble when struggling to get a run behind the leaders. She eventually managed to get the clear air coming of heels to set out after Lions Roar. 

With a two length lead Lions Roar looked to be on the way but a booming run came from the Payne runner as she wound up and unleashed over the final 100m and power over the top. 

Montefilia went on to contest the Oaks on Cup week finishing third overall 1.3l off the winner. 

10th October
Race: Caulfield Guineas Day
Prize: $2,000,000 - Caulfield Guineas 

On October 10th Caulfield played host to 4 Group 1s across a stacked 9 race card. 

The G1 show kicked off with the Caulfield Stakes over 2000m where Russian Camelot was once again a short priced favourite and looking to cement his place as Melbourne Cup favourite with a convincing win. It was Arcadia Queen however who caught the Maher & Eustace runner by surprise, kicking clear over 200m and the big Russian failing to reel in the WA raider.

Hot on the heels of a thrilling stakes upset was the Thousand Guineas for 3yo fillies over 1600m. Mick Price trained Odeum managed to get the victory on the day with the filly pulling clear and putting the field to the sword at the 200m. Similar to wins of Grunt a couple of years prior the Price & Kent runner was all power storming to the front off the corner and powering home to win by 2 lengths. 

Next up was the turn of the boys as the 3 year old colts contested the Caulfield Guineas over 1600m. Favourite Ole Kirk for team Hawkes was expected to replicate his Golden Rose win and didn’t disappoint for punters. Settling midfield under the ride of Willie Pike, Ole Kirk peeled off the bend and used the long straight to power home over the top of the field,

The final G1 of the day landed in the lap of Mr Quickie in a boilover as the $21 trashed the field beating Buffalo River and Superstorm to win the Toorak Handicap for SA trainer Phillip Stokes. 

17th October
Track: Randwick
Race: The Everest
Prize: $14,000,000

In betting The Everest field looked to be the closest on paper yet with just $2 separating 5 runners. 

In reality it was exactly the same however with runners like Nature Strip, Libetini and Santa Ana Lane all having patchy form going into the race where as outsiders like Eduardo and Gytrash had put bookies on notice with recent impressive runs. 

It was the grey flash - Classique Legend for veteran trainer Les Bridge however who would prove that the market was right in winning as $4.20 favourite. 

The race itself saw Eduardo jump to the front and try and run the legs out of the field only for Classique legend to jump out of the chasing pack and destroy the field, winning by 3 lengths over Bivouac in second. 

When watching the race back no other runners really had a chance when Classique Legend went his win was so dominant. 

Off the back of his win Classique Legend was subsequently sold to Hong Kong where he is now racing as part of the K. Ho team. 

17th October
Track: Caulfield
Race: Caulfield Cup
Prize: $5,000,000

The Caulfield Cup was the first chance for us to see the international contingent on there road to qualifying for the Melbourne Cup. 

Probably the most interesting runner of the internationals was Anthony Van Dyck for the Aiden O’Brien team. The former Derby winner was rate one of the top 5 horses in the world and had form behind Stradivarius.

Not to be outdone however locals fielded an impressive contingent with Chris Waller fielding 3 runners. 

In the end it came down to a dueling contest between Waller runner Verry Elleegant and the aforementioned Anthony Van Dyck. Very Elleegant got a solid run settling worse than midfield where as Van Dyck had to go to the back following a wide draw. 

With a packed field both runners had to come from 7 and 9 wide off the bend to fight out the finish. Verry Elleegant getting the result but many argued that Van Dyck would have won without the wide barrier draw. 

Both horses went on to contest the Melbourne Cup with the betting pushing both into favourtism for the $7m spring feature. 

23rd October 
Track: Moonee Valley
Race: Manikato Stakes
Prize: $1,000,000

The prelude to the Cox Plate the Manikato Stakes is a Friday Night Group 1 under the lights at Moonee Valley over 1200m

With a small field of 9 contesting the $1,000,000 weight for age sprint it was Godolphin runner Trekking that was favourite to take out The Valleys first G1 action since the start of Spring.

Many punters were looking at Pippie to replicate her Moir stakes win however the distance and extra weight ruled her out of competing against the older male horses. It would be Hey Doc, Trekking and Dirty Work to fight out the finish.

Hey Doc under the ride of Luke Currie appeared to be going the better up the straight and with Dirty Work beat the Tony McEvoy runner held off the run of Trekking to win. 

It was a blistering time for the 1200m contest as well with Hey Doc recording a new track record on the evening shaving one hundredth of a second off the previous record. 

24th October 
Track: Moonee Valley
Race: Ladbrokes Cox Plate
Prize: $5,000,000

Hot on the heels of the Manikato Moonee Valley plays host to one of the iconic races on the Thoroughbred calendar, The Ladbrokes Cox Plate over 2040m.

Known in recent years for being dominated by Winx, last year was the first running of the $5m race to be won by another runner for 4 years. Japanese runner Lys Gracieux managed to grab the 2019 running of the race and it was an international raider again in 2020 who took the prize.

It was recently purchased Sir Dragonet who moved from Irish trainer Aiden O’Brien to the Maher and Eustace stable who proved to good.

Ridden by veteran hoop Glenn Boss it was an excellent ride biding his time in midfield before threading a run between Armory and race favourite Russian Camelot up the short straight to pull clear and win by 1.3l

Sir Dragonet went on to contest the Melbourne Cup finishing 6th. It’ll be an exciting period for the new import as the ownership group looks to tackle more Group 1s through Autumn.

Spring Racing 2020 Recap Part 2

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