If there is one thing Australians place above all else in their homeland it is sport, and amongst the upper echelon is the sport of kings – horse racing.
Attracting an annual wagering amount of $15 billion via the traditional methods alone, it could be argued that horse racing is Australia’s national pastime.
Not only is it bet upon more than any other sport in the country, but it also attracts massive live audiences in Australia. Horse racing is consistently in the top-three attended live-sports throughout the year, and the big events – such as the Melbourne Cup – can draw crowds of 100,000 spectators on course.
The sport generates huge crowds because of the quality of racing Australia provides.
Melbourne’s spring racing carnival and Sydney’s autumn carnival are among the biggest in the sport and routinely draw the cream of the crop when it comes to thoroughbred animals from around the world.
We took a look at the Australian horse racing landscape and compiled a list of the notable tracks, the biggest races and the best ways to bet on the Aussie gallops in order to assist those who are not entirely familiar with the state of affairs down under.
Horse racing tracks in Australia
Flemington – home of the Melbourne Cup carnival – is the best-known racecourse in Australia. Showcasing racing since 1840, Flemington is the oldest metropolitan race course in the country.
Known for its long straight, Flemington hosts a number of group 1 races throughout the year including the crown jewel in Australian racing the Melbourne Cup – the world’s richest staying race.
Such is the influence of the course, it received heritage listing back in 2006, further solidifying Flemington’s legacy as Australia’s premier track.
Based just outside the metropolitan area of Melbourne, Caulfield is a track steeped in history, forged in over 150 years of racing.
The home of the Group 1 Caulfield Cup, Caulfield routinely holds big meetings all year round.
Affectionately known as ‘The Heath’ due to conditions jockeys previously had to navigate in days gone by, Caulfield is one of Melbourne’s most beloved tracks.
Moonee Valley racecourse
Known as ‘the people’s track’ Moonee Valley is a gunshot away from Flemington racecourse but their layouts could not be any more different.
Home to the ‘best two minutes in sport’ – the Group 1 Cox Plate – the Valley has seen some of the best horses in the world grace the track.
Known for its short straight, the Valley is one of Australia’s favourite courses.
Royal Randwick racecourse
Flemington may be the most famous course in the country but Royal Randwick is not too far behind.
Home of Sydney’s autumn carnival including the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Australia’s richest weight-for-age race, Randwick is the largest in NSW and has been conducting racing for over 160 years.
The course is not known as ‘Racing Headquarters’ for nothing. Randwick is without question one of Australia’s most iconic racing venues.
Royal Randwick might be known as Racing HQ in New South Wales but the real enthusiasts know Rosehill is where the real racing happens in Sydney.
Home to one of Australia’s biggest and best races – the Group 1 Golden Slipper – Rosehill transcends the ordinary racecourse to become an all-round entertainment venue.
Gold Coast racecourse
Gold Coast is not normally a city you associate alongside racing but the Gold Coast track is one that is steeped in Queensland racing tradition.
Home to all the major Magic Millions races, the Gold Coast turf club has been in operation for over 100 years and continues to be a trend setter in Queensland racing circles.
Eagle Farm racecourse
Based in the industrial area of the Queensland capital, Eagle Farm is Brisbane’s number one racetrack.
Eagle Farm is home to the winter racing carnival which has a number of huge races throughout the Australian winter.
Eagle Farm hosts a number of big races throughout the year, including the Group 1 Queensland Derby and the Queensland Oaks, as well as the Stradbroke Handicap.
Morphettville is South Australia’s premier racing venue and one of Australia’s most recognisable racecourses.
Placed just outside of the Adelaide CBD, Morphettville is home to the Group 1 Australasian Oaks and the Group 1 Goodwood.
Known as the racing headquarters in Western Australia, Ascot melds a picturesque racecourse alongside a brilliant track.
Set on the water which gives the track a truly unique and beautiful aesthetic, Ascot is home to the Group 1 Railway Stakes, The Group 1 Kingston Town Classic and the time honoured Winterbottom Stakes Ascot routinely draws the best horses from around the world to the edge of Australia.
Biggest races to bet on in Australia
The Melbourne Cup
You do not get the moniker of being the ‘race that stops a nation’ without being a big-name race, and the Melbourne Cup certainly lives up to the billing.
Run every year on the first Tuesday of November, the Group 1 Melbourne Cup is the world’s richest staying race and routinely draws the best long distance horses from around the globe.
The Cox Plate
The Melbourne Cup may be the biggest race in Australia, but the Cox Plate is on par, if not exceeding in entertainment value to the purists.
Known as the most exciting two minutes in sport, the Group 1 Cox Plate is run every year at Monee Valley as part of the spring racing carnival in Melbourne and gives both sprinters and long distance runners the chance to become a legend on the iconic track.
Over the 2040m journey, the Cox Plate is Australia’s second richest weight-for-age race at the $3 million mark.
The Golden Slipper
Set at the picturesque Rosehill racecourse, the Golden Slipper is one of the country’s best races.
2017 will be the 60th running of the race which is now not only the centrepiece of Sydney’s autumn racing carnival, but it is now the world’s richest race for two-year-olds over 1,200 metres.
The Caulfield Cup
The first of the big Group 1 races of the Melbourne spring racing carnival, the Caulfield Cup is a time honoured event that draws horses from around the globe looking for a shot at immortality.
The Group 1 Caulfield Cup is worth $3 million and is a three-year-olds and over race over 2,400 metres.
The Australian Derby
Raced at Randwick as part of Sydney autumn racing carnival, the Group 1 Australian Derby is for three-year-old at set weights.
The Group 1 race, over a 2,400 journey, is considered the top ranked event for three-year-olds in Australian and New Zealand race classifications.
Australian regulated bookmakers
Australians are spoiled for choice when it comes to betting on their own races given how easy it is to secure and license and how many bookies there are in existence.
Companies like WilliamHill.com.au, Sportsbet.com.au and Palmerbet.com.au are forced into competing for market share which means the punters get the benefits of top totes, daily promotions and first past the post incentives.
Companies in Australia also allow mobile access to their site, but the real deal bookies have a mobile app
that can be downloaded. Sportsbet, William Hill, Bet365 all have their own apps have can be downloaded and used within Australia.
Australian horse racing is a big deal right across the globe but not all bookmakers who offer markets on horse racing have the meets from down under available for punting.
Sites with global appeal like Bet365.com.au and Bodog88 offer markets on the Aussie gallops while Citibet also offer markets on Australian races, but have openly been condemned by the racing industry in this country.
Bet365 in particular is a cut above the rest of the competition given they have markets on every Australian televised horse racing card.
List of Group 1 races in Australia
Gambling laws within Australia
Although horse racing is invariably the same from country to country depending on what style of race it is, there are several key differences in the Australian adjudication of laws surrounding racing.
One thing overseas horse racing fans will notice a lot more about Australian racing is the fact that protests and steward inquiries occur much more frequently than they do in Europe.
Gallops meetings – especially in the UK – allow a lot more bumping and duelling than they do in Australia which leads to inquires all the time, however, on the major races throughout the year the legitimate betting companies offer both first past the post and protest payout returns so you are covered irrespective.
Another unique aspect to Aussie racing is the whipping law which dictates jockeys cannot strike a horse with the whip more than five times in the final 100m of a race. Punters have been stung in Australia by the scenario as it has led to a disqualification.