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A Guide to Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia

Most horse racing fans know all about the big-time venues in Melbourne like Flemington and Moonee Valley. Were you aware that Caulfield Racecourse is just a short commute away? Did you know that they host twelve Group 1 races throughout the year?

Whether you already have been to Caulfield or you know little about the property, this page is going to be a great resource. We’ll cover the most significant events at the racing facility located just 15 minutes from the center of Melbourne.

Of course, we’ll introduce the racecourse with a proper section detailing how and when it was opened, as well as why it has become a featured destination for Australian Thoroughbred racing.

After describing the layout of the track and getting you ready for the big races, we’ll include some tips and advice for those of you who plan on visiting Caulfield in the near future. With as much as there is going on at the racecourse and in the surrounding area, why someone wouldn’t want to make the trip is beyond us.

All you have to do is sit back and relax and enjoy our organized sections. As far as some history about Caulfield Racecourse, that can be found directly below!

Overview of Caulfield Racecourse

Year Opened
Caulfield, Victoria, Australia
Crown Land
Course Type
Notable Races
Caulfield Cup, Caulfield Guineas, Blue Diamond Stakes, Memsie Stakes
Official Website

Opening and Reopening of Caulfield

Flemington Racecourse had been open since 1840. Thoroughbred racing was proving to be a mainstay in Australian sports, and it was time to start expanding. The answer was building Caulfield Racecourse, which occurred in 1859.

If you are wondering why Caulfield Racecourse is nicknamed “The Heath,” all you have to do is go back to when it all started. An area of unincorporated land full of vegetation and brush was the land used to construct the racecourse at Caulfield.

This heath ended up being the foundation for what you see today at Caulfield. Unfortunately, things weren’t booming from the start, and in fact, the racecourse was almost lost altogether.

At one point, they even started using the grounds as a cemetery due to the lack of racing, but it wouldn’t last long. By 1876, the Victorian Amateur Turf Club (VATC) stepped in and had organized a race meeting to get the course back up on its feet.

The plan worked, and in 1879, the Caulfield Cup was created - a race that to this day is one of the most celebrated in all of Australia.

In the ensuing years, more events were established, and things seemed to be working out famously for everyone involved. Then, in 1922, on the night before the Caulfield Cup, a devastating fire broke out, causing serious damage to much of the property. Everything from the grandstand to the judge’s box to the telephone office was essentially destroyed.

Despite this unfortunate circumstance, the racecourse rallied and was able to persevere through the difficult time. Another “hiccup” in the evolution of Caulfield as a premier racing destination came during World War II. In 1940, racing was halted, and all meets were moved up the road to Flemington.

The military used Caulfield and its resources for a variety of things, including housing and recruiting soldiers. This would last four years, until February of 1944 when the racecourse was “given back” to the Victorian Amateur Turf Club.

The VATC didn’t waste much time, and racing was back in business by August of that same year.

Another step in the right direction for how things would progress at Caulfield was when the was formed in 1963.

Two years later, they introduced Sandown Racecourse, another horse racing facility in the outskirts of Melbourne. This was good news for Caulfield, as it signaled a spike in the interest level of racing fans in Australia. Caulfield benefited greatly and has since been the recipient of multiple “facelifts” and renovations.

The Rupert Clarke Grandstand was erected in 1989, although it took two phases and three full years to fully complete the project, and it wasn’t done until 1992. More changes followed as time went on, making sure to keep Caulfield “up to date” and in the center of Australian Thoroughbred racing.

This includes amending the racetrack and adding on/improving current facilities. What a perfect time to transition into a description of the racecourse!

Describing the Racecourse

Allow us to portray the track at Caulfield to help you get an idea of what the races are like. First off, this isn’t a standard, oval-shaped track like the ones you encounter most of the time when watching horse races. Imagine a triangle with rounded edges because that’s what the shape of the track at Caulfield closely resembles.

