Australian Thoroughbred

A-Z of Australian Horse Racing and Breeding.

7/2/2020 C.F. Orr Stakes History
Photo: Hey Doc

Mike Moroney's decision to run Alabama Express in the Orr Stakes, to be run on Saturday at Caulfield, does not need much explaining.

It is a Group 1 race, worth $500,000, and with Alabama Express being a three-year-old colt by Redoute's Choice, the post-racing-career upside a victory would bring is obvious.

Plus, the 1400-metre weight-for-age event has a reputation of being a good one for horses of his vintage.

Form Focus details that 15 times the Orr has been won by a 3YO male, including a hot streak from 1998 to 2003 when five of the six editions were won by a 3YO colt or gelding. The year it wasn't - 1999 - filly Grand Archway won.

The 3YO boys have found it much tougher of late, though. In the 16 editions since Yell's 2003 success, just one 3YO - All Too Hard (2013) - has upstaged the older horses.

In the past 30 years, 29 male 3YOs have contested the race for six wins, four seconds and two thirds. But 14 of those starters - 48% - have come since 2004 for just one win, two seconds (Savabeel in 2005 and Eurozone in 2014) and one third (Shamus Award in 2014).

The change in 3YO impact on the race has coincided with a shift in what has proven the most successful approach towards Orr Stakes success.

From 1985 to 2003, just five (from 19) winners won the race first-up from a spell. Nine of the 16 winners since have been resuming and the seven since 2004 who were not first-up all came through the 1200-metre WFA race at The Valley over the Australia Day weekend.

Six of those seven - the exception being last year's winner Manuel, who finished seventh in the Australia Stakes - filled a trifecta slot at The Valley.

The other trend Manuel defied was his starting price of $21. Upsets were not uncommon between 1996 and 2008, when five of the 13 editions were won by horses at double-figure odds, but Suavito ($15 in 2016) is the only other winner at greater than $7 since 2009.

Seven favourites have won in that time, making it 19 wins in the past 35 years for those at the head of the market.