Can More Joyous be called a champion?
How should a champion racehorse be defined? Does being the best suffice, or are wins in the best races against the best horses required?
As far as I’m concerned a champion racehorse needs three things: an extraordinary record, world-class scalps and outstanding attributes.
On Saturday Australia’s best miler and second-best mare, More Joyous, claimed the biggest win of her career when she stormed to victory in the Doncaster Mile. The Doncaster ranks as Australia’s third-best handicap race behind the Melbourne and Caulfield Cups.
Jockey Nash Rawiller positioned More Joyous just off the leaders and she set up victory with a lightning burst of speed at the top of the final stretch.
Carrying the number two saddlecloth, she gave away weight to all bar one runner in the race and held off the chasing pack in the final furlong.
In the aftermath of Saturday’s landmark victory Rawiller declared, “She’s a champion and she showed that today.” Jockey of runner up Shoot Out, Hugh Bowman, summed up his mount’s performance by saying, “he ran great but was beaten by a champion.”
Both Rawiller and Bowman believe More Joyous is a champion. But does she have an extraordinary record, world-class scalps and outstanding attributes?
More Joyous is a five-year old mare, trained by Gai Waterhouse at Randwick’s Tulloch Lodge stables.
In 25 visits to the racetrack, she has come away victorious 18 times. She has finished third twice and unplaced on five occasions. Interestingly, More Joyous has never come second.
She is a seven-time winner of Group One races. Those Group Ones are the Flight Stakes (three-year old fillies, 1600 metres), George Main (WFA, 1600 metres), Toorak (handicap, 57.5kgs, 1600 metres), Futurity Stakes (WFA, 1400 metres), Queen Of The Turf twice (mares, 1500 metres) and Doncaster Mile (handicap, 58kgs, 1600 metres).
Interestingly, four of her five unplaced finishes occurred in high-quality Group One races – Golden Slipper (two-year old, 1200 metres), the Cox Plate (WFA, 2040 metres), Doncaster Mile (handicap, 57kgs, 1600 metres) and the Myer Classic (mares, 1600 metres).
More Joyous doesn’t perform on heavy ground. Her Golden Slipper and Doncaster Mile defeats, where she finished 15th and 11th respectively, were on heavy tracks.
On Saturday, she dispelled the belief held by many including myself that she doesn’t perform in the great races. In the elite-level Group Ones she has a record of four starts (Golden Slipper, Cox Plate, Doncaster twice) for one win and no minor placings.
So does More Joyous have an extraordinary record?
Not quite. She has a great record but not an extraordinary one. Her big-race record and inability to perform on bog tracks let her down. The first box on the ‘champion’s checklist’ remains unticked.
Has More Joyous beaten world-class gallopers?
The answer to this question is no.
Importantly More Joyous has never beaten a champion. The best horse she has met is So You Think in the 2010 Cox Plate and on that occasion she finished fifth.
The best win of More Joyous’ career is Saturday’s Doncaster. Outside of those she beat on the weekend, her best scalps are good horses Theseo, Melito, Whobegotyou, King Mufhasa and Ortensia (who has since won a Group One in Dubai but over 1000 metres. The distance was 1400 when Ortensia finished sixth behind More Joyous in the Futurity).
What about any outstanding attributes More Joyous has?
In describing More Joyous, I would say her biggest asset is her ability to race on the speed and show a turn of foot just as she did on the weekend. More Joyous has a killer instinct.
More Joyous is famous for being lightly-framed, so her performances to win the Toorak and the Doncaster with relatively large weights are testament to her courage.
Undoubtedly, More Joyous has outstanding attributes.
So what is the final verdict?
According to the strict criteria, More Joyous cannot be called a champion. Her record is tarnished by defeats in the Cox Plate and Golden Slipper. And, Ortensia aside, she has never beaten a world-class galloper.
More Joyous has a big year ahead. She will be trained for another tilt at the Cox Plate and she may get an opportunity to test her mettle against the world’s best after owner John Singleton said he would put up a million dollars to help facilitate a clash between More Joyous, Black Caviar, Atlantic Jewel and Frankel in the spring.
But regardless of what the future holds, More Joyous is a fantastic, consistent racehorse who is a pleasure to watch and a great advertisement for Australian racing. Long may her dominant wins continue!