Group 1 horse races in Melbourne

Last Updated 12 Aug 2021 | Commercial content | 18+

There are top class races staged all around the world, but there’s just something about the big Group 1 races in Melbourne.

We take a look at the history of those big events, from the Cox Plate to the Melbourne Cup, the biggest race in Australia.

History of Group 1 Races in Melbourne

Thoroughbred racing began in Australia as far back as the early 1800s. Always popular and growing quickly, it developed into one of the best-attended sports around. This included in Melbourne, where races such as the Melbourne Cup were being formed.

There was always a need to classify horses and races, with the very best events being known as Principal Races. This all changed in 1979 when such events were called Group 1 races, putting Melbourne and the rest of Australia in line with the worldwide Pattern.

Types of Group 1 Races

Group 1 races are the top of the horse racing ladder. Only the best take part, but they are split into various divisions.

There are Group 1 races for two-year-olds, some for three-year-olds, some are all-aged and they take place over multiple distances. Often races for younger horses are split between fillies and colts, while others incorporate every type.

Group 1’s are staged over as short as 1000 metres for the sprinters, right up to the 3200 metres of the Melbourne Cup and the Sydney Cup, an open hcp for the stayers so every good horse gets their chance.

Annual Melbourne Group 1 Races

Group 1 races in Melbourne are at the heart of Australian racing. Here’s how things line up every year at the three major tracks in the city.

Group 1 Races at Flemington, Melbourne

During their autumn and spring carnivals, Flemington alone hosts 14 Group 1 races in Melbourne. Find out the complete list of Group 1 races at Flemington racecourse.

At the start of the year, the Lightning Stakes, Australian Guineas, Australian Cup and the Newmarket Handicap all take place.

In the springtime, things go up a notch here. The Makybe Diva and Turnbull Stakes are a good amuse-bouche, for sure. From late October to early November however some of the biggest races on the planet are here.

The Cantala Stakes, Victoria Derby, Coolmore Stud Stakes, Empire Rose Stakes, VRC Oaks, Emirate Stakes, the Sprint Classic and of course the Melbourne Cup are all on the schedule.

Group 1 Races at Caulfield, Melbourne

Caulfield is no backwater either. The early season schedule is strong, but it’s all about October here. Find out the list of Group 1 races at Caulfield racecourse.

During that month, the Caulfield Guineas, Caulfield Stakes, the Thousand Guineas and the crucial Caulfield Cup are all hosted.

Group 1 Races at Moonee Valley, Melbourne

Moonee Valley isn’t represented quite as much in terms of the numbers with four Group 1’s each year. However, one of those races is the Cox Plate itself, not only one of the most important Group 1 races in Melbourne but also in the entire horse racing world. Click here to see the full list of Group 1 races at Moonee Valley racecourse.


We answer your most important questions about Group 1 races in Melbourne.

What is a Group 1 Race in Australia?

A Group 1 race is a thoroughbred event staged at the very highest level of the sport. Only the very best horses at their distance tend to take part in this sort of racing.

How Many Group 1 Races are There in Australia?

In total, there are 74 registered Group 1 stakes races in Australian horse racing. 30 of them are Group 1 races in Melbourne.

Is the Melbourne Cup a Group 1 Race?

Yes. The Cup is the most valuable of the lot at $8 million.


Group 1 races in Melbourne are very special. While Queensland, especially at Eagle Farm, hosts some great racing, nothing beats this place.

30 of Australia’s 74 Group 1 events take place in Melbourne which is seen as the heartland for racing in the country.

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