Lawrence Stakes Day, to be held at Caulfield on Saturday, is often the meeting that signals to racing fans that spring is about to dawn.
It does not technically fall within the confines of the Spring Carnival, but it always heralds the return of a number of expected spring stars.
This year it packs extra punch with Cox Plate favourite Mystic Journey headlining the field for the main event, the $200,000 Group 2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes.
The Tasmanian star is the odds-on favourite for the 1400-metre weight-for-age event, despite a word of warning from her trainer Adam Trinder that the Soft track is not ideal and a top-three finish would be satisfactory in his eyes given the campaign ahead.
Historically speaking, that might be the best thing for her hopes of scaling the heights many have predicted for her coming into this campaign.
Lawrence Stakes victory has not been the launching pad to spring glory that those connected with the recent winners would have understandably dreamed of. Of the past 12 winners, only Mourinho – who went on to win the Group 1 Underwood Stakes – has won another race later in the campaign.
Recent Lawrence Stakes winners and their subsequent spring record:
2007 – Apache Cat: 1 start; 2nd Makybe Diva Stakes;
2008 – Light Fantastic: Two starts; 4th Makybe Diva Stakes and 2nd-last in Underwood Stakes;
2009 – Predatory Pricer: 4 starts; best results 2nd Turnbull Stakes and 3rd Underwood Stakes;
2010 – Shoot Out: 6 starts; best results 3rd Memsie Stakes, Feehan Stakes, Turnbull Stakes and 4th Cox Plate;
2011 – Whobegotyou: 1 starts; 3rd Feehan Stakes;
2012 – Second Effort: 3 starts; best result 3rd Memsie Stakes;
2013 – Puissance de Lune: 4 starts; best results 2nd Makybe Diva Stakes and Turnbull Stakes;
2014 – Star Rolling: 4 starts; no placings;
2015 – Mourinho: 3 starts; best result Underwood Stakes win;
2016 – Miss Rose De Lago: 3 starts; best result 3rd Memsie Stakes;
2017 – Hartnell: 4 starts; best results 2nd Makybe Diva Stakes and Underwood Stakes; and
2018 – Showtime: 2 starts; both unplaced.
Mourinho is also the most recent Lawrence Stakes winner to contest the Cox Plate, but he could manage only 12th placing at The Valley in the first of Winx’s four-straight wins in the race.
Pompeii Ruler, in 2006, is the most recent Lawrence winner to run a place in the Cox Plate, while you have to go back to So Called in 1978 for the last of the three to complete the double.
Better Loosen Up (fourth in the 1990 Lawrence) and Maldivian (third in 2008) are the only Cox Plate winners to have come through the Lawrence since So Called.
The race that was known as the Liston Stakes from its inception in 1949 until 2010 has been an even worse guide to the other majors with Sydeston the only horse to win it and the Caulfield Cup in the same season, while no horse has completed the Lawrence Stakes/Melbourne Cup double.
Five Melbourne Cup winners have come through the Lawrence, Subzero the latest in 1992, while Jameka became the first horse since Elvstroem (2004) to take it in en route to Caulfield Cup success.
Jameka finished fourth in the 2016 Lawrence, which was during her four-year-old season, and this year marks 20 years since the most recent mare of that age group (Inaflury) to win the Lawrence.
Miss Rose De Lago, a six-year-old when she won, is the only mare to win since Inaflury, while entire Showtime snapped a seven-year run of outs for four-year-olds with his win last year.
Mystic Journey went up the $1.85 favourite following Wednesday’s release of the final field and should she start ‘in the red’, she will be striving to become the first odds-on winner since Mahogany at 8/13 ($1.62) in 1994.
Regal Roller (10th at $1.95 in 2005) and Weekend Hussler (second at $1.70 in 2008) are those to have started odds-on since.
Only four favourites have won since Mahogany – Apache Cat ($2.10), Shoot Out ($3), Puissance de Lune ($3.50) and Hartnell ($2.80) – but punters haven’t been too far off the mark of late with Star Rolling ($10) the longest-priced winner since 2007.