Group 1 racing returns to the calendar this Saturday with the running of the Winx Stakes (1400 metres) at Randwick.
The Roar’s list of the best thoroughbreds to have raced in Australia is nearing its conclusion, and as it does so, the list of horses likely to miss a mention grows longer.
40. Andrew Hawkins – Northerly (b. 1996) 37/19/7/2 (51%)
Western Australia’s favourite son “The Fighting Tiger” made quite the impression in Perth, winning four of his first six starts including the Railway Stakes.
But he earned a spot in the list with his achievements on the other side of the country, which included two Cox Plates, a Caulfield Cup, two Underwood Stakes and an Australian Cup.
He also won an electric Feehan Stakes when he looked no chance at the 600m, somehow picking up again to grab Sunline near the line.
40. Justin Cinque – Redcraze (b. 1950) 85/32/11/9 (37%)
Redcraze was a grand late-bloomer who built an impressive record in the major handicaps when carrying big weights. He started off in New Zealand where his feature victory was an Awapuni Gold Cup. At the end of his five-year old campaign he was transferred to Tommy Smith’s Randwick stables where he blossomed.
He won the Brisbane Cup and Metropolitan Handicap before taking the Caulfield Cup with 63kgs. 17 days later in the Melbourne Cup Redcraze was a fast-finishing second with a mammoth 65kgs – to run that well with that sort of weight is an indication of the greatness of Redcraze.
He came back the following season to win the Cox Plate, thereby securing his place among the great champions of Australian racing.
40. Sheek – Surround (b. 1973) 28/17/2/2 (61%)
It was a toss-up between two great females for no.40 – Surround or Flight. Flight’s record is mightily impressive, but she will have to wait for the next installment.
Surround’s achievement as the greatest filly in Australian thoroughbred history deserves recognition at this point. During the season of 1976/77 she annexed the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and trifecta of Eastern state Oaks – VRC, AJC and QTC. But that wasn’t all, in addition she won the Orr, Blamey and Grand Prix Stakes.
Quite evidently, there has never been a filly as good as Surround. It’s a shame injury caused her early retirement. We can only speculate at what else she might have achieved.
39. Andrew Hawkins – Better Loosen Up
Better Loosen Up achieved a lot in his career, but the crowning glory of his career was his victory in the 1990 Japan Cup – the first and only Australian horse to win the race, a year after Kiwi mare Horlicks also won the race.
He was a fairly average three year old, with his best performance a second in the 1989 Canterbury Guineas. But it was later that year that we got a glimpse of the horse he was to become when he won the Honda (now the Emirates) Stakes, the Winfield Classic (now the Kingston Town Classic) and the Railway Stakes.
In the spring of 1990, he won the Feehan Stakes, Turnbull Stakes, Cox Plate and Mackinnon Stakes before his successful Japanese raid, while he came back to win the Blamey Stakes and Australian Cup.
He wasn’t the same horse after the 1991 autumn, although many argue he should have won the greatest edition of the Cox Plate in the modern era in 1992.
39. Justin Cinque – Octagonal (b. 1992) 28/14/7/1 (50%)
I still believe Octagonal is the most popular horse to have raced in my lifetime. He didn’t always win like Black Caviar but we loved Occy was because he never gave up!
‘The Big O’ was toughness equinified (yes, a new word!) – I don’t think any of his 14 victories came with a winning margin of more than a length.
As a two-year old Octagonal won the AJC Sires and the Todman as well as finishing a flying second in the Golden Slipper and Champagne. As a three-year old, he won the Cox Plate, the Triple Crown (one of only five to do so in history) and the BMW.
Octagonal’s Rosehill Guineas and AJC Derby are two of the most famous victories in the history of Sydney racing – not only did the wins come against the likes of Saintly and Nothin’ Leica Dane but they were great races.
The barrel-chested horse lost his way in his four-year old spring campaign but regained form in the autumn to get the send-off he deserved by winning a second BMW – this time by a nose.
39. Sheek – Crisp (b.1963) 40/17/4/0 (43%)
I feel obliged to step in line here with Justin and Andrew and recognise our greatest ever jumper.
