The Big Dance: Everything You Need To Know About Randwick’s Newest Group 1 Race

An intriguing new race named The Big Dance will make its debut at Randwick in Sydney on Tuesday.

This $2 million feature will be held 40 minutes prior to the Melbourne Cup, and it has attracted some of the world’s leading jockeys and trainers. Read on to learn more about The Big Dance, why it was created, the features of the race, the qualification process, the field and our top tips.


When is The Big Dance?

The Big Dance takes place at 14:20 AEDT on Tuesday. That could divert attention away from the build-up to the Melbourne Cup, which takes place at 15:00 AEDT at Flemington. The Victoria Racing Club accused Racing NSW of “ambush marketing” by scheduling a major race on Melbourne Cup Day.


Where is The Big Dance Held?

The Big Dance will take place at Royal Randwick in Sydney. This will be the inaugural running of the race, and it is due to take place each year on the first Tuesday in November.


Why was The Big Dance Created?

The Big Dance is essentially designed to steal some of Victoria’s thunder on Melbourne Cup Day. Racing NSW has displayed a great deal of ambition in its bid to shift the centre of Australian racing from Melbourne to Sydney in recent years. For example, it has scheduled The Everest, the country’s richest race, on Caulfield Cup Day.

The $10 million Golden Eagle, the second richest race of the year, now takes place on Victoria Derby Day, while The Invitation and the Spring Champion Stakes are held on Cox Plate Day. Many expected the second Tuesday in November to remain sacrosanct, but those assumptions came crashing down when Racing NSW announced The Big Dance.

“This is not designed to detract from the Melbourne Cup,” insisted Racing NSW administrator Peter V’Landys. “It gives punters another good product to bet on, similar to The Everest and the Caulfield Cup. We’re not taking any gloss off the Melbourne Cup. This is to complement the race. It’s positive for the industry in NSW. It’s the best state we’ve ever been in.”


What are the Features of the Race?

The Big Dance is a quality handicap race run over 1600m on the right-handed turf track at Randwick. It is open to three-year-olds and upwards, featuring runners that either won or finished second in various NSW Country Cup races, such as the Scone Cup and the Wagga Wagga Gold Cup, over the past year.


How Do Runners Qualify for The Big Dance?

The Big Dance is restricted to horses aged three and older that have competed in one of the 25 selected NSW Country Cups over the past year. The field was drawn from the winners and runners-up of those races. Racing NSW then used the benchmark rating at the time of the final acceptances to rank the horses in order and determine the final field.

These are the 25 elected NSW Country Cup races that led to qualification for The Big Dance 2022:


Race Distance Venue Date Club
Goulburn Cup 1400m Goulburn 31-Oct-21 Goulburn & District Racing Club
Snake Gully Cup 1400m Gundagai 12-Nov-21 Gundagai-Adelong Race Club
Taree Cup 2000m Taree 21-Nov-21 Manning Valley Race Club
Mudgee Cup 1600m Mudgee 03-Dec-21 Mudgee Race Club
Nowra Cup 1600m Nowra 05-Dec-21 Shoalhaven City Turf Club
Armidale Cup 1600m Tamworth 12-Dec-21 Armidale Jockey Club
Moruya Cup 1425m Moruya 03-Jan-22 Moruya Jockey Club Inc
Ballina Cup 1590m Ballina 14-Jan-22 Ballina Jockey Club
Bega Cup 1600m Sapphire Coast 30-Jan-22 Sapphire Coast Turf Club
Albury Gold Cup 2000m Albury 25-Mar-22 Albury Racing Club
Muswellbrook Gold Cup 1450m Muswellbrook 01-Apr-22 Muswellbrook Race Club
Orange Gold Cup 2100m Orange 08-Apr-22 Racing Orange Ltd
Tamworth Cup 1400m Tamworth 22-Apr-22 Tamworth Jockey Club
Wagga Wagga Gold Cup 2000m Wagga 06-May-22 Murrumbidgee Turf Club
Scone Cup 1600m Scone 13-May-22 Scone Race Club
Wellington Cup 1700m Wellington 29-May-22 Wellington Race Club
South Grafton Cup 1600m Grafton 10-Jul-22 Clarence River Jockey Club
Forbes Cup 1600m Forbes 31-Jul-22 Forbes Jockey Club
Coffs Harbour Cup 1600m Coffs Harbour 04-Aug-22 Coffs Harbour Racing Club
Murwillumbah Cup 1550m Murwillumbah 19-Aug-22 Tweed River Jockey Club
Dubbo Gold Cup 1600m Dubbo 11-Sep-22 City of Dubbo Turf Club
Lismore Cup 2100m Lismore 22-Sep-22 Lismore Turf Club
Bathurst Cup 1800m Bathurst 25-Sep-22 Bathurst Turf Club
Port Macquarie Cup 2000m Port Macquarie 07-Oct-22 Port Macquarie Race Club
Big Dance Wild Card 1600m Randwick 08-Oct-22 Australian Turf Club
Coonamble Cup 1600m Coonamble 09-Oct-22 Coonamble Jockey Club
Goulburn Cup 1400m Goulburn 31-Oct-21 Goulburn & District Racing Club


The Big Dance Field

Contenders for The Big Dance 2022 are listed in descending order based on their handicap rating at the time of final acceptances.


