Deemed the most testing distance for a three-year-old, winning the Crown Oaks over 2500m has consistently led to the premature retirement of promising stayers and no winner of the Oaks still races.
After fracturing a leg in the Tristarc Stakes, 2011 winner of the Crown Oaks, Mosheen, has been retired to stud and she will travel to Japan to be served by Deep Impact.
With three year olds ineligible for the Melbourne Cup, the 2500m Oaks is the longest distance race for three year olds. The past five fillies to win the race have eventually retired prematurely, due to injury or inability to recapture their three year old form.
The 2010 winner, Brazilian Pulse, returned as a four year old when she trailed the field all the way in the Cockram, Let’s Elope and Underwood Stakes before being retired.
The 2009 winner, Faint Perfume, returned as a four year old and immensely struggled when she ran sixth in the Turnbull, 17th in the Caulfield Cup, ninth in the Mackinnon and 13th in the Orr Stakes before being retired.
The 2008 winner, Arapaho Miss, had nine starts after returning as a four year old but amassed just $17,250 in prize money from those nine starts, which made up a meagre 2.43 percent of her career prize money.
2007 winner, Samantha Miss, looked the best of the lot after she ran third in the Cox Plate before winning the Oaks. She had one more run after her Oaks in the Light Fingers Stakes, where she tore a tendon and was immediately retired.
Australian racing for three year olds is unique, because there are not the same developmental races as Europe. With the Group oneVRC Derby and Group one Crown Oaks as the ultimate staying test for colts and fillies, the lack of lead up races to those Group ones leave them unprepared to recover from such a testing race at that time in their career.
Two year olds in Australia will never run beyond 1600m and if they do, they only will once. Because the Oaks are in the spring, the general lead up races are the Thousand Guineas over 1600m into the Wakeful Stakes over 2000m before the Oaks over 2500m.
Stayers generally develop slower than sprinters, so stayers often do not reach their full staying capabilities until they turn five.
The steep increase in distance from 1600m to 2500m with a 2000m race in between asks for too much from young fillies that run out the Oaks well but have their growth stalled when they recover from such a testing run. History suggests they are more injury prone than their peers.
It’s no surprise that the three most recently successful staying mares, Lights of Heaven, Pinker Pinker and More Joyous, all bypassed the Oaks path.
Champion staying mare Makybe Diva never raced against her fellow three year olds due to being foaled in the Northern Hemisphere, but her late racing debut suggests she never would have. She had just one start as a three year old.
Following Mosheen’s opportunistic win in the Oaks, where boom filly Atlantic Jewel opted not to run, Mosheen became a four time Group one winner when she won the Australian Guineas (1600m), Randwick Guineas (1600m) and Storm Queen Stakes (2000m) in the autumn of her 3yo campaign.
Returning as a four year old, she was never able to recapture her dominant form, where she finished 13th, fifth, first and sixth in her four starts before retiring.
The temptation to win a Group one race will always seduce connections but winning the Crown Oaks has frequently gone on to prove a curse rather than a successful racing career.