Many trainers believe the winter finals at Australia’s most prestigious racecourse is an outstanding concept, as Flemington caters for all types of horses whether inexperienced two-year-olds or tough staying horses.
Ten years ago in 2009, the VRC identified that that it would be beneficial to rethink and restructure racing in the winter months. While the high-class weight-for-age gallopers were resting after the autumn races both in Melbourne and Sydney, there was a growing need to give the middle-tier gallopers of the state an opportunity to compete for strong and significant prize money.
The Club looked at ways the cold wet months of winter racing could be lifted into strong, healthy, and vibrant race meetings that racegoers and members would be more than happy to attend.
With the Club’s strong ties to country racing that date back nearly to when racing commenced at headquarters, they were insistent that most of the rebuilding must include race tracks across the state.
They knew that country racing for many decades had underpinned the industry and they deserved to be front and centre when staging races as a lead-up to a finals day at Flemington.
As a result, Flemington has put together an exceptional series of races that include nearly all horses around the state. The heats are all based around a points formula, so for the consistent racehorse who has been highly competitive yet didn’t break through during the lead-up heats, they will still be rewarded with a start come finals day.
The system has also seen stables from South Australia and New South Wales tempted to make the trip, to be part of the prize money available.
There are races for two-year-olds, three-year-olds, country horses and open horses with considerable prize money in the offing.
This year, a new series has been introduced: The Mahogany Challenge, a seven-race series exclusive to three-year-olds which will cement Victoria’s status as the home of the stayers. With the opening leg launched on Living Legends Raceday at the beginning of May at Flemington, it culminates in a $150,000 finale at Flemington on Flemington Finals Day. The Mahogany Challenge will incorporate three staying races at Flemington, two at Caulfield and two at Sandown, with the contests worth a combined $875,000 in prize money.
The series is named after champion Mahogany who won eight Group 1 races, including both the Victoria Derby and Australian Derby as a three-year-old, and was named the Australian Racehorse of the Year for the 1993-94 season.
Leigh Jordon, Executive General Manager Racing, said: “The VRC is delighted to host the opening two heats and the final of The Mahogany Challenge at Flemington. We look forward to seeing these three-year-old stayers develop and hopefully target races such as The Bart Cummings, Lexus Stakes, Queen Elizabeth Stakes, The Andrew Ramsden and, ultimately, the Lexus Melbourne Cup in the future.”
Indeed, when all the finals are completed, we may have unearthed a sprinting star, a high-class stayer or even a young, up-and-coming three-year-old from the country.
To find out more visit the Winter race series leaderboard.