The Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1600m) is Saturday’s feature race and it has drawn a typically talented field of milers to Royal Randwick in Sydney.
Further to its $250,000 prize pool, the Villiers Stakes offers its winner ballot-free entry into the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m); the feature race on Day 1 of The Championships in April.
The four most-recent winners of the Villiers Stakes have gone on to perform extremely well in the Doncaster Mile and we’ve relived their preparations and performances below, in anticipation for the 125th edition of the Villiers Stakes on Saturday.
We are set for another outstanding edition of the race and Godolphin five-year-old Interlocuter remains favourite to join names like Sense Of Occasion and Happy Clapper on the Villiers Stakes winners list.
Sense Of Occasion
Sense Of Occasion was sent off a $31 shot in last year’s Villiers, but took advantage of a break-neck tempo set by Fabrizio in transit and finished over the top of his rivals to win by a head from warhorse Dibayani.
The Street Sense gelding’s fresh form is generally terrific and trainer Kris Lees elected to saddle the horse first-up in the Doncaster Mile this year; a decision that paid dividends when Sense Of Occasion flew home to finish a smart third behind It’s Somewhat and Happy Clapper at $61 odds.
Happy Clapper has become one of the Australian racing community’s favourite horses, but he first stamped himself as a genuine star-in-the-making when he produced an outstanding rails run to win the 2015 Villiers Stakes.
The son of Teofilo won a pair of Sydney minors over 1200m and 1500m respectively upon resuming in October of 2015 and was subsequently backed into $4.80 favouritism prior to the Villiers.
Having taken a position within the field, Happy Clapper appeared to have too much work ahead of him when Moral Victory kicked clear in the final straight, but the horse mustered his trademark turn of foot late to win the race by a length.
Gold Coast local Rudy produced one of the best performances of his career to win the 2014 Villiers Stakes.
Rudy earned a trip south via a strong preparation in his native Queensland, which heralded a strong win in the Listed Recognition Stakes (1630m); his first amongst black type company.
Having settled towards the tail of the field, Luke Tarrant worked the horse into the clear upon arriving at the final straight and allowed Rudy plenty of time to balance before asking for an extra effort. The young hoop was greeted with a huge turn of foot as Rudy ate up the soft ground and savaged the line for a smart win over I’m Imposing.
After finishing second in the Group 3 Liverpool City Cup (1300m) upon resuming autumn, Rudy failed to fire on ‘Good’ going in either of the Group 2 Ajax Stakes (1500m) or Group 3 Doncaster Prelude (1500m), but again found a wet track in the Doncaster and sustained a tough run to the line to finish a prominent fourth behind Kermadec.
Two Queensland-trained horses; Crack Me Up ($8) and Hopfgarten ($15) will attempt to emulate Rudy’s winning effort in this year’s Villiers Stakes.
Ninth Legion has been a strong and consistent performer through much of his 53-start career, but was arguably at his best in 2013/14, when under the care of Team Hawkes.
The Fastnet Rock gelding, ridden by now-trainer Peter Robl took a position right on the pace in the 2013 Villiers Stakes and never appeared in doubt; extending in the final straight to beat Limes by a length.
Finishing less-than two lengths off the pace of talented sprinter Terravista when resuming in the Liverpool City Cup, Ninth Legion faded late to finish eighth in the George Ryder Stakes; his final lead-up into the Doncaster Mile.
Ninth Legion was forced to do plenty of work early to get across to the rail from a central draw, but maintained a tough run in heavy conditions to finish a gallant fifth behind back-to-back winner Sacred Falls.