Can a jumper be justified in the top 20? And how has Andrew Hawkins managed to drag 2012 Oakleigh Plate winner Woorim into the debate about the greatest of all-time?
20. Sheek – Chatham (b.1928) 45/24/7/1 (53%)
One of the finest milers ever produced, winning 12 of 21 starts at the distance. Known as a ‘whistler’, he had a severe throat infection and breathing problem for most of his career. How much better might he have been without it?
Major wins include two Cox Plates, two Epsoms, Doncaster, Caulfield Stakes, All Aged Stakes and three AJC Craven Plates. Managed to succeed with both huge weights and at weight-for-age.
20. Andrew Hawkins – Might and Power (b.1993) 33/15/7/1 (46%)
One of the modern greats, he was as tough a front runner as we’ve seen in Australia.
It is hard to rank where he stands in the scheme of things, as the weight for age stocks he dominated were rather weak compared to the years around him.
But he was tough, and on his day, he could have broken the hearts of every galloper on this list. As one of only two horses to win all three spring features – the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup – he deserves his place in this list.
20. Justin Cinque – Malua (b. 1879) 47/12/10/3 (26%)
Malua sneaks into my top 20 on the back of his incredible versatility – he won Australia’s best sprint, best staying race and best hurdle. If Malua didn’t do it, you wouldn’t believe a horse was capable.
At the start of 1884 he won the Newmarket Handicap and Oakleigh Plate (both 1200m) double. Incredibly, he came back in the spring to win both the Mackinnon (2000m) and Melbourne Cup (3200m, 61kgs). Two days later on Oaks Day, Malua won the 1200m weight-for-age sprint on the program.
In 1886 he won the Australian Cup before being switched to jumps racing in 1888. Later that season he won the VRC Grand National Hurdle.
19. Sheek – The Barb (b.1863) 22/16/2/1 (73%)
The Barb is considered the first great champion in Australia’s history. Greater than the first Melbourne Cup winner Archer and finished his career prior to Carbine’s arrival.
Known as the ‘Black demon’, The Barb’s ill temperamental nature was attributed to being stolen as a yearling by bushrangers and mistreated.
Major wins included Melbourne Cup, Sydney Cup (67 kgs), Champion Stakes (Cox Plate of his day), AJC Metropolitan, AJC Craven Plate.
19. Andrew Hawkins – Todman (b. 1954) 12/10/1/0 (83%)
Perhaps the greatest juvenile we’ve seen, with only Vain and Luskin Star in his class, he was the inaugural Golden Slipper winner.
His only defeat as a two-year-old came in the AJC Sires Produce Stakes, when a rather handy nag by the name of Tulloch got the better of him. He thrashed Tulloch by six lengths at their next meeting over a furlong shorter a week later.
Unfortunately, injury means we never saw the best of him. Who knows how good he might have been?
19. Justin Cinque – Crisp (b. 1963) 40/17/4/0 (43%)
Crisp is the greatest jumper in Australian racing history.
He won the Cox Plate of the jumps, the Hiskens Steeple twice (with 70kgs and 76kgs and by 20 and 12 lengths respectively – weights are raised ten kilos in Australian jumps races).
Having been weighted out of Australian jumps racing, he was sent to England where he won the prestigious Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Then at the 1973 Grand National, Crisp put up one of the greatest ever performances in defeat when he led by a massive margin through large parts of the marathon journey only to go down by a slender margin to the legendary chaser Red Rum (whom Crisp conceded ten kilos).
You could argue that Crisp’s defeat in the National (with 76kgs) is the greatest ever performance by an Australian thoroughbred on the world stage.
18. Sheek – Tobin Bronze (b.1962) 44/24/7/4 (55%) (plus 16/4/2/3 in US)
Along with Galilee, two of my earliest heroes when I first started following horse racing was Tobin Bronze. ‘Toby’ was a crowd favourite and usually unbeatable up to 2000m when in top form.
Had some mighty tussles with Galilee during the 1966/67 season. Sold to American interests but never settled on dirt tracks.
Major wins include Caulfield Cup (61.5 kgs), Doncaster (59.5 kgs), two Cox Plates, Mackinnon Stakes, All Aged Stakes, Toorak Hcp and Victorian Derby.
18. Andrew Hawkins – Shannon (b. 1941) 44/20/8/7 (45%)
Shannon is best known for smashing records across the world. He held the Australasian record time for a mile (1600m) and, after his sale to America, the world record for nine furlongs (1800m) and a mile and a quarter (2000m).