The outer edge of the track measures 2,080 meters with a home straight of 367 meters. One interesting thing to note about the turf at Caulfield is that it’s generally kept a tad bit longer than typical racing surfaces.

This leads to “soft conditions” when the sun is shining and provides fairly smooth racing conditions. On the flip side, when there has been a lot of rainfall, the track becomes tougher as the grass seems to toughen up and stick together.

Depending on the length of the race, multiple starting positions can be and are utilized. Due to the shape of the track, jockeys who can get off to a quick start have a good chance at prevailing.

The difficulty of the turns combined with a short final stretch means there simply isn’t a lot of time or room to make up a lot of ground.

For example, when using the 1,400-meter start, Thoroughbreds have less than 150 meters of galloping before making their first dramatic left-handed turn. This is exactly why the horses starting closest to the inside rail are the ones who normally perform better. Without a doubt, experience plays a big factor in succeeding at Caulfield.

The course has been built so that the new glass grandstand offers scenic and unblocked views of everything going on. It is such a spectacular facility that we figured it deserved its own segment!

The Rupert Clarke Grandstand

If you could create the perfect setting to view a horse race, you’d probably come up with something that looks just like the Rupert Clarke Grandstand. When it was finished in 1992, it immediately brought a “pep to the step” of the racecourse.

Named after the former chairman of the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC), the racecourse wanted to who meant so much to Australian horse racing. John Dillon, another former chairman of the MRC, calmly stated the following.

“Sir Rupert is without a doubt the most outstanding and influential administrator in our Club’s history and through his many achievements leaves a lasting legacy for Victorian racing in general.”

Totally encased in glass, this unique structure serves more than one purpose. Obviously, being entirely enclosed within glass walls means that the views of the action will never be interrupted.

It is conveniently built so that direct views of the finish line are completely exposed. Another benefit of the glass walls is that during the winter when the temperature drops, racegoers can stay warm and dry.

If you head to the second level of the grandstand, you’ll notice a massive space that can be used for an assortment of functions. Whether the space is being rented for a trade show or a gala dinner, the promenade level is a terrific area to host an event if you are trying to impress your guests.

Anyone invited to some sort of get-together here won’t be disappointed. Aside from just enjoying good food and drinks, the grandstand delivers a bird’s-eye view of the entire racecourse.

When you do get famished, there’s one place you need to make sure you stop by and check out.

The Glasshouse

If you want a dining experience to cherish while at Caulfield Racecourse, look no further than the Glasshouse. Revamped in 2017, the Glasshouse is the ideal place for you to enjoy the day. Take advantage of the outdoor space that promotes a family-friendly experience.

Along with the beautifully-designed layout, there is a sports bar situated to the side that will be the destination of many punters looking to make a few bucks.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how big of a racing fan you are or how well you know the area. When you come to Caulfield to watch the Thoroughbreds in action, you’re in for a fun-filled day.

Speaking of the races at Caulfield, we alluded to there being twelve Group 1 races throughout the 20 or so race days on the calendar. Let’s take a closer look.

Twelve Group 1 Races at Caulfield

Group 1 racing is extremely prevalent at Caulfield Racecourse, with 12 events on the schedule in all. Four of these acclaimed events take place during the Autumn Racing Carnival in February, while the other eight are held between August-October as part of the Spring Racing Carnival.

We won’t flood you with pages on end about each one, but at the same time, we didn’t want to leave any of them out. Take a quick peek at some important details about the twelve Group 1 races on the calendar at Caulfield.

We’ll start with the Autumn Carnival in February.

Blue Diamond Stakes

  • Date of Inauguration: 1971
  • Purse: $1.5 million
  • Length: 1,200 meters
  • Age Requirement: Two-year-olds only

The winning horse in the Blue Diamond Stakes not only takes home his or her cut of the $1.5 million that’s up for grabs, but there is also a trophy valued at $15,000 that goes home with the victorious Thoroughbred.

Hurricane Sky’s mark of 1:08.1 in 1994 still stands today as the fastest time ever recorded in this event, while Dwayne Dunn can claim the most victories in the Blue Diamond Stakes as a jockey with four.

