Underwood Stakes 2022 Preview: Field, Betting & Tips

Zaaki will attempt to win the Group 1 Underwood Stakes for the second year in a row when he takes on five talented rivals this weekend.

He will start the race as the clear favourite after producing an impressive performance when winning the Group 2 Tramway Stakes at Randwick first up. Trainer Annabel Neasham claims he is even better than he was a year ago, and she has booked superstar jockey Kamie Kah to take the reins.

However, Zaaki will face elite challengers on Sunday. They include I’m Thunderstruck, Alligator Blood and Mo’unga, who powered to a one-two-three finish in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes last month. Mr Brightside, the winner of the Doncaster Mile, is also in the mix, along with Nonconformist.

Read on to learn more about the history of the Underwood Stakes, the race features, the six contenders and our best tips.


Underwood Stakes Background and History

The Underwood Stakes was first run in 1924, when dual Caulfield Cup winner Whittier saluted in front of an excited crowd at Williamstown Racecourse. It moved to Caulfield Racecourse in 1948. Royal Gem, another former Caulfield Cup winner, prevailed that year.

The race attained Group 1 status in 1979. It has been held over a range of distances – 1 mile, 7 furlongs, 118 miles, 114 miles and 2000m – in the past, but the Underwood Stakes has been an 1800m event since 1994. 

In 2021, the Underwood Stakes moved from Caulfield to Sandown Racecourse in Melbourne, giving the venue its first Group 1 race since 1996. That was part of a major spring revamp conducted by Racing Victoria.


Underwood Stakes Notable Winners

The Underwood Stakes has yielded a long list of famous winners since it was inaugurated in 1924:


  • Whittier | The winner of the Caulfield Cup in 1922 and 1925, along with the Victoria Derby, the Doncaster Handicap and various other big races. Whittier won the first two Underwood Stakes, in 1924 and 1925.
  • Heroic | A former Cox Plate winner, an Australian Racing Hall of Fame inductee and the leading sire in Australia from 1933 to 1939.
  • Phar Lap | Arguably the greatest racehorse ever. Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup, two Cox Plates and the Australian Derby before dominating in North America.
  • Hall Mark | Winner of the Melbourne Cup, back-to-back Underwood Stakes in 1933 and 1934, and many more important races. Another Australian Racing Hall of Fame inductee, as are most of the horses on this list.
  • Young Idea | A two-time Cox Plate winner who clinched the Underwood Stakes in 1935 and 1937.
  • Ajax | A legendary thoroughbred who won 18 races in a row before suffering a shock defeat at odds of 1/40 ($0.025). Ajax won the Underwood Stakes in 1938,1939 and 1940, making him the most successful runner in its history.
  • Tobin Bronze | Won the Caulfield Cup, two Cox Plates and lots more major races before heading to California.
  • Rain Lover | A back-to-back Melbourne Cup winner in 1968 and 1969.
  • Rubiton | Winner of the Cox Plate, Futurity Stakes, Underwood Stakes and Mackinnon Stakes.
  • Jeune | A British thoroughbred who established himself as a leading light in Australia when winning the 1994 Underwood Stakes. He went on to win the Melbourne Cup that year.
  • Octagonal | The 1996 Australian Horse of the Year, who won the Underwood Stakes Cox Plate, Australian Derby, Australian Cup and many more races.
  • Tie the Knot | Winner of 13 Group 1 races, Australian Champion Stayer and one of the highest earning racehorses in history.
  • Northerly | Northerly won back-to-back Cox Plates and Underwood Stakes in 2001 and 2002, and he also won the 2002 Caulfield Cup, securing a Timeform rating of 129 and prize money of more than $9.3 million.
  • Mummify | Winner of five Group 1 races, including the Caulfield Cup.
  • Elvstroem | Winner of the 2004 Caulfield Cup and Underwood Stakes.
  • El Segundo | Won the 2006 Underwood Stakes and then clinched the Cox Plate the following year.
  • So You Think | Winner of the Cox Plate in 2009 and 2010 and the Underwood Stakes in 2010. Went to Europe and won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Eclipse Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes.
  • Ocean Park | Landed the Cox Plate, Underwood Stakes and Caulfield Stakes in 2012.
  • Dundeel | It’s a Dundeel is the most recent winner of the Australian Triple Crown.


