As all horse racing lovers will know the Spring Cup Carnival is right around the corner. For those who are not aware of all the surrounding events, the Melbourne Carnival seems to begin at the start of late October and ends about a week later. However, this is not the case, as most informed racegoers will know.
The entire Melbourne Spring Cup Carnival actually begins at the start of September with the Group 2 John F. Feehan Stakes races at Moonee Valley and ends with the Listed Sandown Cup at Caulfield in late November. Beyond that, everyone knows that arguably the most important races take place in early November during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, and although the biggest race during that week is the Melbourne Cup it is not the last major race to be won. Let’s take a look at the lesser-known first and the last races of the Spring Cup Carnival and a couple of races in between.
The John F. Feehan Stakes race is not something to be sneezed at by any means. It is a sprint race at a length of 1600 meters held at the Moonee Valley Racecourse and has a current total prize purse of AUD$500,000. Like many races of its kind, it has undergone several name changes in its time. When it was first inaugurated in 1948 it was known as the Glenroy Stakes but the official name changed to J.F. Feehan Stakes was made in 2019 (although it has been called that several times over the years).
The race is named after the owner of the land where the Moonee Ponds Course is now situated, although the land ownership has changed over time. Interestingly, from 2005 to 2018, it was called the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes, named after the Malaysian entrepreneur who worked with famed Australian horse trainer Bart Cummings until his death in 2015. They had massively successful partnerships for over 30 years, breeding and racing many champion thoroughbreds. So, the first race itself, although currently classified as a Group 2, is steeped in history and is a great start to the Carnival.
The first main event of the Melbourne Spring Cup Carnival is Victoria Derby Day which takes place the Saturday before the Melbourne Cup. It is a very exciting time with some great races occurring on the day including the Cantala Stakes, which is one of Australia’s richest mile races with a current total prize purse of $3,000,000AUD.
The very last race of the Carnival is the Sandown Cup which is hosted at Caulfield Racecourse and is another Group 2 race that has a total prize purse of AUD$150,000. The race has a distance of 3200 meters which means it is not designed for sprinters but more for routers, who perform better at longer distances. Dragon Storm who won the 2021 race was considered an outsider, but ended up winning the race by a short half-head and showed what he was really made of. It turns out that this particular horse is the offspring of bay stallion Shocking who won the Melbourne Cup in 2009 and bay mare Prize Lady who won the Auckland Cup in 2007 and 2008. Both the Melbourne Cup and the Auckland Cup races are 3200 meters in distance, so it is not a shock that this horse has won such an event, given his heritage.