The 2021 Festival of Racing gets underway at Caulfield tomorrow (Saturday, 6 February), when the first of nine Group 1 contests – the time-honoured Neds C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) – heralds the official start of Victoria’s second biggest equine spectacle after the Spring Racing Carnival.
With 17 country cup meetings supplementing the elite metropolitan action, the action is spread right across the state of Victoria over the next six weeks, when more than $40 million in prizemoney and bonuses will be on offer.
The third running of Victoria’s newest marquee race, the $5 million All-Star Mile, will again capture the nation’s attention when it is held for the first time at The Valley on Saturday, March 13, before the curtain comes down on the Festival of Racing seven days later with Neds Mornington Cup Day.
Before then, Caulfield and Flemington will play host to some of Australian racing’s most prestigious contests, with the $500,000 C.F. Orr Stakes – first run in 1925 – taking centre stage tomorrow.
“The Festival of Racing is always one of the highlights on the racing calendar, and this year is certainly no different with some of the stars of the spring coming out of hibernation to tackle our feature races over the late summer, early autumn period,” Racing Victoria’s (RV) Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter, said.
“There’s something for everyone during the 2021 Festival of Racing, with many of Victoria’s most picturesque race clubs staging their annual country cup meetings and Melbourne’s three metropolitan tracks all playing host to Group 1 races.
“The All-Star Mile at The Valley will again generate plenty of headlines, both on the raceday itself and in the build-up, while other premier meetings such as Blue Diamond Stakes Day at Caulfield and Super Saturday at Flemington are set to offer exceptional racing for all to enjoy.
“With a mixture of established performers and up-and-coming stars in action over the next six weeks, the Festival of Racing will be a great spectacle and it all gets underway with eight Group races at Caulfield tomorrow headlined by the C.F.Orr Stakes and Blue Diamond Preludes.”
The reigning Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) champion Sir Dragonet will be the headline act if he takes his place in tomorrow’s C.F. Orr Stakes field, but he could face some serious competition in the shape of his fellow All-Star Mile hopeful Crosshaven, one of the breakout young talents of the 2020 Spring Racing Carnival with his wins including the Group 3 Carbine Club Stakes (1600m) on Derby Day.
Caulfield’s other feature meeting this autumn is Neds Blue Diamond Stakes Day on Saturday, 20 February, when the land’s most precious juveniles – led by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace’s unbeaten filly Enthaar – will attempt to join an illustrious rollcall of winners of a race which was inaugurated in 1971.
Tomorrow week (13 February) Flemington takes centre stage with Black Caviar The Great Horse Race Day, when some of Australia’s fastest horses will fly down the famous straight in a Group 1 contest named in honour of arguably the greatest sprinter the country has ever produced.
Two of the current greats of the sprinting ranks, Nature Strip (trained by Chris Waller) and Bivouac (James Cummings), are bound for a mouth-watering clash in the day’s feature, the $750,000 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m).
Flemington will host successive Group 1 racedays on 27 February and 6 March with the opening meeting bringing together a cavalcade of three-year-old stars in the $1 million Kennedy Australian Guineas (1600m).
Two of Australia’s most coveted Group 1 races, the time honoured $1.25 million Seppelt Wines Newmarket Handicap (1200m) and the $1.5 million TAB Australian Cup (2000m) headline the appropriately named Super Saturday (6 March) with great interest in whether either Harlem (2018 & 2019) or Fifty Stars (2020) can claim another Australian Cup for the mantlepiece.
The following Saturday, the action heads down the road to The Valley for The All-Star Mile 2021, Australia’s only fan-voted race where the public has until 14 February 2021 to shape the field at www.allstarmile.com.au.
With established stars Arcadia Queen, Behemoth, Verry Elleegant, Russian Camelot, Sir Dragonet and Probabeel all currently flying high in the public vote alongside fairytale contenders like The Harrovian, the third edition of the world’s richest mile race promises to be one of the highlights of the Festival of Racing.
The Group 1 action comes to an end the following Friday night (19 March), when The Valley hosts the $500,000 Keogh Homes William Reid Stakes (1200m); before the stayers head to the Listed Neds Mornington Cup (2400m) the next day in search of a golden ticket into this year’s Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m).
Among the many country cups set to feature throughout the Festival of Racing is the Buchan Cup on Saturday, 13 February where the local community will gather a year on from devastating bushfires in the region.
March’s Labour Day weekend also promises to be a big one statewide with the Hinnomunjie, Towong, Edenhope (Saturday, 6 March), Stony Creek and Echuca Cups (Sunday, 7 March) set to attract locals and holidaymakers alike.
The first of nine races at Caulfield tomorrow is scheduled at 12.40pm (AEDT), with the feature C.F.Orr Stakes to be run at 4.55pm.