But he is best remembered for a brutal defeat in the 1946 Epsom as a short priced favourite, when he only began the race after the field had travelled a half furlong (100m) or so.
In the end, he was only beaten a half head by Blue Legend. Shannon is the focus of the second book by Jessica Owers, to be released later this year.
18. Justin Cinque – Gloaming (b.1915) 67/57/9/0 (85%)
Apart from Black Caviar, I’m confident in saying Gloaming has the best career-record in history. Gloaming won an incredible 85% of his 67 starts, across seven seasons.
He only finished worse than second once and that’s when he fell as a three-year old. 39 of his 57 wins were in ‘Principal Races’ (what we’d now call Group races).
An outstanding three-year old, he won the Chelmsford (now Group 2) on debut before taking out three Derbies (the AJC Derby in Sydney and the New Zealand and Great Northern Derbies in New Zealand). Racing mainly in New Zealand over the next three seasons, he won 32 of his 34 starts.
Gloaming maintained his great form right up until his last season, when as a nine-year old he won eight of his last ten outings.
17. Sheek – Galilee (b.1962) 36/18/6/4 (50%)
Despite the challenges of both Saintly and So You Think, Galilee is still considered the best stayer/weight-for-age horse Bart Cummings ever trained.
He remains the only horse to win the unofficial staying handicaps triple crown of Caulfield Cup, Melbourne Cup and Sydney Cup (60.5 kgs) in the one season.
Other wins include Toorak Hcp, CB Fisher Plate (Tancred/BMW of its day) and several other prominent weight-for-age races. Missed his entire five-year-old season through injury.
17. Andrew Hawkins – Super Impose (b. 1984) 74/20/24/8 (27%)
There’s something electrifying about a horse with a brilliant turn of foot. Horses with that turn of foot are more likely to capture the public’s attention, but it is a catch-22 as it is a pattern of racing which doesn’t lend itself well to building a champion’s record.
A horse like Woorim, for example, was explosive on his day but we didn’t see it enough (don’t worry, Woorim doesn’t make this list).
That’s what made Super Impose so amazing. He was a Melbourne Cup placegetter who thrived over the Randwick mile, winning two Doncasters and two Epsoms. Victory in the greatest Cox Plate of the modern era in 1992 was the icing on the cake.
17. Justin Cinque – Poseidon (b. 1903) 33/19/4/3 (58%)
Poseidon is only second to Tulloch as the best three-year old in Australian history. After a slow start to his career where he only won once in six outings, Poseidon claimed the AJC Derby-VRC Derby; Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup; VRC St Leger-AJC St Leger doubles in his classic season.
At four he won a second Caulfield Cup (one of only seven in history to do so) as well as the Mackinnon, Ranvet and AJC Plate. Throughout his career he won at distances ranging 1000-4800m and took-out seven modern-day Groups 1s.
16. Sheek – Might and Power (b.1993) 33/15/7/1 (46%)
Hard to know his exact place, but the thrilling style of his wins, fantastic times and breathtaking derring-do made him a massive crowd favourite.
Remains the only horse to lead all the way in winning the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup.
Other major wins include the Cox Plate, Tancred (BMW) Stakes, Doomben Cup and both AJC and VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
16. Andrew Hawkins – Galilee (b.1962) 36/18/6/4 (50%)
Perhaps the only horse who can seriously challenge So You Think as the best horse Bart Cummings has trained.
He remains the only horse to win the Caulfield, Melbourne and Sydney Cups in the one season, with Makybe Diva the only horse coming close in the modern era. In addition, he also won the Toorak Handicap prior to his Caulfield Cup success.
16. Justin Cinque – Tobin Bronze (b. 1962) 44/24/7/4 (55%) (plus 16/4/2/3 in US)
There’s so much to admire about Tobin Bronze – 11 modern-day Group 1s, 12 wins at weight-for-age including two Cox Plates.
But the thing that sets him apart from dozens of champions is that he won three of Australia’s biggest handicaps, carrying mammoth weights, at the tail end of his Australian career – 61.5kgs to the Caulfield Cup, 59.5kgs in the Doncaster and a race-record winning weight (which still stands today) of 62.5kgs in the Toorak.
By the time Tobin Bronze left Australian shores to finish his career in the US – he was a household name.
In America, he won four times from 16 starts. Perhaps his best performance was a third-place finish in the now defunct Washington, DC International (2400m) which was the forerunner to today’s Breeder’s Cup Turf.