Celebrating the Boxing Day Races | What you should know about the Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic

1 Dec 2021
Auckland Thoroughbred Racing

If there’s one race you should know about at the SkyCity Boxing Day Races it’s the big one – the Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic.

Concert Hall & Vinnie Colgan return to scale after taking out the 2020 Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic for owner and breeder Joan Egan and trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood.


Today we’re giving you the 101 on this prestigious race so you can track talk like a pro on raceday.



It’s a Group I (one) race

All around the world, black type races are recognised as being of the highest quality – they are our equivalent of test match rugby and they start from the top with Group I (1), to Group II (2), Group III (3) and then Listed.



When a horse wins one of these races, it gets ‘black type’ (aka bold text) on its pedigree. The more black type a horse has on its pedigree, the better in terms of its value, or the value of any offspring it may produce.

Consensus (black colours) on her way to winning the 2016 Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic with jockey Alysha Collett aboard. Consensus was trained by Stephen McKee and has since been exported to Australia.


It’s a weight-for-age race

“Weight-for-age” (WFA) is one of the conditions the race is run under.

It means that a horse will carry a set weight in accordance with its age, as determined by a pre-defined scaling system. This weight varies depending on the horse’s age, its sex, the time of year the race is being run and its distance.

2017 was veteran Authentic Paddy’s year to take out the Group 1 with Trudy Thornton aboard. Trained by Lisa Latta, it was a case of ‘third time lucky’ for the 8YO who had placed in the previous two consecutive runnings of the race.


WFA could be considered as a form of handicapping as it aims to equal out the playing field for the runners in the race – generally speaking, a younger horse wouldn’t be able to run as far as fast than an older horse would, so it would be given less weight to carry. Same as for the girls – fillies and mares get a further weight allowance.



It’s named after one of racing’s greats

The race’s namesake, Zabeel, won seven races himself (with earnings in excess of AUS$1.1m) before retiring to stud where he sired (fathered) an incredible 153 individual stakes winners of 350 stakes races.

Superstar sire and namesake of the race, Zabeel


Zabeel passed away exactly one month shy of his 30th birthday and now rests in peace alongside his sire, Sir Tristram, at Cambridge Stud.

Prior to being the Zabeel Classic, the race was known as the Auckland Classic and later, the Japan Racing Association Classic.



  • It’s 2000m long

  • This year’s it worth $240,000 – up from $200,000 in 2020 – with the winning horse earning $138,000 of that (we also pay stakes up to 10th place)

  • Last year’s winner was Concert Hall who was ridden by Vinnie Colgan and trained by Roger James and Robert Wellwood

  • The race was first run in 1985

  • Check out some of the race’s previous winners here


2021’s edition of the Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic will be held here at Ellerslie as part of the famed SkyCity Boxing Day Races (26 December 2021).


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