The Spring is officially in the air with the group one Makybe Stakes meeting at Flemington on Saturday.
The Roar’s list of great Australian horses has already created plenty of debate, with this week’s additions set to create further arguments.
25. Sheek – Poseidon (b.1903) 33/19/4/3 (58%)
Born two years after Australian Federation, Poseidon can lay claim to the best three year old record of any horse to race in Australia. Only Tulloch might challenge him.
In his golden three year old campaign, he annexed the Caulfield-Melbourne cup double, the AJC-VRC Derbies double and the AJC-VRC St. Legers double. The following year he added another Caulfield Cup and then the Mackinnon Stakes.
In the Melbourne Cup of 1907, he courageously carried 65 kgs into eighth place.
Sadly, injury prematurely ended his career at four years of age.
25. Justin Cinque – Sky High (b. 1957) 55/29/10/9 (53%)
Sky High won 18 modern-day Group 1s – it’s his greatest feat.
He started off as a two-year old, winning both the Golden Slipper and Champagne.
He won the VRC Derby later that year before claiming a further three Group 1s (each of them against the open age gallopers) as a three-year old including the first of two Lightnings over 1000m.
He won a Mackinnon and Chipping Norton at 2000m as an older horse as well as an Epsom Handicap with 57.5kgs. It’s disappointing today that Sky High isn’t spoken about as often as many other great champions in history.
25. Andrew Hawkins – Poseidon (b.1903) 33/19/4/3 (58%)
Poseidon was a fine three-year-old – in fact, probably as fine a three-year-old as Australia has seen.
He was the first horse to win the Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double, which only 10 other horses have managed to achieve. He also won the AJC Derby, the Victoria Derby, the AJC St Leger and the VRC St Leger as a three year old, while he added another Caulfield Cup as a four year old.
It is a shame that he only had a handful of starts after his second Caulfield Cup success, before standing at his owner’s stud in Gulgong, NSW.
24. Sheek – Malua (b. 1879) 47/12/10/3 (26%)
If old-timers could be transported to the present, they might demand that Malua be moved up the rankings and scoff derisively that I have ‘only’ ranked him at no.24. His record is quite impressive and he might well be the most versatile horse ever to race in Australia.
Among his major wins were the Melbourne Cup, Adelaide Cup, Australian Cup, Newmarket Hcp, Oakleigh Plate, Geelong Cup and incredibly, the Grand National Hurdle.
Most incredibly, Malua won major Australian stakes races from 1100m right up to 5200m!
24. Justin Cinque – So You Think (b. 2006) 23/14/4/1 (61%)
Five Group 1s in each hemisphere and spectacular looks is how I’ll remember So You Think. At his best he was a superb middle-distance champion that deserves mention in any conversation about the greats.
Like Kingston Town, So You Think won multiple Cox Plates with complete dominance. In Europe, we probably never saw his best – a combination of poor placement by Coolmore’s Aiden O’Brien and poor tactics by jockey Joseph O’Brien brought about some disappointing results – yet he still won five times at the top level.
His victory in the 2012 Prince of Wales’s Stakes was authoritative; he slayed subsequent Australian Group 1 winner Reliable Man by three lengths. I would’ve loved to have seen So You Think race Frankel because I believe he would’ve given the so-called ‘greatest of all-time’ a real race.
24. Andrew Hawkins – Crisp (b. 1963) 40/17/4/0 (43%)
I thought I was going to be original by including Crisp this high in my top 50, only to have Justin Cinque eclipse me last week! He obviously has good taste.
A champion chaser in Australia, he was sent to the United Kingdom where he proved successful in two mile chases, including the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
But it was his courageous second in the 1973 Grand National to Red Run for which he is most remembered. As I wrote earlier this year, it was one of the best beaten performances you will ever see.
23. Sheek – Sky High (b. 1957) 55/29/10/9 53%
Like his name suggests, this champion reached for the sky. Sky High remains the only Golden Slipper winner to run in a Melbourne Cup.
Sky High was only denied the two-year old Triple Crown by the champion filly Wenona Girl who beat Sky High in the Sires Produce – it is one of the rare times Wenona Girl got the better of Sky High.
Other major achievements include the VRC Derby, two Lightning Stakes, Futurity Stakes, All Aged Stakes, Epsom Hcp, Caulfield Stakes and Mackinnon Stakes. So close in ability and achievement were Sky High and Gunsynd, I have placed them beside each other.
23. Justin Cinque – Might and Power (b. 1993) 33/15/7/1 (45%)
The only winner of the big four staying races (Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and BMW) in history, Might and Power was a warrior.