Futurity Stakes

  • Date of Inauguration: 1897
  • Purse: $500,000
  • Length: 1,400 meters
  • Age Requirement: Three-year-olds and older, no maidens

The Futurity Stakes is a major horse race at Caulfield that doesn’t even allow horses who have yet to win (maidens) into the field. It first started as a 7-furlong event before being tried out at a distance of 1,800 meters in 1979.

They even experimented with having it as a 1,600-meter competition from 2006-2010 before going back to 1,400 meters in 2011 - the distance it stands at today.

The last horse to win this event in consecutive years was Niconero in 2008 and 2009.

CF Orr Stakes

  • Date of Inauguration: 1925
  • Purse: $500,000
  • Length: 1,400 meters
  • Age Requirement: Weight for age

Named after a former chairman of the Williamstown Racing Club, the CF Orr Stakes has moved around the Australian venues quite a bit since it was first run in 1925. It was held at Caulfield from 1949-1965 and again in 1986, but it has bounced around other than that.

Without making your brain hurt trying to remember all the dates, we’ll just tell you that Williamstown, Moonee Valley, Flemington, and Sandown were all home of the CF Orr Stakes before it reverted back to Caulfield in 1997.

Celebrated mare Typhoon Tracy was the last Thoroughbred to go back-to-back when she won this event in 2010 and 2011.

Oakleigh Plate

  • Date of Inauguration: 1884
  • Purse: $500,000
  • Length: 1,100 meters
  • Age Requirement: Handicap, no maidens allowed

The Oakleigh Plate has been around for a long, long time – since 1884, to be exact. Fast forward to today, and the handicap race is part of the 3-race autumn sprinting series. The Lightning Stakes and the Newmarket Handicap, both held at Flemington, sandwich the Oakleigh Plate to form the 3 featured events.

You won’t see any horses get their first big win here, as maidens are ineligible to compete. Only the highest-skilled Thoroughbreds have a shot at winning the Oakleigh Plate.

From Malua winning the initial race in 1884 to Russian Revolution getting it done in 2022, the Oakleigh Plate hasn’t skipped a single year in between.

Now it’s time to shift gears and turn the pages in our calendar towards August. Let’s segue into the Spring Carnival by starting with the lead-in race.

Memsie Stakes

  • Date of Inauguration: 1899
  • Purse: $1 million
  • Length: 1,400 meters
  • Age Requirement: Three-year-olds and older, no maidens allowed

The kickoff horse race to the Spring Carnival at Caulfield is the Memsie Stakes. The format is just like the Futurity Stakes, save for the fact that this event has double the prize pool! It actually used to be a longer race, as it started out in 1899 as a 1-mile event.

It was changed to 1 1/8 miles (about 1,800 meters) the following year and remained that way for the next 70 years. After going back to about a mile (1,600 meters) from 1971-1979, it was shortened to 1,400 meters in 1980 and has remained that way ever since.

Other than being run at Sandown Park Racecourse in 1984, the Memsie Stakes has taken place at Caulfield every year since 1899. The last Thoroughbred to capture this event twice was Sunline, who won the race in 2000 and 2001.

Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes

  • Date of Inauguration: 1951
  • Purse: $500,000
  • Length: 1,400 meters
  • Age Requirement: Three-years-old and older

If you hear the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes being called the Invitation Stakes, that’s okay. The race started in 1951 as the Invitation Stakes, holding that name until 1975.

Ever since 2006, the name “Rupert Clarke” has been tied into the title, and it’s always a big part of the Spring Carnival. It’s not just because the winning horse takes home $300,000 of the $500,000 that’s on the line, but because the event is steeped in so much history.

The last horse to win in back-to-back years was Testa Rossa in 1999 and 2000, but the feat had been accomplished two previous times.

This event has been classified as a Group 1 race ever since grouping was organized in 1979, so you know it’s not a minor horse race. Up until 1994, this race was specifically held on Royal Melbourne Show Day (the last Thursday in September).

