The Keith F. Nolan Classic
The Keith F. Nolan Classic, or Keith Nolan Classic, is an important part of the Sydney Autumn Carnival. The feature race hosted by the Illawarra Turf Club at the Kembla Grange Racecourse in New South Wales every March. Run over 1,600 metres, it was a Listed race until 2009 and is now a Group Three Thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old fillies at set weights with penalties. The race is sponsored by the Illawarra Mercury and the total purse including trophies is 200,000.00 Australian Dollars, so it attracts some of the best horses and riders.
History and Background
Keith Nolan was the founding chairman of the Illawarra Turf Club, and was instrumental in saving the Kembla Grange racecourse. He took things even further and under his stewardship the grounds became one of the most respected provincial race tracks in all of New South Wales. The Keith Nolan Classic and a grandstand on the premises were named after him, to honour these achievements. Nolan passed away in 2005 at the age of 76, but he did live long enough to see the inaugural race which was run in 2003.
The Kembla Grange Racecourse
The track is flat turf and right-handed, and has hosted the Keith Nolan Classic every year since its inauguration except 2011 when it was run at the Rosehill Gardens Racecourse owing to Kembla Grange track conditions. It is located on the Princes Highway, about 95 kilometres south of Sydney, and is almost identical to the Randwick Racecourse in structure. If punters are familiar with one of these tracks, it stands them in good stead when placing bets on the other. The course has a straight of 420 metres and a circumference of 2200 metres, and overall is better suited to horses who prefer bigger tracks.
The Keith Nolan Classic might be a provincial race, but with such a large purse it attracts strong fillies that are almost all above-average. Its impressive showings led the race being upgraded from a List to a Group Three event for the 2009/2010 season, and punters can use the results and performances from this somewhat smaller run when they’re making their betting decisions for the big Australian races. Fillies from the Keith Nolan Classic tend to head on to the Grade One Storm Queen Stages at the Golden Slipper Stakes, which is itself a great lead-up to the Grade One Australian Turf Club Australian Oaks race at Randwick – undoubtedly the premier Autumn fillies’ event. Several winners and high-placers in the Nolan Classic have gone on to do very well at the Storm Queen, Australian Oaks and other top-ranked events.
A Fitting Keith Nolan Tribute
The world-class facilities at the Kembla Grange help to make the Keith Nolan Classic a good day out for everyone, from the serious punter who follows all the races of the season to the more relaxed spectator who also want to take part in the surrounding events like Fashions on the Field. It’s a great way to honour the racing history of Australia, and evokes the spirit of Mr. Nolan himself.