Steve Moran

Could 2023 see Australasia’s best ever 3YO crop?

This season’s 2019 foaled three-year-old crop is rapidly emerging as one of the best in many generations. 

Just how good will always be a matter of some bias and subjectivity, especially as human nature dictates that we are inclined to glamourise the deeds of past racetrack performers.

However, the wins, against all comers, already recorded this season by Coolangatta, Sharp ’N’ Smart, Jacquinot, Giga Kick and Lofty Strike suggest that this crop is at least above average and there is promise of more to come given that Giga Kick, C’est Magique, Manzoice and Aberfeldie Boy are among the talented three-year-olds yet to reappear this autumn.

Other potential stars include She’s Extreme and Berkeley Square have been ruled out of autumn campaigns.

The force of this group, and the strength of most of the spring’s 3YO races, was underlined again last Saturday when Coolangatta won the Group 1 Lightning Stakes, while the Caulfield Guineas second and third – Elliptical and Ospienko – won, respectively, the Group 3 Hayes Stakes and Group 2 Hobartville Stakes.

Coolangatta, the first filly to win the Lightning Stakes since Regimental Gal in 2004, completed her spring campaign with a fifth place in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes, behind In Secret (a first-up winner of last week’s Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes); C’est Magique; Buenos Noches (who turned in a very good Group 1 Newmarket trial in the Lightning) and Lofty Strike who last week won the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes.

Last spring’s Group 1 Golden Rose form has clearly been franked by Jacquinot, In Secret, Zou Tiger, She’s Extreme (who will miss the autumn though injury) and Golden Mile, whose Caulfield Guineas’ win was similarly endorsed by the placegetters last Saturday.

The Guineas fourth was Berkeley Square (also sidelined this autumn after a pedal bone infection) who then won the Group 2 Vase in almost identical time to Anamoe in the Group 1 Cox Plate, and the three-year-old middle distance and staying form is passing scrutiny given the Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes win of Sharp ’N’ Smart.

Sharp ’N’ Smart had, of course, won the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes beating Elliptical, subsequent Oaks’ winner She’s Extreme, as well as Matcha Latte, who resumed with an eye-catching effort in the Hobartville Stakes. He then ran second in the Group 1 Victoria Derby to Manzoice, with Aberfeldie Boy third. The Derby fourth and fifth Mr Maestro and Muramasa (who’d quinellaed the Group 2 Robinson Stakes) have each resumed this autumn with promising performances.

It’s quite a list; to which you can add the Chris Waller trained fillies Zougotcha and Madame Pommery who, respectively, won Group 1 races the Flight Stakes and Thousand Guineas in the spring. Zougotcha is expected to resume in Saturday’s Group 1 Surround Stakes, while Lofty Strike is poised to add to the crop’s resume when he contests the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate at Sandown.

Seventeen of the 21 three-year-olds mentioned went through the sales ring. Seven of that number solid for $200,000 or less, with Buenos Noches the cheapest at $40,000 at Inglis Classic.

Jacquinot was passed in at $90,000, while eight of the remaining nine sold realised between $220,000 and $500,000, with the other being the highest priced In Secret at $900,000. Eight were sold at Magic Millions, while six went through Inglis Sales’ and two from Karaka.

Waller was part purchaser of four – Ospienko, Manzoice, Zougotcha and Madame Pommery the latter three in conjunction with Guy Mulcaster Bloodstock.

So, how do they sit with past three-year-old crops? Another 12 months will likely answer that question. 

The best in my memory would be the 1992 crop headed by Octagonal, Saintly, Nothin Leica Dane, Filante, Our Maizcay, Flying Spur, Saleous, Gold Ace, Catalan Opening and Arctic Scent, who overshadowed Strategic, Principality, Kidman’s Cove, Peep On The Sly, Encores, Ravarda and Skybeau.

Others may argue for the 1970 crop headed by Taj Rossi, Imagele, Grand Cidium and Leica Lover, along with Tontonan, Prince Shifnal and the Cups winners’ Leilani and Thing Big; or for 1973 and Family Of Man, Surround, Ming Dynasty, Romantic Dream, Unaware, Ashbah and In Pursuit.

The Australian and New Zealand 1979 crop gave us Grosvenor, Rancher, Strawberry Road, Emancipation and (Mr) McGinty, along with Marscay, Cossack Prince, and Veloso. The 1970’s was almost certainly the most recent, prolific decade for producing high-class horses or perhaps just romantically recalled by a then-young racing fan.

Regardless, this current group I’m sure will be well remembered.

Note: Thanks to regular readers Robert Hallowell and John Richardson for jogging my memory on some of these recollections