Underwood Stakes

  • Date of Inauguration: 1924
  • Purse: $750,000
  • Length: 1,800 meters
  • Age Requirement: Weight for age

Back in 1924, a one-mile September race was introduced at Williamstown Racecourse. In 1948, it was moved to Caulfield, the location it’s been held at every year since.

Over the next 40+ years, the Underwood Stakes played around with varying lengths, testing it out at 1,400 and 2,000 meters at different times. They finally settled into a routine in 1994 when the Underwood Stakes was run over the course of 1,800 meters. It has been that way ever since.

We should note that like the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, this race was annually held on Royal Melbourne Show Day before. Now it will bounce around between late September and early October.

Thoroughbred owners in Australia who like the $500k-purse events are going to fall in love with the Underwood Stakes, thanks to its handsome 750,000-dollar prize pool. There was a dead-heat in 1980 when Waitangirua and My Brown Jug crossed the winning post at identical times.

Notable winners include Phar Lap and Ajax, two of the most well-known Australian Thoroughbreds who have ever lived.

Caulfield Guineas

  • Date of Inauguration: 1881
  • Purse: $2,000,000
  • Length: 1,600 meters
  • Age Requirement: Three-year-olds

No more messing around with sub-million-dollar purses. The Caulfield Guineas offered up 2 million bucks during the 2017 edition, and this number will likely only be growing. The second Saturday in October belongs to “The Guineas,” and it grabs the attention of all the racing fans in Melbourne.

At 1,600 meters, not much has changed since this race was born in 1881. Believe it or not, all they have done is slightly adjust the length from 1 mile (1,609.34 meters) to exactly 1,600 meters in 1972.

The “Double,” a term coined for those horses to capture the Caulfield Guineas and the W.S. Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, has been achieved exactly four times. Star Affair (1965) and Rajah Sahib (1968) were the first two, followed by Surround in 1976 and Red Anchor in 1984.

Surround was a filly at the time, making her victories against her male counterparts even that much more impressive.

Thousand Guineas

  • Date of Inauguration: 1946
  • Purse: $500,000
  • Length: 1,600 meters
  • Age Requirement: Three-year-old fillies

On the same day and ensuing the Caulfield Guineas, there’s another big event taking place. The difference is, this one is intended for lady horses only. With set weights of 55.5 kilograms, this race is about as fair and equal as it gets. The fastest filly is going to win this race, point blank, period.

If you watch the final 600 meters of the 2017 Thousand Guineas, you can see what we are referring to.

Aloisia was clearly the fastest filly in the field, and hence she’s the one that took home the first-place check.

Caulfield Cup

  • Date of Inauguration: 1879
  • Purse: $3,000,000
  • Length: 2,400 meters
  • Age Requirement: Three-year-olds and older

Now, for the crown jewel, the flagship horse race at Caulfield Racecourse. Clocking in with a whopping purse of $3 million, it doesn’t take long to understand why this particular race means so much in Australia.

At 2,400 meters, the Caulfield Cup takes place on the final day of the Spring Festival. The longest race on the course’s calendar acts as a springboard towards the Melbourne Cup, which runs just two weeks later at Flemington.

There are exactly 18 horses that begin the race, with 4 waiting standby in case anything happens to one of the participating horses.

As much as there is behind this race, it isn’t all pretty.

The 1885 Caulfield Cup was the site of the worst accident in Australian Thoroughbred history when more than a third (15 of 44) of the horses collided and fell as they made their final turn. Donald Nicolson, a 25-year-old jockey riding that day, unfortunately succumbed to his injuries and died at the scene.

Caulfield Stakes

  • Date of Inauguration: 1886
  • Purse: $1,000,000
  • Length: 2,000 meters
  • Age Requirement: Three-year-olds and older, no maidens allowed

On the first day (Guineas Day) of the Spring Carnival, the action kicks off with a seven-figure event entitled the Caulfield Stakes. It has been called the Yalumba Stakes (1997-2010) and has been going by the Ladbrokes Stakes since 2016, but don’t get it twisted. This race will always be known as the Caulfield Stakes.