Number Runner Trainer Rider Barrier Weight Rating
1 Bandersnatch Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes Brenton Avdulla 22 61kg 104
2 Surf Dancer (Ire) Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott Regan Bayliss 5 61kg 104
3 Rustic Steel Kris Lees Nash Rawiller 7 59kg 100
4 Charmmebaby (NZ) Bob Milligan Kyle Wilson-Taylor 13 57kg 100
5 Hosier (Ire) Kris Lees Frankie Dettori 20 57kg 96
6 Aleas (GB) Chris Waller James Orman 4 56.5kg 95
7 Sibaaq (GB) Annabel Neasham Chad Schofield 2 56.5kg 95
8 Quality Time (Ger) Chris Waller William Pike 9 54kg 90
9 Cognac (Ire) Richard & Will Freedman Keagan Latham 15 54kg 77
10 Ready to Humble Nick Olive Jeff Penza 1 54kg 67
11 Kedah (NZ) Kris Lees Dylan Gibbons 23 53kg 75
12 Cisco Bay Gerald Ryan & Sterling Alexiou Tyler Schiller 12 52.5kg 87
13 Wicklow (Ire) Chris Waller Jay Ford 24 52kg 85
14 Casino Kid Jan Bowen Grant Buckley 6 52kg 82
15 Impasse Matthew Dunn Kathy O’Hara 18 52kg 82
16 Regal Stage Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott Alysha Collett 10 52kg 82
17 Al Mah Haha Tash Burleigh Ms Ellen Hennessy 17 52kg 80
18 Caesars Palace Anthony Cummings Reece Jones 14 52kg 78
19 One Aye Barbara Joseph, Paul & Matt Jones Quayde Krogh 3 52kg 73
20 Spanish Point (GB) Kris Lees Andrew Adkins 8 52kg 72
21e Shameonus Bjorn Baker Zac Lloyd 11 52kg 66
22e Beckford Troy O’Neile Serg Lisnyy 21 52kg 64
23e Not Negotiating Peter W Stanley Ashleigh Stanley 19 52kg 61
24e She’s All in Barbara Joseph, Paul & Matt Jones Ellen Hennessy 16 52kg 56


The Big Dance Leading Contenders



The Michael, Wayne and John Hawkes-trained gelding has four wins, two runner-up finishes and three third-place finishes from 17 starts during his career. His best performances have come at Randwick: he won the Listed Fujitsu General Carrington Stakes here in January 2021 and the Listed Winter Stakes at Randwick six months later.

Both of those races took place over 1400m. The six-year-old has only been tested over 1600m once, when he ran eighth of 16 in the Group 2 Villiers Stakes at Randwick back in December last year. He has run twice this spring, placing on both occasions. Bandersnatch was third in the Listed Testa Rossa Stakes – finishing just 1¼ lengths behind I Wish I Win, who is among the favourites for the Golden Eagle – and he then finished second in the Group 3 Moonga Stakes at Caulfield, a shoulder behind Aegon, so he commands respect.


Surf Dancer

The Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Surf Dancer qualified for this race by virtue of winning the South Grafton Cup in July. The Irish-bred import, who enjoyed success in England before joining the Waterhouse and Bott yard, earned his best victory to date when taking out the Group 2 Shannon Stakes at Rosehill last month. He relished the Soft (7) track that day. Randwick is currently rated Good (4), but rain is forecast in Sydney on Monday and Tuesday, so he could thrive if the ground softens.


Rustic Steel

Rustic Steel is also proven on softer tracks, so he is another that could enjoy conditions if the ground loses its sting. The five-year-old gelding surged to victory in the Scone Cup earlier this year, making him a leading contender for The Big Dance.



Charmmebaby put in a strong performance to finish eighth of 16 in the Group 1 Tattersall’s Tiara at Eagle Farm in the winter. The six-year-old Kiwi mare was last seen finishing seventh of seven in the 1400m Birdon Group Sprint at Port Macquarie, but she should enjoy the longer distance in The Big Dance.



The Kris Lees-trained five-year-old qualified for The Big Dance by saluting in the Coffs Harbour Cup. He has secured two consecutive wins at Randwick, including an impressive victory in the 1600m Schweppes Handicap four weeks ago.


The Big Dance Prize Money 

Racing NSW stumped up $2 million for this new feature, making it one of the most lucrative races of the year. The winner will earn more than half of the prize pool, and the rest will be awarded on a descending scale.


The Big Dance Tips

Hosier has all the necessary attributes to win this race. He is proven on the course and over the distance, and he has won on soft ground. Frankie Dettori, the famous Italian jockey who plies his trade in England, will skip the Melbourne Cup and ride Hosier in this race, and he should deliver a composed performance, giving the five-year-old gelding a strong chance of success.