Shakespeare's Juliet may have asked 'What's in a name?' but right now I'm asking 'Who?' As you look through the form guide, you'll see that some races are named after businesses who have paid for the right to promote their brand, whilst others may be named after people, places or moments. As Spring Carnival approaches, I've delved into the names behind some of our upcoming features races:
*Three-time Melbourne Cup winner, Makybe Diva. Image courtesy racing.com
DATO' TAN CHIN NAM STAKES
Group 2, Moonee Valley, Saturday 9 September
Reported as one of Malaysia's richest men, you may not recognise the man, but you'd certainly recognise his white, black and yellow racing colours. Dato' Tan Chin Nam had an extremely successful working relationship with trainer Bart Cummings which spanned thirty years. During that time, he has won the Melbourne Cup four times and owned many champions such as Saintly, Think Big, Viewed and So You Think. With a background in property development, Tan's company was responsible for some of Asia's biggest shopping centre developments, as well as the renovation project of Sydney's Queen Victoria Building. Earlier this year, he celebrated his 91st birthday.
STAN FOX STAKES
Group 2, Rosehill Gardens, Saturday 9 September
Stan Fox was a mining tycoon and prolific thoroughbred owner and breeder in New South Wales. Stan partnered with trainer Jack Denham and established Nebo Lodge at Rosehill Gardens in the 1960s. After Stan's death in 1974, the inaugural race was run in 1975 and won by Hydahban. Stan's wife Millie, also has a race named in her honour - The Millie Fox Stakes. Following on from Stan's death, Millie took over Nebo Lodge stables and worked successfully with trainer Brian Mayfield-Smith.
MAKYBE DIVA STAKES
Group 1, Flemington, Saturday 16 September
Before Winx there was Black Caviar. Before Black Caviar, there was Makybe Diva. Whilst she didn't start her career off in a blaze, the UK -bred mare went on to win three consecutive Melbourne Cups (2003 - 2005) and certainly captured the hearts of the nation. Owned by South Australian tuna fisherman Tony Santic, Makybe Diva was named after five of his employees - Maureen, Kylie, Belinda, Diane, and Vanessa - by taking the first two letters from each of their names. Upon her retirement immediately following the 2005 Melbourne Cup win (which Tony announced during the trophy presentation!), Makybe Diva has been inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame and has a life size statue at both Flemington and Tony's hometown of Port Lincoln, SA.
GEORGE MAIN STAKES
Group 1, Royal Randwick, Saturday 16 September
George Main was a former Australian Jockey Club Chairman in the 1920's. George and his wife Mary, were also horse and sheep breeders based on property in southwest New South Wales. Legendary trainer T.J Smith has won this race 11 times, and next week Winx will be looking for both her 2nd claim to the race, as well as her 20th consecutive win! Just don't look for George's name in your form guide - since 2015 the race has been known as the Colgate Optic White Stakes.
Group 3, Caulfield, Saturday 23 September
Trained by Lee Freedman, Naturalism raced between 1991 and 1993 before retiring to stud. His impressive career was hampered with injury including a significant hoof injury during his second-place Japan Cup run and a fall at the 600m in the 1992 Cox Plate. Of his 12 career wins, 10 were Group victories, including 3 Group 1 races. Lee has rated Naturalism as one of the best five horses he has ever trained.
SIR RUPERT CLARKE STAKES
Group 1, Caulfield, Sunday 1 October
Sir Rupert William John Clarke, 3rd Baronet, AM, MBE, was an Australian soldier during World War II, businessman and pastoralist. He achieved success across a number of fields, including the military, as a corporate chairman and of course, horse racing. Sir Rupert owned numerous racehorse and was on the Victoria Amateur Turf Club (now Melbourne Racing Club) for 40 years, with nearly half of that time spent as chairman.
W.S COX PLATE
Group 1, Moonee Valley, Saturday 28 October
What do you have to do to get one of Australia's greatest races named in your honour? Well, founding the Moonee Valley Racing Club probably helps. William Samuel Cox (1831-1895) was a pioneer of the racing industry in his time. He purposely leased the farmland to create the Race Club in 1883. The Cox family continued their involvement and support of the thoroughbred racing industry via a number of varied roles, including administrators, jockeys and trainers. The family were inducted as a whole into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.
Group 2, Flemington, Saturday 4 November
Bred in 1896, Wakeful did not start her racing career until she was a 4 year old. However she made up for lost time by winning 25 races (19 of them weight-for-age races) from 44 starts. At her third race start, she won the Oakleigh Plate followed by the Newmarket Handicap and The Doncaster. She also won a Sydney Cup and finished second in the 1903 Melbourne Cup. The women's racing networking group, The Victorian Wakeful Club, is named in her honour.
A quick flick through the racing calendar shows that I've barely touched the surface here and the list of races named after racing administrators is very long. It also proves the theory that the industry has been a 'boys club' for a very long time. However as time goes on, more races are being named after our great trainers and jockeys and hopefully we'll very soon also start to see a lot more female racing participants getting the recognition they deserve.
*Image L to R: Dato' Tan Chin Nam with Bart Cummings & Darren Beadman after Saintly's 1996 Melbourne Cup Win. Image courtesy Victorian Racing Club. A painting of W.S Cox. Image courtesy Australian Racing Museum.