Australian horse racing takes place on a weekly basis with meetings conducted daily by Metropolitan, Provincial and Country Race Clubs. The racing season begins each year on August 1st and the end of the racing season concludes on July 30th.
Saturday is considered the main day for racing in Australia with meetings held in both the city and country areas of each State almost every weekend. City meetings are regularly held on Public Holidays throughout the year and Metropolitan Race Clubs can hold meetings on any given day of the week. Midweek racing generally sees multiple Metropolitan meetings on a Wednesday in each State, while country clubs race regularly on any given day.
Racing Carnivals are run in each state of Australia throughout the year, with the biggest being the Melbourne spring racing carnival in Melbourne, Victoria, where the Melbourne Cup is the showpiece, while New South Wales hosts the Sydney autumn racing carnival where the highlight is the 2yo dash for cash, the Golden Slipper for two-year-olds.
Major Australian Racing Carnivals
The major racing States of Australia and relevant carnivals are outlined below:
- Victoria (VIC)
- New South Wales (NSW)
- Queensland (QLD)
- South Australia (SA)
- Western Australia (WA)
- Tasmania (TAS)
- Australian Capital Territory (ACT) - Black Opal Stakes day & Canberra Cup day
- Northern Territory (NT) - Darwin Cup day
Victoria Racing Carnivals
Metropolitan racing is held in the city of Melbourne and is home to the spectacular Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival which runs from September through to November each year and is the highlight of the racing season in Australia.
Weight-for-age racing kicks off early in August with Group 2 & 3 racing which takes place until Group 1 racing begins in September with the Underwood Stakes (1800m) and Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.
A number of high quality group races are then held each each week in Melbourne until the first of the major carnivals commences at Caulfield in October when the MRC hosts its major three day carnival with the centrepiece being the Caulfield Cup (2400m) held on the final Saturday.
The W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) is held the following Saturday and is considered the 'Weight-For-Age Championship” of Australasia. The race has a long history and the best horses from Australia, New Zealand and around the world meet under level weights to etch their name in history for the time honoured race.
A week later the city of Melbourne is abuzz when the Victoria Racing Club hosts the 4 day Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington racecourse. The first Saturday of the carnival is Victoria Derby day which hosts one of the best day's racing anywhere in the world, with 10 group races, including four Group 1 races, headlined by the AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) for three-year-olds.
The following Tuesday, which is always the first Tuesday in November, the $6 million race for the people, the Melbourne Cup (3200m), is held in front of a massive crowd of over 100,000 plus people at majestic Flemington. The great mare Makybe Diva was the first horse to win the great race three times when she won the event in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Two days later on the Thursday is Oaks Day, which is known as Ladies' Day, and the Crown Oaks (2500m) is held for Australia’s best three-year-old fillies.
The Flemington carnival concludes with the running of the Emirates Stakes (1600m) two days later on the final Saturday.
Sandown holds its major race day of the year one week after the Flemington carnival ends in November with four group races on offer, including the Sandown Classic (2400m), Sandown Guineas (1600m), Sandown Stakes (1500m) and Eclipse Stakes (1800m).
Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival
Victoria also has a racing carnival in February and March each year which is known as the Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival, and while not as high profile as the spring equivalent, it does include a number of quality Group One races.
The first Group 1 race of the autumn is the CF Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield in early February and it takes place two weeks before the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) for two-year-olds at the same track.
The VRC hosts the major meeting of the autumn carnival at Flemington with Super Saturday Of Racing featuring two Group 1 races which are the Australian Cup (2000m) and Newmarket Handicap (1200m). Super Saturday features all group and stakes races and is regarded as one of the best race days on the Australian calendar each year.
The Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) takes place one week before Super Saturday of Racing at Flemington while Moonee Valley hosts its major race day in March with the Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m).
New South Wales Racing Carnivals
Metropolitan racing is held in the city of Sydney where racing carnivals are held in both the spring and autumn. The Australian Jockey Club (AJC) and the Sydney Turf Club (STC) officially merged in February 2011 to form the Australian Turf Club (ATC) which now administers all city racing in Sydney.
The NSW Government has secured a $174million funding package to renovate and revitalise Sydney’s most iconic tracks, Rosehill Gardens and Royal Randwick, as part of this major racing reform. The physical benefits of the will see a $150Million redevelopment of Randwick racecourse as well as $24Million in improvements to Rosehill Gardens.”
Randwick hosted the first city meeting under the Australian Turf Club banner on Wednesday 9th February, 2011.
- Australian Turf Club (ATC)
The Sydney Spring Racing Carnival begins at the onset of the new racing season in August where a number quality group races are held at Randwick, Rosehill and Warwick Farm each week, before the carnival culminates at at Randwick in late September.
The richest race of the Sydney spring is the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill in late August which offers up to $1,000,000 in prizemoney for three-year-old gallopers.
Two big days of racing take place at Randwick in late September with the first day hosting the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) and the following Saturday four Group One races are held at Randwick racecourse, with the highlight being the time honoured Epsom Handicap over 1600 metres. Sydney spring carnival finishes one week before the three day Caulfield Cup carnival commences in Melbourne.
Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival
The Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival is the major racing carnival held in New South Wales each year and takes place in April and May.
