Racing in Sydney has in recent years undergone a dramatic transformation, with a number of major new races – most notably The Everest – becoming staples of the Spring Racing Carnival. There remains, however, a number of races in Australia’s most populous city with a significantly longer history, and The Metropolitan is one of the biggest of them.
The early days
The Metropolitan first took place back in 1863, and for the first few decades was run over a significantly longer distance than what it is today. Up until 1891 it was held over two miles, or roughly 3,200 metres, while in the 130 years since it has fluctuated between 2,600 metres and the 2,400 metres that it is today.
It was in 1979 that the race officially became a Group 1 listed race, incidentally the same year that it took on its current name, having previously been known as the Great Metropolitan Stakes, Metropolitan Stakes and Metropolitan Handicaps. Four years after that, The Metropolitan took place at Warwick Farm Racecourse, marking the only occasion in almost 160 years on which it hasn’t been run at Randwick.
Over the course of the race’s history, a number of winners have gone on to bigger and better things in the same season. On four occasions, a horse has done The Metropolitan/Caulfield Cup double, with Tawqeet the latest to do so as recently as 2006. The Metropolitan/Melbourne Cup double has been a little more elusive of late, with Macdougal’s effort in 1959 the most recent time that it occurred, though it did occur another four times prior to that.
The Metropolitan in 2021
The Metropolitan of today is a Group 1 which is held under open handicap conditions, and is open to any horses aged three years and older. Run over 2,400 metres, the race takes place at Sydney’s Randwick Racecourse in the early parts of October, and the top few horses share in a prize pool of $750,000, with the winner receiving the bulk of that – their earnings sit at a cool $430,500.
15 years ago, the aforementioned Tawqeet took it out en route to winning the Caulfield Cup a couple of weeks later, while the year prior to that Railings managed the exact same double. Coco Cobanna was another notable horse to win, if only for the fact that in the 21 years since no other mare has tasted success at the event.
Harking back a little further, a horse called Tails, known by many as one of the most beautiful horses in the country, won it back to back in 1969 and 1970, while the famed Macdougal won it in the lead-up to winning the Melbourne Cup a decade earlier. Beau Vite, two-time winner of both the Cox Plate and Mackinnon Stakes and member of the Racing Hall of Fame, took out the event in 1940, while heading all the way back to the beginning, it was Regno who won the very first edition of the event.
The Metropolitan may not be the biggest race on the Australian calendar, but the names of the horses who have won it in the past is indicative of the quality of the race. In an era which has seen drastic change for racing in Sydney, The Metropolitan has been one constant, and will likely remain so for years to come.