My top four Caulfield Guineas Day moments
Pierro has been retired from racing. AAP Image/Paul Miller
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On Saturday the Spring Carnival moves to Caulfield for Guineas Day, where three Group Ones will be decided.
Pierro, a raging 4/1-on favourite to claim the Caulfield Guineas (1600m, Group One, three-year olds), will attempt to join Luskin Star (1977) as the only other Triple Crown-winning juvenile to have progressed to Guineas success.
In the Toorak Handicap (1600m, Group One), More Joyous will carry 60kgs against the boys in her final lead-up before Cox Plate (2040m, Group One, weight-for-age).
And, in the Caulfield Stakes (2000m, Group One, weight-for-age) some of MJ’s biggest Cox Plate dangers – Manighar, Sincero and Ocean Park – line-up.
Typical of many Guineas Days of the past, Saturday’s meeting promises to be a ripper.
And to get you in the mood for the weekend, I’ve come up with my top four Guineas Day Moments of the last 15 years.
4. 2011 Caulfield Guineas – A battle so taxing it destroyed its warriors
Last year’s Caulfield Guineas was a classic yet unlike so many great races, it has been a horrible form reference.
But quite strangely that only makes the 2011 Guineas more special. The race was so physically demanding that its key combatants never fully recovered.
The winner, Helmet, has been retired to stud without tasting victory again and the second place-getter Manawanui has only won once in the 12 months since his Guineas defeat.
I’m a great believer in a fast early speed laying the foundations for a great race and that’s exactly what happened on this occasion.
Jockey of Helmet, Kerrin McEvoy, attempted to expose his rivals at the mile journey by opening up a three-length advantage as the field climbed Caulfield’s famous back-straight hill. And it worked.
Manawanui positioned behind Helmet, and with the strongest two colts in the two most prominent positions, this Guineas was going to be a two-horse race from the 1200.
Manawanui cornered less than a length behind the flashy Darley colt but Helmet kicked away upon straightening. At the 200m mark, Helmet had a two-length advantage on tired legs.
When the famous clocktower came into view with 70m to run, Manawanui ranged up to beat Helmet but the chestnut colt fought on strongly to win a magical Guineas.
The last furlong of the race was run on adrenalin and heart. For these two horses, it was their finest moment and the last race at their top.
3. 2005 Caulfield Guineas – “A remarkable performance” by Gods’ Own
Caller Bryan Martin said it best: “A remarkable performance. God’s Own has won the Guineas. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
A truly freakish win for Bart Cummings and Glen Boss in the 2005 Caulfield Guineas came via Redoute’s Choice colt God’s Own.
In most races, one piece of bad luck can finish a horse’s chances. So how do you explain the 2005 Guineas?
God’s Own was going to struggle to win the Guineas when he drew the outside barrier. The fact he travelled three wide at the back of the field is often forgotten when speaking about this race. And with good reason. It was the least of his worries.
At the 1400m mark, God’s Own was on the receiving end of the worst backwash I’ve ever seen in a big race. Paternity was severely hampered in midfield and it began a domino effect culminating in God’s Own being carted off the track at the top turn.
Bossy eventually got God’s Own to settle and the horse thrived off another hot speed in the Guineas. On the side of the track, the Sydney colt carried himself into the race.
At the 400, God’s Own was travelling like a winner but he was pocketed. And again he was the victim of circumstances.
The meat in an expensive stallion sandwich, God’s Own bounced off Golden Slipper winner Stratum and collided heavily with eventual Toorak victor Red Dazzler, on the way to losing several lengths on the point of the home turn.
By the time God’s Own finally balanced up, he was three lengths behind the leaders with all momentum lost. And when he got mobile, he was at least five lengths behind front-runner Paratroopers, who was set for victory.
And again God’s Own lifted. On a sloppy slow track, he began to make up ground. At the 100m mark, God’s Own was still three lengths behind Paratroopers but he was flying home.
With Paratroopers shortening stride, God’s Own pounced in the last bound to record one of the most incredible Group One victories I’ve ever seen.
