Mystic Journey is going to be awfully hard to beat this preparation based on her first-up performance at Caulfield on Saturday, but I wouldn’t be rushing in to back her in any futures markets.
The Roar’s journey into Australian racing history continues today with our judges beginning to make some interesting and conflicting decisions.
Which horse gets the same ranking by two of our judges? And which horses make their first appearance in our series?
Join Justin Cinque, Andrew Hawkins and Roar historian sheek as they give their 26-30 selections.
30. Sheek- Amounis (b. 1922) 79/33/11/8 (42%)
It’s remarkable that despite Amounis beating Phar Lap in two of their five meetings, I have managed to separate them by 28 places. Am I crazy? No, it merely reflects the extraordinary depth of quality of all the other horses in between.
Adding to the intrigue is that Amounis was seven or eight-years old racing against Phar Lap at three or four-years old. The advantage should have been with the younger horse. Furthermore, Amounis carried the fourth highest weight ever (61 kgs) to victory in the Caulfield Cup of 1930.
Among his other major victories were two Epsoms, the Caulfield Stakes and Sandown Cup.
30. Justin Cinque – Dulcify (b. 1975) 21/10/3/2 (48%)
I love Dulcify’s story – he’s my favourite horse in history. A parrot-mouthed horse (which means his lower jaw was shorter than his upper jaw), Dulcify won on debut at Morphettville as a three-year old at 300/1. I dare say he’s only the horse to be named in the top 50 that ever went around at odds of 300s.
He won the VRC Derby in the spring of 1978 but it wasn’t until the beginning of 1979 that the racing world learnt how good Dulcify was.
He won the Australian Cup in the last stride, coming from a mile back to nail the great Manikato at 80/1– Dulcify was an incredibly-fast finisher and a great Flemington horse. He then took the first Rosehill Guineas held in autumn and the AJC Derby on protest.
Returning in the spring as a four-year old, Dulcify became a star of world racing. He was responsible for one of the all-time great performances in Australian racing history – a Cox Plate victory by seven lengths and the most aesthetically-pleasing win (Black Caviar and Frankel aside) you’ll ever see.
He won the Mackinnon on Derby Day unimpressively before breaking down and being subsequently destroyed in the Melbourne Cup when favourite.
Looking at the way Dulcify improved through his career there’s no telling how good his record may have been had he not suffered that tragic end. There’s every chance Dulcify would have pressed for the top ten.
30. Andrew Hawkins – Dulcify (b. 1975) 21/10/3/2 (48%)
One of the greatest tragedies of the Australian turf is that we never got to see how good Dulcify was. After winning some of the major three year old races, he proved his champion qualities with a barnstorming win in the 1979 Australian Cup, defeating Manikato in the last stride.
The world was his oyster in the spring of 1979, with wins in the Craiglee Stakes and Turnbull Stakes followed by a truly awesome performance in the Cox Plate when putting seven lengths on his rivals. But unfortunately, he was galloped on and fatally broke down as favourite in the Melbourne Cup won by Hyperno.
The biggest question, though, is how he managed to start a 300-1 on debut at Morphettville in September 1978. Imagine if you’d backed him that day!
29. Sheek – So You Think (b. 2006) 23/14/4/1 (61%)
And so we have a massive conundrum. Duncan Ramage has a lot to answer for. It was he who planted the seed of thought in owner Dato Chin Nam’s mind to send So You Think to Europe. And not tell Bart.
By the time Bart found out and exploded, it was all too late – So You Think was on his way to Aiden O’Brien’s stables in Ireland. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. In making our assessment, we must judge on what we know, not what might have happened.
Had So You Think remained in Australia, he might have won three Cox Plates as well as a Melbourne or Caulfield Cup, several Mackinnons, the Australian Cup and only God knows what else. He may have rewritten the history books. But, sadly, all that is pure speculation.
29. Justin Cinque – Tranquil Star (b. 1937) 111/23/20/12 (21%)
Tranquil Star only had a winning strike rate of one in five but she’s this high in my list because of her great longevity and versatility. Tranquil Star started racing in 1939 when World War II began.
She outstayed the war – Tranquil Star won the 1946 William Reid over 1200m. As a three-year old she won the VRC St Leger over 2800m. In between she won three majors including two Cox Plates and a Caulfield Cup. She also won three Mackinnons, a Caulfield Stakes, a Chipping Norton and a Memsie.
29. Andrew Hawkins – Sky High (b. 1957) 55/29/10/9 (53%)
You want versatile? Take a Breeders’ Plate winner who progressed to win a Golden Slipper and a Victoria Derby within six months. That’s Sky High, whose feats have only come close to being matched by Miss Finland (2006 Golden Slipper and Crown Oaks winner) in the years since.
He is the only Golden Slipper winner to run in the Melbourne Cup, after Miss Finland’s bid to run in both races collapsed at the final hurdle in 2007.
And in addition, he won a plethora of other races, from the Lightning Stakes to the Epsom Handicap.
If you love versatility, you’ll love him.
28. Sheek – Northerly (b. 1996) 37/19/7/2 (51%)
Yet another conundrum. Northerly ran Sunline ragged on some occasions, yet 15 places separate them. Again, it’s the quality of all the other champion racehorses in between. Northerly can lay claim to being WA’s greatest racehorse after Eurthymic.
Other major wins by Northerly include two Cox Plates, Caulfield Cup, two Australian Cups and the Railway Stakes.
