The two-day carnival at Royal Randwick, The Champions, is the jewel in the crown of Sydney’s autumn racing carnival.
With eight Group 1 races across the two days of racing, the big-money carnival features the best horses in Australia - not to mention a few world-class internationals in recent years.
But while The Championships is a great few days of racing for the racing purist, it still doesn’t compare with the Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington during the spring for glitz, glamour or attention.
And, no race in Australia will ever attract as much attention as ‘the race that stops a nation’ - the Melbourne Cup.
But with the Melbourne Cup more than six months away, are we likely to see the Melbourne Cup winner racing during The Championships?
In 2021, star mare Verry Elleegant bolted in the Melbourne Cup by 4L. It was a dominant win and one that confirmed she deserves the ‘champion’ tag - if she didn’t already.
Verry Elleegant is no stranger to The Championships.
As a 3YO filly, the former Kiwi won the ATC Oaks in dominant fashion - scoring by 1.8L as a $2F.
She returned a year later, in 2020, as a 4YO mare, chasing home English star Addeybb in the biggest race of the Sydney autumn, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, to finish a 2.8L runner-up - and beat home star Japanese galloper Danon Premium in the process.
In the spring of that year, Very Elleegant won the Caulfield Cup before getting too far back and running on strongly to finish seventh in the Melbourne Cup, before returning for another crack at the Queen Elizabeth where, again, she finished runner-up to Addeybb.
When she returned in the spring, her preparation culminated in that dominant 2021 Melbourne Cup win - having finished third in the Cox Plate at her start prior.
While Verry Elleegant is unlikely to race in Australia again after the Queen Elizabeth, with a tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe her mooted final mission, there are a number of other runners who could progress to the 2022 Melbourne Cup field.
The Sydney Cup is an obvious lead-up.
Like the Melbourne Cup, the two mile contest is a genuine staying affair and you only need to look at last year’s Melbourne Cup to see how many horses competed in both races in the same year.
Each of The Chosen One (sixth in both the Melbourne Cup and Sydney Cup), Selino (eighth and first), She’s Ideel (10th and fourth) and Miami Bound (12th and third) all competed in the double in 2021.
But outside of the Queen Elizabeth and the Sydney Cup, the 3YO staying features are both ones to watch for future Melbourne Cup hopes.
In 2021, Explosive Jack won the ATC Derby before going on to run 15th in the Melbourne Cup.
Star 3YO Hitotsu claimed the ATC Derby in 2022, as well as the Victoria Derby in the spring of 2021, and currently sits as a $9 favourite (TAB) for this year’s Melbourne Cup.
While there were no graduates of the ATC Oaks in 2021 to run in the Melbourne Cup, Verry Elleegant herself won the Oaks during The Championships in 2019 before winning the Melbourne Cup in 2021.
Gust Of Wind - the last horse to beat Winx in a race - was another Oaks winner who ran well in the Melbourne Cup. In 2015, she was an upset winner of the Oaks at $18 before flying home for sixth in that year’s Melbourne Cup.
Whether or not the 2022 Melbourne Cup winner raced at Randwick during The Championships remains to be seen, but there’s undoubtedly a number of horses to keep an eye on for this year’s version of Australia’s greatest race - not to mention for a number of years to come.