September 22, 2023

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Victoria Derby: The First Race Of The Melbourne Cup Carnival

The Victoria Derby is one of Australia’s oldest races. It was inaugurated in 1855 at Flemington Racecourse and it became the first main race of the Melbourne Cup Carnival which was started in 1869 by the Victorian Racing Club.

The history of the Victoria Derby

The very first race in 1855 was won by Rose of May. Over the years, many famous horses have run and won this race including Poseidon (1906), Phar Lap (1929), and Efficient in 2006. All three of these racehorses proceeded to win the Melbourne Cup after winning the Victoria Derby. The track, being run at Flemington Racecourse, is turf and flat and the race distance is 2500 meters, so the event is not suitable for sprinters. It is interesting to note that when the metric system was introduced in the early 70s the length was changed from miles to meters and started with 2400 meters but was set to 2500 meters in 1973 where it has stayed to this day. The current total prize purse for the Derby is $2,000,000AUD.

If a racehorse wins this race and the Caulfield Guineas, they achieve a feat known as the Caulfield Guineas – Victoria Derby double. Three notable horses have accomplished this, Tulloch (1957), Red Anchor (1984), and Mahogany (1993). Knowing the odds for the 2022 Victoria Derby is an important factor because it has been historically viewed as a preview as to who might win the Melbourne Cup as seen with the above-mentioned previous winners.

Activities that occur on Victoria Derby day

The event is also known as ‘men’s day’ and fashion-wise it is a black and white attire affair, although grey can be worn. Like a lot of other horseracing events around the country, the Victoria Derby has its own signature flower, the blue cornflower, which was implemented in 1962 and can be purchased in and around the venue.

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The race itself is a Group 1 race, meaning it is the highest level of racing. It is for three-year-olds and is run under set-weight conditions which means that horses have to carry a certain weight based on their age and sex. The jockey and the saddle are included in the weight, so if they do not meet the weight required for the horse then additional weights are added.

Past winners

Several notable jockeys have won the Victoria Derby including Bobbie Lewis, who won the race a record 8 times, Michael Rodd (2006), who went on to win the Melbourne Cup in 2007, Clare Lindop (2008), who was the first female jockey to win the race, and Greg Hall, who also won the 1992 Melbourne Cup.

The latest thoroughbred winner of the Victoria Derby was Hitotsu in 2021, ridden by jockey John Allen, and trained by rising stars Ciaron Maher and David Eustace. Prominent trainer Gai Waterhouse saw her first success with her stallion Nothin’ Leica Dane winning the Victoria Derby in 1995. Interestingly, only one racehorse has managed to win the Victoria Derby twice and that was thoroughbred colt Fireworks in 1867 and 1868. This was an especially short time as his first win was in November then the second win was in January as the Victoria Derby was changed to January 1st.

All in all, the Victoria Derby kicks off the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival with a bang and is an important date on the horse racing calendar.