Underwood Stakes 2021 Winner

Zaaki went into last year’s Underwood Stakes as the heavy favourite after securing a seven-length win in the Group 1 Doomben Cup. He delivered on that status by easing to victory over just four opponents – many contenders were seemingly scared off – finishing two lengths clear of Probabeel, with Superstorm.


Underwood Stakes Time & Date

The Underwood Stakes will be held at 4.25pm AEST on Sunday at Sandown Racecourse . It takes place over 1800m on turf, and it is run under weight for age conditions. All six horses will carry 59kg on Sunday.


Underwood Stakes Field & Contenders



Zaaki was the red-hot favourite for last year’s Cox Plate, but he was scratched on the morning of the race after presenting with an elevated temperature. He went on to win the $5.43 million All Star Mile at Flemington in March, ahead of I’m Thunderstruck and Streets of Avalon, before finishing second in the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes on heavy ground.

Zaaki won the G2 Hollindale Stakes at Gold Coast, placed in the G1 Doomben Cup at Eagle Farm and was then spelled for 98 days. He secured a dominant win in the G2 Tramway Stakes at Randwick first up, and he will now seek to defend his Underwood Stakes crown.


I’m Thunderstruck

I’m Thunderstruck surged past Alligator Blood at the post to win the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) last month, with stablemate Mo’unga back in third. He appears to be on an upward curve, having finished second in the Memsie Stakes two weeks prior to that run.

Last year, I’m Thunderstruck landed the $7.5 million Golden Eagle over 1500m. He is now a two-time Group 1 winner, having clinched the Toorak Handicap and the Makybe Diva, and we make him third in our Cox Plate futures betting – behind only Anamoe and Zaaki – so it will be interesting to see how he fares over 1800m.


Mr Brightside

This impressive winner of the $3 million Group 1 Doncaster Mile presents a major threat to Zaaki in the Underwood Stakes. Mr Brightside won the G2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes over 1400m at Caulfield last month, before claiming the G2 Feehan Stakes over 1600m at The Valley on 2 September. He is surging with momentum right now, and he looks like a major contender for this race. He is fourth in the futures betting for the Cox Plate.


Alligator Blood

Alligator Blood produced a strong performance to win the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap in the winter. His preparations for the Memsie Stakes were tumultuous, as part-owner Allan Endresz was declared an undischarged bankrupt. He was ultimately given the green light to compete, but Alligator Blood could only finish seventh.

He was much improved in the Makybe Diva Stakes, finishing narrowly second to I’m Thunderstruck. However, I’m Thunderstruck appeared to have more in the tank than Alligator Blood towards the end of that race, so it remains to be seen if Alligator Blood can successfully step up to 1800m this weekend.



Mo’unga impressed when winning the Group 1 Winx Stakes last year. However, he finished last in a field of 10 when resuming at the 2022 Winx Stakes, and he could only claim third in the Makybe Diva Stakes, so he still needs to rediscover his best form.



Graham Begg’s gelding will seek a maiden Group 1 win on Sunday. He has won at Group 2 level in the past, and he has career earnings of more than $1.5 million after securing five wins and eight placings from 21 starts. His most impressive result was a runner-up finish in the 2021 Caulfield Cup.


Underwood Stakes Odds

Horse Fixed Win Fixed Place
Zaaki 2.50 1.45
I’m Thunderstruck 2.70 1.50
Mr Brightside 4.20 1.90
Alligator Blood 7.50 2.90
Mo’unga 26.00 6.00
Nonconformist 81.00 13.00


Underwood Stakes Prize Money 

The total prize money for the Underwood Stakes is $1 million. The winner earns $600,000, while $180,000 is earmarked for the runner-up. The remaining funds are split among the other four horses in descending order. The winner will receive a ballot exemption for the Caulfield Cup. If the horse completes the Underwood Stakes-Caulfield Cup double, a $1 million bonus will be awarded as part of recent prize money increases announced by Racing Victoria.

Underwood Stakes Tips

Zaaki looks perfectly capable of following up last year’s Underwood Stakes victory with another dominant win. He faces stern competition from Mr Brightside and I’m Thunderstruck, but he is a real superstar, and he should have the pace and staying power to clinch another Group 1 triumph this weekend.