Black Heart Bart ridden by Brad Rawiller wins the New Zealand Bloodstock Memsie Stakes at Caulfield Racecourse
The enthralling Spring Racing Carnival starts to deliver the real excitement when the first Group One race is decided at Caulfield. It’s the $1 million Memsie Stakes and boy, the stars are set to shine here.
I am often asked when the Spring Racing Carnival really starts. Some say Caulfield Guineas day, others argue not until the footy is over, but let me tell you the races are calling right now! When there’s a million bucks up for grabs, it is on!
Starting with the Memsie Stakes a total of 21 Group One races (races run for the highest calibre of racehorses in the world) will highlight a feast of outstanding racing over the next three months. These races will be held at Flemington, Moonee Valley and of course, Caulfield. Throw in the luring country scene and these great horses, jockeys and trainers are chasing around $73.9 million!
The Spring Racing Carnival delivers one of the world’s greatest sporting, fashion and social occasions. It attracts more than 650,000 people. Just think about that for a moment. That’s more than six AFL Grand Final crowds attending the races all over the state!
The Memsie Stakes hasn’t always signalled Spring’s beginning, but its profile has been steadily building and with the club doubling prize money to a million dollars this year, it’s a real signpost.
I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the development of this race over my 36 years in the race caller’s booth. I fondly remember one of my all-time favourites Manikato winning in 1982. He was a special type of racehorse. Never properly sound, he always seemed to have some niggling injury somewhere to test his trainer Bob Hoysted’s immense skills. Manikato had such a big pounding action and the tracks were prepared much firmer in those days, so he probably brought about his issues himself. Plus, he’d always parade a little bit ‘hot’. That is, he’d sweat quite badly, warmed up by the excitement of competition. But he’d charge along in front, pin his ears back when challenged and fairly pulverise his opposition, he could get your pulse rate up that old guy. His sole Memsie win came towards the end of his lengthy career. He was a battle hardened six year old when he lined up against a top class field and did what he generally did, won!
The Memsie’s profile grew through the 80’s and 90’s, it’s always been a good race to watch for horses finishing off late as they gear up for the big staying races just around the corner.
In 2000 along came a tough mare from New Zealand named Sunline. She was immediately adopted by Australian fans who watched in awe of her powerful front running style. She amassed 32 wins in 48 starts and won both her attempts in the Memsie Stakes. For a mare who won two Cox Plates at 2040 metres it’s an interesting fact that she was unbeaten at the Memsie distance of 1400m, winning an incredible 11 starts at the sprinters trip.
The Memsie was continuing to grow in eminence when in 2013 it was granted the ultimate racing compliment, Group One status. What an emotional renewal of this race it was to be!
A sleek racing machine named Atlantic Jewel had strung together seven straight wins before being struck down with a tendon injury, one of the most serious injuries a racehorse can suffer. Many fail to make successful comebacks after such a setback.
How must trainer Mark Kavanagh and jockey Michael Rodd have been feeling as she went to the start the hot favourite despite not racing for 16 months.
I know I was anxious in the ‘caller’s box. My palms were getting a bit sweaty with an elevated pulse. Like everyone in the sport, I love a champ and preparing to see one make a momentous comeback is nerve racking for all!
We need not have worried. The long striding filly cruised around the field at the turn and had it won at the 200m mark. I remember calling ‘how it felt like only yesterday that we saw her doing this’ and then I let slip ‘welcome back darling’ as she sailed past the post. I felt a bit childish that I’d gushed a silly line in my rapture of her, but so many people have since said it summed up their feelings too. That made it feel a lot better.
So, with no AFL action in Melbourne on September 2nd there’s no excuses to miss what is sure to be a great event. You can also grab a selfie with the BMW Caulfield Cup trophy.
The races are calling! Can you hear it?