Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Sydney Carnival

The Sydney Carnival, or Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, consists of a series of major horses staged at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse and Royal Randwick Racecourse, situated in the suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, over a six-week period in March and April each year. The Sydney Carnival includes 45 Group races and, at the last count, was worth $33 million in prize money.

At Rosehill Gardens, the highlight of the Sydney Carnival is Golden Slipper Day, which features the Golden Slipper, a Group 1 contest run over 1,200 metres or approximately 6 furlongs and open to two-year-old colts, fillies and geldings, plus four other Group 1 races. The Golden Slipper, alone, is worth $3.5 million in prize money, making it the most valuable race for juveniles run anywhere in the world.

At Royal Randwick, The Championships, billed as 'The Grand Finals of Australian Racing', are staged on the first and second Saturday in April. As the name suggests, The Championships feature twelve races over a variety of distances, open to different age groups and collectively worth over $21 million in prize money. Highlights of The Championships Day One incude the $3 million Doncaster Mile and the $2 million Australian Derby, while highlights of Day Two include the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the $2 million Sydney Cup. In 2019, the incomparable racemare Winx was retired from racing after winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes for the third year running.

Monday, 30 May 2022

Kentucky Derby Festival

A Grade 1 contest, run over 2,000 metres, or approximately a mile and a quarter, on dirt at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky and open to three-year-old colts, fillies and geldings, the Kentucky Derby represents the first leg of the North American Triple Crown. Known colloquially as the 'Run for the Roses' and billed as 'the most exciting two minutes in sport', the Kentucky Derby is run on the first Saturday in May, where it forms the highlight of a 14-race card.

However, the Kentucky Derby Festival stretches far beyond the confines of Churchill Downs into the wider Kentucky community, where it celebrates not only the Kentucky Derby, but also the coming of spring to the 'Bluegrass State'. Indeed, the Festival is the largest single annual event in the Kentucky calendar and, in the two weeks preceding the Kentucky Derby, attracts 1.5 million people to a series of playful, tongue-in-cheek events suitable for the whole family. All told, over 70 special events, many of which are free of charge, are laid on for entertainment purposes and to bolster the local economy.

Highlights include the opening fireworks display, known as 'Thunder Over Louisville', which is one of the largest events of its kind anywhere in the United States, the 'Great Steamboat Race' on the Ohio River, and the founding event, the 'Pegasus Parade'. Sports, including basketball, golf and volleyball, are very much in evidence and so, too, is music, with concerts running almost non-stop throughout the fortnight.

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Jason MacGuire Triumphs on Ballabriggs to Win the 2011 Aintree Grand National

Grand National 2011
Just 12 months previously, A P McCoy had ridden Don’t Push It to win the 2010 Grand National and he was installed as joint 2nd favourite on the same horse alongside Silver By Nature ridden by Northern Irishman Peter Buchanan, both backed into 9-1. The most popular money however was on Ruby Walsh on The Midnight Club who was fancied as the 15-2 favourite.

Sunshine graced the start of the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National Grade 3 Handicap and by the 3rd fence, it was Ballabriggs making the running from Hello Bud, who came close in last year’s race. There had only been a few casualties by this point, with outsiders Becauseicouldntsee, Vic Venturi and That’s Rhythm the unfortunate trio.

The leaders fared well over both Becher’s and Foinavon, but that wasn’t the case for everyone as the field reduced further with West End Rocker, The Tother One, Dooney’s Gate and Barry Geraghty on Or Noir de Somoza all falling foul.

Jamie Moore

Santa’s Son had made his way through the melee to reach the front, guided by the brave Jamie Moore who had once been told he wouldn’t walk again after fracturing two vertebrae in a fall in 2004. Puppy Power had also joined the leaders on Killyglen and Hello Bud was tucked in behind.

The entire field had become quite closely bunched with the lead changing hands several times and Santa’s Son was still leading after clearing the Chair. However, this was short lived, as a strong looking Ballabriggs strode into the lead over the water and so it remained, with fence 20 being omitted from the race due to an obstruction.

Becher’s was also omitted just two fences later for the same reason meaning the race had experienced the first and second time it had ever happened.


Ballabriggs almost came a cropper over Valentine’s, but MacGuire somehow managed to hold on and held onto the lead, being pressed by Harry Skelton on Niche Market. How fortunate that was, as it was an advantage Ballabriggs would not relinquish again.

Despite being tested through the elbow by Sam Waley-Cohen on Oscar Time, Jason MacGuire claimed the £535,135 prize money for Trevor Hemmings and the accolades for himself. It had been a hot day in more than one sense and the extreme temperatures meant that Ballabriggs was too dehydrated to take his lap of honour, marking the first time a jockey had ever entered the winner’s enclosure without his champion horse.

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Hong Kong International Races

The Hong Kong International Races meeting is staged, under the auspices of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, at Sha Tin Racecourse, in the New Territories region of Hong Kong, in December each year. Currently sponsored by Swiss watchmaker Longines and billed as the 'Turf World Championships', Hong Kong International Races comprises the four most prestigious races run in the region, namely the Hong Kong Cup, Hong Kong Mile, Hong Kong Sprint and Hong Kong Vase.

Unsurprisingly, all four races are nowadays Group 1 contests but, while all four are open to horses aged three years and upwards, they did not come into existence at the same time. The Hong Kong Cup, which is run over 2,000 metres, or approximately a mile and a quarter, was first run in its current guise in 1999. So, too, was the Hong Kong Mile, which is run over 1,600 metres, or approximately one mile, although it was not upgraded to Group 1 status until the following year. The Hong Kong Sprint, nowadays run over 1,200 metres, or approximately six furlongs, was also inaugurated in 1999, albeit over 1,000 metres, or approximately five furlongs, but did not achieve Group 1 status until 2002 and was not lengthened to its current distance until 2006. The Hong Kong Vase, run over 2,400 metres, or approximately a mile and a half, was first staged in 1994, but similarly did not achieve Group 1 status until 2000.