The 2,000-meter race for three-year-olds (excluding maidens) has had some interesting developments over the years, especially in 2016, when only 3 Thoroughbreds made it to the starting gate.

Perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered how many horses were competing, because Winx, the utterly dominating mare, took the crown home. It was unlikely that any horse would have defeated her that year, as she was in the midst of taking home Australian Horse of the Year from 2015-2017.

As far as winning both the Caulfield Stakes and the Caulfield Cup in the same year? It has actually happened 9 times. Eurythmic was the first in 1920, and Sydeston was the last in 1990.

Toorak Handicap

  • Date of Inauguration: 1881
  • Purse: $500,000
  • Length: 1,600 meters
  • Age Requirement: Handicap, maidens not allowed

One last race to chat about. It’s the Toorak Handicap, which, like the Caulfield Stakes, is run on the opening day of the Spring Festival. It might not boast a million-dollar-plus prize pool, but the $500,000 handed out at the Toorak Handicap is nothing to gawk at.

Inaugurated in 1881, the list of champion horses to get it done at the Toorak Handicap is a lengthy one. We will tell you that 1937 Caulfield Cup winner The Trump also took home the Toorak Handicap that same year, becoming the first horse to win the pair during the same season.

Royal Gem (1946) and Galilee (1966) were the next two to win both Caulfield races, and incidentally, Galilee went on to take home the coveted Melbourne Cup as well.

The very next year, in 1967, Hall of Fame member Tobin Bronze won not only the Toorak Handicap and the Caulfield Cup, but he also won the W.S. Cox Plate. Umrum won the Toorak Handicap consecutively in 1999 and 2000, as did Solzhenitsyn in 2012 and 2013.

Clearly, there has been no shortage of electrifying results at this event. Nothing leads us to believe this will be changing anytime soon.

Melbourne Has It All

Now that you have plenty of information on the major races and when they take place, it’s time to start thinking about booking a trip to Melbourne! Between Caulfield, Flemington, and Moonee Valley, you won’t run out of options to see horse racing at its finest.

If nobody has told you how gorgeous the city of Melbourne is, then apparently you’ll have to go experience it for yourself.

When you get to Caulfield Racecourse, you’ll only be a 10- to 15-minute ride from the Central Business District. In other words, you are basically a stone’s throw away from all the good stuff.

Flinders Street Railway Station can act as your “hub” for the duration of your stay. It will take you directly to Caulfield Station, dropping you off right outside the entrance to the track.

If you opt for the SmartBus, look for the Route 900 Bus that leaves from the Stud Park Shopping Centre, as well as the Chadstone Shopping Centre and Monash University.

Getting to Caulfield Racecourse won’t be an issue. Having a memorable time? That won’t be a problem at all, either. The high-flying Thoroughbred action mixed with makes scheduling this trip an absolute no-brainer.

So what are you waiting for?

The Wrap-Up

It doesn’t take a superfan to know that Melbourne, Australia, is home to some of the best Thoroughbred races on the entire planet. A big reason for this is because some of the most esteemed venues happen to be in the area. Caulfield Racecourse is one of those properties, and this page was meant to bring you full circle.

Understanding the importance of the races at Caulfield means you need to be aware of how and why the racecourse was opened in the first place. Becoming familiar with the backstory will allow you to fully grasp what this place is all about.

Come springtime in Melbourne, there won’t be a place with more fun-filled activities going on. To those of you who are bettors, the amount of money to be made at the racetracks during the Carnivals is mind-boggling.

We suggest you use this guide as a starting point, but do everything you can to make it Caulfield in person. Those that have already been to a Caulfield Cup or perhaps a Blue Diamond Stakes in the fall already know how exciting things can get.

As fun as it is to read and learn about the exhilaration that spectators experience, you ought to go see and feel it for yourself.