2022 Group One 3 Point Motors William Reid Stakes Night - Highlights
As the thundering hooves reverberated loudly around the empty Valley grandstands, we began the 2021/22 season uncertain at what was to unfold both on and off the track. While the first half of the season dished up a unique set of highlights on the track, the returning crowds in the second half of the season have reignited The Valley and the good times are back once again.
Early in the season, the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate was won by Irish raider State Of Rest, who became only the third international winner of Australia’s Best Race and the second champion from Ireland. There were echoes of the 2014 edition which was won by the Irish horse Adelaide and trained by another member of the famous O’Brien family. Aidan O’Brien became the first ever international trainer to win our great race, before his son Joseph O’Brien followed a similar campaign to win Ladbrokes Cox Plate 101. Both horses came through lead up races in the United States and both came here as northern hemisphere three-year-olds.
It was a fitting result that fellow Irishman Johnny Allen was able to ride to victory his first major on a hometown horse. But, despite the lack of crowds on course during our Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival, it wasn’t without drama. Over the final 200m through testing ground, State Of Rest laid in and shifted onto the runner-up Anamoe – resulting in Craig Williams promptly firing in a protest. A lengthy deliberation took place between the stewards with millions watching on from home, and after close to 30 minutes the protest was dismissed. One of the most drama-filled Cox Plates we’ve ever seen – albeit minus the traditional 30,000 racegoers cheering on trackside.
The Ladbrokes Friday Night Lights season came to a close on 25 March – and what a season under lights it has been. A perennial highlight is the Ladbrokes 55 Second Challenge and straight out the blocks, Lyn Tolson & Leonie Proctor’s Curran posted a sizzling time of 54.61 seconds in the very first heat. Surprisingly, sprinters over the ensuing 16 heats couldn’t beat clubhouse leader Curran’s time and the relieved training partnership were duly presented with the $55,000 cheque courtesy of Ladbrokes on the final night.
The Group 1 winners over the night season included Wild Ruler in the Charter Keck Cramer Moir Stakes, Jonker in the Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes and September Run in the 3 Point Motors William Reid Stakes. All three have been elite performers at the top level for a few seasons now, so it was a great result to have a classy trio of sprinters win our three $1 million features, after prizemoney for the 3 Point Motors William Reid Stakes doubled this year.
The Group 2 DCE Alister Clark Stakes also received a prizemoney boost from $300,000 up to $750,000 and it delivered on several fronts. Trainer Matthew Brown captured the biggest win of his career, and for rider Beau Mertens it was his second Group 2 here at The Valley after he won the Stutt Stakes on Showtime back in 2017. The perfect ground-saving ride on Prix De Turn also earnt Beau the overall Drummond Golf Ride of the Night award for season 2021/22, netting a tasty $2,500 voucher to use at Drummond Golf.
The Valley Summer Stayers and Sprinters Series entered its fourth year and once again proved to be a great success. After six heats in each series, the $125,000 finals were conducted on the Friday 4 March meeting to add some extra intrigue and competition to the card. Warrnambool trainer Simon Wylde’ French Moon took out the Ranvet Valley Summer Stayers Final, while Julien Welsh won The Daemco Valley Summer Sprinters Final with Maritana. It was great to see noted country jockeys Harry Coffey and Carleen Hefel win both races.
We now look forward to an uninterrupted season of racing for next year starting with our first meeting on Saturday 20 August. The season will also include the Centenary of the W.S. Cox Plate plus a series of lead-up events and raceday dining options to accompany it. We look forward to reflecting on 100 years of Australia’s Best Race and we can’t wait to tell the stories of champions past and present. Zaaki, Anamoe, Incentivise and I’m Thunderstruck are just some of our Weight-For-Age stars likely to line up. But we are also hoping the relaxation of COVID restrictions will mean we can attract more international stars this year, with reigning champion State Of Rest already expressing interest in coming back. As the crop of star three-year-olds invariably rise to fame early in the Spring – as Anamoe did last year – it is sure to serve up a worthy edition.
In March 2023 we will be hosting the fifth edition of the All-Star Mile. With prizemoney of $5 million – equal to the Ladbrokes Cox Plate – they are the two richest Weight-For-Age races in Victoria.
And so, with a short hiatus of three-and-a-half months ahead of us, we look forward to our final official meeting of the season on Saturday 30 July and a return of the good times once again.