The Newmarket Handicap is a $1m Group 1 handicap open to all horses. It is run over 1200m at Flemington, down the famous “straight six”, every March.
Despite the fact it is a handicap, it tends to draw a large field of quality sprinters each year, with some incredible feats achieved. It is considered by many to be Australia’s best sprint, and the sprinting equivalent of the Melbourne Cup.
The Newmarket Handicap was first run in 1874, when it was won by Maid of Avenel. Only four horses have managed to win two Newmarkets – Aspen (1880, 1881), Gothic (1927, 1928), Correct (1960, 1961) and Razor Sharp (1982, 1983).
Other notable winners include Malua (1884), Wakeful (1901), Heroic (1926), Aurie’s Star (1937), Ajax (1938), Bernborough (1946), Baguette (1971), Century (1973), Cap D’Antibes (1975), Toy Show (1976), Maybe Mahal (1978), Placid Ark (1987), Special (1988), Shaftesbury Avenue (1991), Schillaci (1992), General Nediym (1998), Belle du Jour (2003), Alinghi (2005), Takeover Target (2006), Miss Andretti (2007), Weekend Hussler (2008) and Scenic Blast (2009).
In 2011, it was the champion mare Black Caviar who recorded her 10th win when leading home a trifecta for the girls, with Crystal Lily second and Beaded third, while 2012 saw the tenacious Hay List defeat Buffering and Foxwedge.
In 2010, there was major drama when a fierce storm suddenly during the running of the Newmarket Handicap. Heavy rain and lightning was experienced during the race, while large hailstones began to fall in the moments after Wanted had crossed the post the winner. Incredibly, the large field effectively stayed in the same positions all race, with only a couple of horses making any ground whatsoever – it was suggested a “pack mentality” had come into effect as the impending storm approached. On the way back to the horse stalls, a number of runners injured themselves and the meeting was postponed.
The Newmarket Handicap is often linked with the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m) and the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m). Only two horses have completed the treble, though – Placid Ark (1987) and Schillaci (1992).
From here, horses are likely to head to races like the Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m), the Group 1 T J Smith Stakes (1200m) and the Group 1 The Galaxy (1100m).