2. 2002 Caulfield Stakes – The changing of the guard
The changing of the guard is special in any sport. And in Australian horse racing, there aren’t many better examples of the baton change from superstar to superstar than when Lonhro defeated Sunline in 2002′s brilliant Caulfield Stakes.
The New Zealand mare Sunline had already claimed 13 Group Ones in three countries at distances ranging 1200 to 2040m. On her CV, she boasted dual successes in the Cox Plate and Doncaster Handicap.
In her penultimate race-track appearance, ‘the mare of the world’ was meeting Australasia’s next middle-distance king – eventual 11-time Group One winner (and sire of Pierro) Lonhro.
The four-year old Octagonal colt entered the 2002 Spring Carnival with the 2001 Caulfield Guineas as his lone Group One success.
With a boom on him, ‘the Black Flash’ was searching for a big-name scalp to justify the headlines he was winning. And he found it in Sunline.
This was a super tactical race. Greg Childs’ ride on the mare was perfect.
Lonhro was a horse that could produce a paralysing burst of speed but his brilliant turn of foot was always blunted when there was sustained pace at the beginning of a race.
Childs may not have known it, but by setting a hot tempo with the seven-year old mare, he was unsettling Lonhro. If Sunline was a season younger, she would’ve won the race comfortably.
As it turned out, Sunline pinched a break at the top of the home straight. The mare always handled corners better than most horses and it was a trait she never lost.
Lonhro, who settled close to the speed, lost ground around the final bend because he had to go around the tiring Ustinov – it almost cost him the race.
Sunline, three lengths clear, looked the winner at the 200. But Lonhro, like his father, kept lifting. He had to call on everything he had.
To the roars of the crowd and in a driving finish, Lonhro claimed victory in the last stride.
I watched this race with 100 people, huddled around a small television at Rosehill. And ten years on, I can still remember the noise that filled the racecourse as the horses crossed the line.
There haven’t been many more popular thoroughbreds than Sunline and Lonhro.
1. 1999 Caulfield Guineas – The greatest Caulfield Guineas of all time
They say the 1986 Cox Plate was ‘the race of the (20th) century’. And I agree, but the 1999 Caulfield Guineas isn’t far behind.
Not everyone will agree with me, but the duel that unfolded between Redoute’s Choice and Testa Rossa is the best (in Australia anyway) since Bonecrusher and Our Waverly Star fought out the weight-for-age championship 26 years ago.
I love a race that exposes horses to pressure and the pressure of the Caulfield Guineas challenges early three-year olds like few other races.
Jimmy “the Pumper” Cassidy, on Redoute’s Choice, tried to make the 1999 Guineas a staying test. Redoute’s led from his inside gate and Testa Rossa followed him the entire way.
At the 600, Cassidy lifted the speed to the extent Redoute’s left the fence on the home corner and a run appeared on the inside for Damien Oliver and Testa Rossa.
This would not have been a great race if “the Pumper’s” urgings didn’t force Redoute’s to lay-out under pressure around the final bend.
Because, when the run appeared for Testa Rossa, Oliver ‘went for home’ at the 400m mark. Oli might not have known it then but Testa Rossa was a sprinter whose best career performances were to come at 1000-1400m.
By going for home with Testa Rossa on the corner, Oli left himself vulnerable to a late challenge. But I’m glad he did because it made the race special.
Testa Rossa exploded to the front at the 300 and looked a winner. He was going away from Redoute’s Choice.
But Redoute’s lifted. Most leaders struggle to find extra speed and power when headed but, on this occasion, Redoute’s Choice did. He began to charge on the outside and a great battle ensued with 200m to go.
In a remarkable finish Redoute’s Choice overpowered Testa Rossa at the death. From the side-on footage it appeared the run of Testa Rossa ended at the 100m mark.
But, quite incredibly, the reverse camera angle shows Testa Rossa still increasing his margin with 50m to run – to as much as a half-length – before finally tiring in the last few strides.
This is a legendary race. And the call of Greg Miles does it justice: “Redoute’s Choice is coming again! Testa Rossa has to find! Redoute’s digs! Lunges! And wins!”