Underwood Stakes Preview

The Group 1 WFA Underwood Stakes (1800m) has attracted an extremely competitive field of nominations seeking to take home the lion’s share of the $750,000 prize at Caulfield on Sunday. We run through the leading contenders, their form and advice on how to approach the race.

Last year’s champion, Black Heart Bart, returns to defend his crown after securing a dominant two-and-a-half length victory in 2016. But he is not the favourite. That honour goes to Hartnell (GB), a strong competitor who has finished in the top two in his last three races, all at either Group 1 or Group 2 level. The impressive Bonneval (NZ) is also in the mix, along with Gailo Chop (FR), while there are some interesting long shots in what promises to be a thrilling contest.


The six-year-old gelding comes into this race in fine form, having won the G2 PB Lawrence Stakes and finished a close second to Humidor in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes in the past month. On both occasions, Harnell finished ahead of Black Heart Bart, so it makes sense that he is the clear favourite in this race. In the early lines Hartnell is 2.20 to win the Underwood and he is certainly the one to beat.

Favourites have won this race four times in the last 10 years, including Black Heart Bart in 2016. Hartnell has claimed many famous victories in prestigious contests throughout his career, including last year’s Turnbull, and has the pace and experience to win this one. Check out these horse racing odds and you will see many strong runners, but few as classy as Hartnell. It is worth checking those odds in the buildup to the race as the price on Hartnell may drift out.

Hartnell winning at Caulfield, picture

Black Heart Bart

He blitzed the field to score a resounding victory last year and remains one of the leading horses in Australia. He has finished in the top three in 12 of his last 13 appearances, all of them major races, and will be a real threat here. The only blip was last year’s Cox Plate, where Black Heart Bart finished ninth (incidentally Hartnell was second and the winner was champion mare Winx, who has regularly beaten Hartnell but is skipping the Underwood to compete in this year’s Turnbull).

Black Heart Bart is 4.20 to win it, but it could be advisable to back him to place instead as he is always there or thereabouts. He finished second to Winx in the Victorian Horse of the Year 2017 award, and there is a lot of love for him among punters, so it would be worth backing him sooner rather than later as the odds are liable to drop.


One horse that can bring award-winning credentials to the Underwood Stakes is Bonneval, who was named Horse of the Year, Three-Year-Old of the Year and Stayer of the Year at the 2017 New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards.

She is the first three-year-old filly to win the coveted New Zealand Horse of the Year gong in 18 years and it comes after she won the New Zealand Oaks and followed it up with one of the performances of the year to claim the Australian Oaks by more than four lengths. She is now second favourite to win the Caulfield and fourth favourite for the Melbourne Cup.

Incidentally, Bonneval is ahead of Hartnell in the betting for the Melbourne Cup, so it is surprising to see Bonneval at 4.60 and Hartnell at 2.20 for the Underwood. Bonneval has a great chance of winning this race and would make a great each-way bet.

Gailo Chop

A stablemate to Black Heart Bart, Gailo Chop is a longer shot at 9.00 to win the Underwood, but the six-year-old has failed to impress in recent months. He was 11th in the PC Lawrence and fourth in the Makybe Diva, well beaten by Hartnell and Black Heart Bart on both occasions. There are more attractive options here as Gailo Chop is not in the same class as Bonneval, Hartnell and Black Heart Bart.

The Rest

There is danger across the field and while four-year-old Hardham is an interesting long shot, the top three are in a class of their own and this could ultimately come down to a head-to-head between Hartnell and Bonneval. The odds are more attractive on New Zealand’s Horse of the Year, so that each-way bet looks the most intriguing option right now.

Link - Underwood Stakes nominations