He won the Caulfield by seven-and-a-half lengths in track-record time but it’s his Melbourne Cup win by a nose that wins the most accolades from me – it is one of the most under-rated Cup victories in history.
Might and Power is one of the few horses to have led all the way to win the great handicap and he did it after being attacked in the lead by rival runners for large parts of the race.
Showcasing the same Cox Plate dominance of Dulcify, “the King”, Sunline and So You Think, Might and Power came back the following season to claim the weight-for-age championship.
I remember going to the races to watch Might and Power as a kid. His reign followed that of Octagonal. Octagonal drew sell-out crowds because the public loved ‘the Big O’. Might and Power drew a crowd because people wanted to see a champion stayer win.
23. Andrew Hawkins – Sunline (b. 1995) 48/32/9/3 (67%)
Who could forget the mighty Kiwi who, as David Raphael famous described her, became “the mare of the world” at the start of the millennium?
She was a fixture of Group 1 racing over five seasons on both sides of the Tasman, also recording a win in the Hong Kong Mile and a third in the Dubai Duty Free.
However, it is her two Cox Plates wins for which she is remembered, responsible for the most dominant Cox Plate victory in my lifetime with a winning margin only matched by Dulcify in 1979.
She was the first horse I really grew to admire, brilliant and tough. Hard to see her any lower in the list!
22. Sheek – Gunsynd (b. 1967) 54/29/7/8 (54%)
There aren’t too many race horses who have entered folk lore with a song dedicated to them. But Gunsynd certainly did with a song titled ‘The Goondiwindi Grey.’
Gunsynd was as beloved as any race horse to grace the Australian turf. If just one word could describe Gunsynd, it would be “courage”. Here was a horse who basically put his body on the line every race.
Sometimes the greatest achievement comes in defeat. In the 1972 Melbourne Cup, Gunsynd, who was not a noted stayer, lumped 60.5 kgs into a highly impressive third.
Other major wins include Cox Plate, Doncaster Hcp, Epsom Hcp, Toorak Hcp, George Adams Hcp, Futurity Stales, Caulfield Stakes and Sandown Cup.
22. Justin Cinque – Shannon (b. 1941) 44/20/8/7 (45%)
Shannon is undoubtedly the Australian galloper to have had the most success in the US. In Australia, Shannon won a handful of Group 1s including two George Mains and an Epsom. He is most famous for missing the start of the 1946 Epsom by 100m before being beaten by less than a head.
In America, Shannon equalled two world records (for 1800 and 2000m), and won a Hollywood Gold Cup, which is one of the features of the US dirt.
22. Andrew Hawkins – Gloaming (b.1915) 67/57/9/0 (85%)
Gloaming had an incredible strike rate, missing the placings only once and winning 57 of his 67 races.
Before Black Caviar’s emergence, he probably had the best strike rate of any Australian galloper who had raced at the top level consistently over multiple seasons.
He jointly held the Australasian record for 19 successive metropolitan wins with Desert Gold for over 80 years, until Black Caviar broke the record in 2012.
21. Sheek – Todman (b. 1954) 12/10/1/0 (83%)
Todman is yet another of those horses of whom you think “what might have been”, but for injury. He remains one of, if not the most brilliant of two year olds. However, on evidence there is simply not enough to place him higher in my humble opinion.
At two, he won the inaugural Golden Slipper of 1957 and the Champagne Stakes, while at five he impressively won the Lightning Stakes and Futurity Stakes, carrying 64.5 kgs. If only we had seen more of him!
21. Justin Cinque – Peter Pan (b.1929) 39/23/6/1 (59%)
On Monday, Jessica Owers, author of Peter Pan: The forgotten story of Phar Lap’s successor wrote for The Roar that Phar Lap would’ve been hard pressed beating Peter Pan. That speaks volumes about this dual Melbourne Cup winner.
Peter Pan beat the best, including Chatham in track-record time over 1400m, and could win over any distance. He also broke the Australasian mile record in the All Aged Stakes. Peter Pan won two Mackinnons (both in his Melbourne Cup years) and an AJC Derby.
He’s desperately unlucky to miss out on my top 20.
21. Andrew Hawkins – Gunsynd (b. 1967) 54/29/7/8 (54%)
The Goondiwindi Grey represented a new era in Australian racing. While horses like Phar Lap had captivated the attention of the masses, Gunsynd was the first to gain a widespread following for reasons other than his immense ability.
He was a grey – always a good start among those who seldom bet more than once a year – and he had a barnstorming finish. His breeding suggested he’d be a sprinter, but he loved the 1600m and even ran third in a Melbourne Cup under 60.5kg.
And he had a rather unique and quirky personality and was known for posing to the cameras.
His popularity alone sees him deserve his spot in this list.