Queensland Derby: History Notable Winners and Trends

Queensland Derby: History, Notable Winners and Trends

The best three-year-old stayers in the business head to Eagle Farm each winter to vie for glory in the Group 1 Queensland Derby.

The prize money for this historic race has increased dramatically this year, which should ensure it remains an attractive destination for connections. Moët & Chandon is still on board as the headline sponsor, and punters will hope to pop Champagne corks after watching the race.

Read on to learn more about the illustrious history of the Queensland Derby, the notable winners and any pertinent trends that might steer your betting decisions.

Queensland Derby History

The Queensland Derby was first held in 1868 at Gayndah Racecourse, which is now a heritage-listed venue in the North Burnett region. A black gelding called Hermit, owned by a Mr Parry-Okedan, won the race that year. Six of the nine nominated horses were scratched, and Hermit eased to victory over The Rake, while third-placed Escobedo reportedly neither looked nor performed like a racehorse.

The race was notably held twice in 1870, allowing Grafton to win both times. No other horse has won the Queensland Derby on multiple occasions, as it is restricted to three-year-olds, and the reigning champion is always too old to defend the crown.

The Queensland Derby moved to Eagle Farm in 1871, when Florence stormed to victory. It has remained there ever since, apart from a couple of brief sojourns to the adjacent Doomben Park Racecourse while Eagle Farm was undergoing renovations.

The race was not held between 1873 and1877, but it returned when Whisker saluted in 1878. It grew in prominence over the subsequent decades, with famous winners including Lough Neagh. It had another hiatus during the Second World War, as it was not held between 1942 and 1945. Te Tana won in front of a large crowd in 1946.

It was then held every year until 2020, when it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Until that point, the Queensland Derby had taken place on Stradbroke Handicap Day, the biggest day of the year for racing in the state. The Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival was revitalised upon its full return in 2021, and the Queensland Derby was moved to the last weekend in May. It is now held on the same day as the Group 1 Kingsford-Smith Cup.

Queensland Derby Race Info

The Queensland Derby is one of just eight Group 1 races held in the state each year. It is run at set weights and open to three-year-olds only. The Queensland Derby is run over a distance of 2400m, which makes it a fierce test for the stayers, similar to the Australia Derby and the Victoria Derby.

The distance was reduced from 2400m to 2200m when the Queensland Derby was held at Doomben Racecourse in 2015, 2017 and 2018. It reverted to its usual 2200m in 2019 and 2021, and it should now stay at Eagle Farm for the foreseeable future. The race is run on a right-handed turf track.

Queensland Derby Prize Money

The Queensland Derby prize money increased from $600,000 in 2021 to $1 million in 2022, which represents a 66% increase. No other race was given such a boost. It makes the Queensland Derby one of the most lucrative events in the Sunshine State, surpassed only by the Stradbroke Handicap and The Q22.

Racing Queensland is also offering a bonus to any horse that manages to finish first or second in the Queensland Derby and then goes on to secure a top-three finish in The Q22, a new race introduced last year, replete with a $1.2 million prize purse. The bonus is worth $100,000 in cash or $250,000 in QTISx vouchers, which are part of the Queensland Thoroughbred Incentive Scheme.

“Our three-year-old program has really been bolstered, with the prize money increases for the Oaks and Derby, along with the Q22 incentives and the increase for the Winx Guineas,” said Racing Queensland chief executive Brendan Parnell when announcing the news. “We want to see Australia’s stars campaign during winter, and these enhancements support that.”

Queensland Derby Notable Winners

These are some of the most notable Queensland Derby winners from the race’s extremely long and storied history:

Lough Neagh (1931)

Tim Brosnan’s chestnut gelding gained a reputation as an “iron horse” during the 1930s, which was a veritable golden era for Australian turf racing. He made 127 starts and secured 32 victories at distances ranging from 5 furlongs to 2 miles. Lough Neagh, named after Ireland’s largest freshwater lake, notably won at least one race per year throughout his career. His first major victory came in the Queensland Derby, and he went on to win the Doomben 10,000, three Chipping Norton Stakes and lots of other prestigious events.

Tulloch (1957)

Tulloch joined Phar Lap, Kingston Town, Carbine and Bernborough as one of the five original inductees into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame. He won 14 of his 16 starts as a three-year-old, setting records in the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Cup and landing victories at a very broad range of distances. He destroyed the field in the Queensland Derby that year. Tulloch spent two years out with an illness, but he then returned as a five-year-old and won 15 of his last 24 races.

Kingston Town (1980)

T. J. Smith’s superstar stayer was named Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year in 1980 after winning the Queensland Derby, the Australian Derby, the Rosehill Guineas, the Tancred Stakes, the Sydney Cup, the Warwick Stakes and the Cox Plate. He went on to win three Cox Plates in his stellar career, and 14 Group 1 races in total.

Strawberry Road (1983)

Strawberry Road was the Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year in 1983 following an impressive run of results. He won the Queensland Derby along with the Australian Derby, Rosehill Guineas, Freeway Stakes and the Cox Plate. Strawberry Road went on to win major races in the United States, France and Germany.

Rough Habit (1990)

Rough Habit is the most successful horse in Doomben Cup history, having won the race three times in a row. He also won the Stradbroke Handicap twice, ended up with 11 Group 1 victories and was twice named New Zealand Racehorse of the Year. Rough Habit also enjoyed a successful stud career. He has sired six winners of the Queensland Derby.

Queensland Derby 2021 Winner

Hall of Fame trainer Chris Waller celebrated a famous quinella when Kukeracha beat stablemate Senor Toba to land the 2021 Queensland Derby. Explosive Jack went into the race as the heavily backed $2.50 favourite after winning both the Australia Derby and the South Australian Derby, and he looked capable of pulling it off at the 200-metre mark, but he ultimately could not keep pace with Waller’s duo.

It was a 15th Group 1 win of the season for Waller and a 126th overall. Achiever, another stayer from the Waller stable, finished fourth. It was his first win in the Queensland Derby since Hawkspur saluted in 2013. He is now bidding to equal Brian Mayfield-Smith and John Hawkes as the most successful trainer in the modern history of this race, as both men had three victories.

Queensland Derby Winner Stats & Trends

The Queensland Derby falls a month after the 2500m South Australian Derby, which is an interesting lead-up race. Ruthven landed a SA Derby-Queensland Derby double in 2017 and Mr Quickie repeated the feat two years later.

Many of the best horses in Australia are spelling during the winter, but there are clear incentives for three-year-olds to head to Brisbane, such as the $100,000 bonus attached to the Queensland Derby and The Q22. Many stayers from Queensland that previously ran in the ATC Derby also take part in the Queensland Derby.

Another prominent lead-up race is the Group 3 Rough Habit Plate at Doomben Racecourse in Brisbane. Brambles and Hawkspur, who won the Queensland Derby in 2012 and 2013 respectively, had previously saluted in the Rough Habit.

There is a short run to the first turn in this race, so horses drawn to the inside barriers have historically performed well. Horses drawn in the first five gates have 14 wins in the last 30 years.

Relatively mature stayers that performed well last time out have an excellent record in the Queensland Derby. Ten out of 20 winners since 2000 won on their previous start. Three of them had finished second and two had finished third, while each of the 20 winners had finished in the top-five on their previous outing.

Queensland Derby 2022 Betting

You will be able to bet on the winner of the Queensland Derby by visiting Topsport as the race approaches. Check out our racing futures section for some early prices, and you will then be able to choose from win, place, exacta, quinella, trifecta and first four betting on the Queensland Derby.