28. Justin Cinque – Eurythmic (b. 1916) 43/22/3/4 (51%)
Eurythmic is the first West Australian to appear in my list. As a young horse in Perth, Eurythmic won the Karrakatta Plate (which is the Golden Slipper of Perth), the WATC Sires Produce, the WATC Derby, dead-heated for first in the Perth Cup, won the Cox Stakes (then the premier weight-for-age race in Perth) and the WATC St Leger.
In Melbourne Eurythmic sealed his greatness with three victories in both the Caulfield Stakes and Memsie, two Mackinnons, a single Caulfield Cup and a Futurity (with 67kgs). He also won the 1921 Sydney Cup.
Eurythmic was the first horse to earn more prizemoney than The Roar’s greatest of all-time, Carbine.
28. Andrew Hawkins – Redcraze (b. 1950) 85/32/11/9 (38%)
Redcraze is what you’d call “a late maturer” – unraced at two, mediocre at best at three, alright at four. It was when he made the transition to Tommy Smith that his real ability was shown, winning some of the best races on the Australian calendar.
His signature victory was his remarkable performance in carrying the equivalent of 63kg to victory in the 1956 Caulfield Cup.
It was his beaten effort in the 1956 Melbourne Cup, though, which had many lauding him a champion, as he gave the winner Evening Peal 14kg and many lengths before just failing to reel her in.
He would add a much deserved Cox Plate to his record the following year.
27. Sheek – Redcraze (b. 1950) 85/32/11/9 (38%)
Redcraze, like fellow Kiwi Rising Fast, is a good reason why you should persevere with stayers. Both were relatively late starters, not showing their true potential until they were five.
To this day, Redcraze holds the record for carrying the greatest weight to victory in the Caulfield Cup (63kgs) in 1956. He was then beaten by a mere head in the Melbourne Cup, lugging 65 kgs.
Other major wins include Cox Plate, Metroplitan Handicap, Brisbane Cup, VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Queen’s Plate and Turnbull Stakes.
27. Justin Cinque – Chatham (b. 1928) 45/24/7/1 (53%)
Chatham raced in one of the great eras of Australian racing – from the Depression years we’ve already seen Phar Lap, Ajax and Peter Pan named in the Roar’s top 50. And Chatham is worthy company for the aforementioned three – what a CV he has.
Two Cox Plates, a Doncaster on a heavy track with 65.5kgs after the missing the start, three Linlithgows (now Patinack, then 1600m), three Craven Plates, two Epsoms, two Warwick Stakes, two Hill Stakes, a Canterbury Stakes, a Caulfield Stakes and an All Aged – 11 Group 1s in total.
Chatham is in the top ten middle-distance horses we’ve ever produced.
27. Andrew Hawkins – Octagonal (b. 1992) 28/14/7/1 (50%)
Not only was the “Big O” hugely popular, but he was also one of the most tenacious horses to race in the modern era.
I actually think Saintly, the horse from heaven, may have been a better horse. But in the time their careers overlapped, Octagonal asserted his authority over Saintly and as such has to be ranked higher.
Octagonal produced one of the best beaten runs in Golden Slipper history, flying late but failing to grab Flying Spur by a nose in a vintage edition of the race.
In his three year old year, he won the Cox Plate, Canterbury Guineas, Rosehill Guineas, Mercedes Classic and AJC Derby, but seemed to struggle in the spring of 1996 before returning to his best as his career reached its end in the autumn of 1997.
26. Sheek – Gloaming (b. 1915) 67/57/9/0 (85%)
With an 85% win ratio, you would be entitled to think Gloaming ought to be close to the top of the pile. But his major Australian wins included the AJC Derby, the Mackinnon Stakes and three Craven Plates.
There’s no Cox Plate, or Caulfield Cup, or Australian Cup, or Doncaster Hcp, or other major handicap and weight-for-age races. Consequently, Gloaming’s achievements are downgraded somewhat.
Before Black Caviar came along, he shared the southern hemisphere record of 19 consecutive wins with another champion NZ horse, Desert Gold.
26. Justin Cinque – Gunsynd (b. 1967) 54/29/7/8 (54%)
“The Goondiwindi Grey” is arguably the most popular racehorse in Australian history and one of our great milers. When he was awarded third place after a photo finish in the 1972 Melbourne Cup, the crowd roared. His jockey Roy Higgins has since recalled that “You’d swear he’d won. They knew he’d given his all”.
As a champion miler Gunsynd won the nation’s four premier 1600m races – the Doncaster, the George Adams (now Emirates), the Epsom and the Toorak. He also won the Cox Plate, a Caulfield Stakes and two Ranvets.
Gunsynd is remembered for his strong finishes and a habit of posing for flash photography at the races.
26. Andrew Hawkins – Tobin Bronze (b.1962) 44/24/7/4 (55%) (plus 16/4/2/3 in US)
A chestnut galloper who was popular for his good looks as much as his ability, he won two Cox Plates, a Doncaster Handicap, a Toorak Handicap and a Caulfield Cup under the equivalent of 61.5kg.
The only horse to start shorter in a Cox Plate than Tobin Bronze did in 1967 was Phar Lap in 1931. That race, his final in Australia, drew a huge crowd to Moonee Valley to bid him farewell, and he didn’t disappoint, winning comfortably.
He wasn’t as successful in the United States, but he is remembered as a top galloper of the 1960s.