Rosehill hosts the world’s richest race for two-year-olds, the Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill racecourse and Slipper Day now features five Group 1 races in total, including the The BMW (2400m) and is one of the great days of racing in Australia.
After the Rosehill carnival ends, Randwick is the centre of attention with a three day carnival headlined by races such as the AJC Australian Derby (2400m), Doncaster Handicap (1600m) and AJC Australian Oaks (2400m), all leading up to the running of four Group 1 races on the final day, highlighted by the Sydney Cup over 3200m.
Queensland Racing Carnivals
Metropolitan racing is held in the city of Brisbane and the major carnival is held during May and June. A merger between the Brisbane Racing Club (BTC) and Queensland Racing Club (QTC) in July 2009 seen the formation of the Brisbane Racing Club which now oversees racing at both Doomben and Eagle Farm race tracks.
The Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival takes place in the months of May and June each year and features some quality races for all ages.
The major Group 1 feature races in Brisbane are the Doomben 10,000 (1350m) run at Doomben racecourse and the $1 million Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) which takes place at Eagle Farm in June, along with the Group 2 Brisbane Cup (2400m).
Queensland also hosts another big event with the Magic Millions annual Yearling Sale in January and the Gold Coast Turf Club hosts a multi million dollar race day for horses purchased through the Magic Millions sales.
The Magic Millions 2yo Classic race was first run in 1987 and has become one of the most prestigious races in Australia for two-year-olds. The Magic Millions 3yo Trophy is another high profile race on the card at the Gold Coast Magic Millions carnival.
South Australia Racing Carnivals
Metropolitan racing in South Australia takes place in the city of Adelaide and the Adelaide Racing Carnival runs through March and May. Morphettville racecourse is used for all metropolitan racing and is home to all Group 1 events held in Adelaide.
Morphettville hosts the Group 2 Adelaide Cup (3200m) in early March on the Monday of the Labour day weekend, and two Group 1 feature races less than two weeks later on the Saturday which are the Australasian Oaks (2000m) for 3yo Fillies and the Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m) for fillies and mares.
The May carnival is also held at Morphettville and features two Group 1 events, the South Australian Derby (2500m) for three-year-olds and Goodwood (1200) for open horses.
South Australia also hosts the Oakbank carnival in the Adelaide Hills over the Easter weekend which is predominantly jumps racing mixed with some flat events, and it has gained a life of its own as a place to be over Easter.
Note: Cheltenham & Victoria Park are no longer used to hold race meetings in Adelaide. The Cheltenham track had its last race meeting on Saturday February 21st, 2009, and Victoria Park was vacated in early 2008. Both tracks in future will be utilised by the Adelaide city council for city developments.
The newly formed second turf track at Allan Scott Park Morphettville was completed and ready for racing in June 2009, with the first meeting held on Wednesday June 17th, 2009. The new track, known as ‘The Parks’, allows the SAJC to conduct up to 70 race meetings a year.
The Parks currently hosts two group races, the Group 3 SA Oaks (2400m) and Group 3 SA Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) in April during the autumn carnival.
Western Australia Racing Carnivals
Metropolitan racing is held in the city of Perth and they have two city tracks, Ascot (races in summer) and Belmont Park (races in winter), and the major Perth Racing Carnival is held at Ascot racecourse over November and December.
The major carnival in Perth begins in late November over three Saturdays of racing, with the first day featuring the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) which is an open handicap worth $1 million in prizemoney.
The second day hosts the Group 2 Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at weight-for-age, while the final day sees the running of the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) also at weight-for-age. The Group 2 Perth Cup (3200m) is run on New Year’s Day at Ascot racecourse.
Perth has a number of group races that take place from February to May at Ascot and culminates in the running of the Group 1 WATC Derby (2400m) in March. Belmont hosts four Group 3 races in May, June and July each year.
Tasmania Racing Carnivals
Tasmania is gaining more prominence in Australian racing and they hold their Tasmanian Summer Racing Carnival in January and February with multiple Group 3 races.
- Tasmanian Racing Club (TRC) - Hobart (Elwick)
- Tasmanian Turf Club (TTC) - Launceston (Mowbray)
Hobart hosts the Tasmanian Derby (2200m) for three-year-olds in late January and the Hobart Cup (2200m) a couple of weeks later at Tattersall's Park. The Launceston Cup (2400m) is held almost two weeks after the Hobart Cup at Tasman Park in Launceston.
Canberra Racing Club has two major race days during the racing season and they are in March and November.
March sees a big day's racing held with two Listed events taking place on a Sunday, the Black Opal Stakes for two-year-olds raced under set weight & penalties conditions and the National Sprint (1400m) quality handicap.
The Canberra Cup (2000m) is a Listed race that takes place at the end of November and also held on a Sunday.
Northern Territory Racing Carnivals
Racing in the Northern Territory is not of the highest quality and the major race club is at Fannie Bay, Darwin.
Darwin in the Northern Territory is home to one of the great day's of racing in Australia when the Darwin Cup meeting is run on the first Monday in August each year. The day itself sees racing fans from all over Australia head north to the NT to soak up the sunshine and the carnival atmosphere.
Crowds in excess of 20,000 people congregate at Fannie Bay racecourse to enjoy a top day of racing in far north Australia.