Like a number of other horses mentioned here, perhaps Crisp’s greatest achievement was in defeat. During the famous 1973 Grand National at Aintree, Crisp conceded 10 kgs to the legendary Red Rum, but was only run down by that champion in the shadow of the post. It was a truly phenomenal performance. Crisp went to England when his extraordinary career in Australia saw him weighted out of races.
But he was equally respected in England and in that 1973 Grand National was asked to carry 76 kgs compared to Red Rum’s 66 kgs.
38. Andrew Hawkins – Amounis
He’s probably best remembered for his Caulfield Cup win under 61kg in 1930, when he was coupled in enough doubles with Phar Lap in the Melbourne Cup to send a number of bookmakers broke.
However, his career was a lot grander than just that Caulfield Cup success. He beat Phar Lap on two of the five occasions they clashed, and he won two Epsom Handicaps, a Cox Plate and a Caulfield Stakes.
His time at the top stretched a number of years, a longevity that is rarely seen these days.
38. Justin Cinque – Wenona Girl (b. 1957) 68/27/19/7 (40%)
Wenona Girl is one of the few mares to get a run in the top 50 and as a winner of 13 modern-day Group 1s, from 1000-2000m, she certainly deserves her place.
Through the early parts of her career, Wenona Girl had an impressive record against the great colt Sky High (who was ranked highly by both Sheek and myself in this exercise).
Wenona Girl was second to Sky High in the Golden Slipper but she eventually beat Sky High seven times including in the AJC Sires Produce, Hobartville, Canterbury Guineas, Rosehill Guineas and Lightning Stakes.
Wenona Girl was regarded as a champion filly but she continued to win at the highest level until her retirement at six. She won two Lightnings at 1000m and two Ranvets at 2000m. At the mile she won the George Main, George Adams (Emirates) and Linlithgow (Patinack) as a mare.
Wenona Girl was incredibly consistent and can be considered unlucky to not be named higher than 38th.
38. Sheek – Dulcify (b. 1975) 21/10/3/2 (48%)
Any horse that streets a good Cox Plate field by seven lengths must be pretty special. But that’s all we are left with, a tease of how good Dulcify might have been.
As Justin suggested, Dulcify might have been a ‘top 10’ horse given a normal career, but sadly he was denied such a thing. He broke his pelvis when galloped on by eventual winner Hyperno in the 1979 Melbourne Cup and was subsequently destroyed.
It was a terribly sad moment for horse racing.
Apart from the Cox Plate, Dulcify’s wins included the VRC Derby, Australian Cup, Craiglee Stakes, Turnbull Stakes and Mackinnon Stakes. Dulcify could have been “anything”, but he didn’t get the opportunity.
37. Andrew Hawkins – Surround
A lot is made of the bonny grey mare of the early 1980s in Emancipation. However, I think many historians forget the deeds of the terrific grey filly Surround, who dazzled punters in a spring to remember in 1976.
That season, she put together a rather magnificent streak of 10 victories, starting with the Ascot Vale Stakes in September 1976 and stretching well into 1977. After the Ascot Vale, she went on to win the Moonee Valley Stakes (now the Bill Stutt Stakes), Caulfield Guineas, Cox Plate, VRC Oaks, Orr Stakes, Blamey Stakes, Alister Clark Stakes, AJC Oaks, Queensland Oaks and Grand Prix Stakes.
To date, she is the only three year old filly to win the Cox Plate, despite high class fillies like Miss Finland and Samantha Miss attempting the feat in recent years.
37. Justin Cinque – Vo Rogue (b. 1983) 83/26/14/9 (31%)
‘The Rogue’ was a thoroughbred warrior and a legendary front-runner. Watching his great victories on Youtube (surprisingly they haven’t been deleted) you can see Vo Rogue lifting whenever a horse came up to challenge him near the finish.
He absolutely destroyed Super Impose (ranked as high as 17th by Andrew Hawkins) on multiple occasions and even had some great victories over the likes of Better Loosen Up and Bonecrusher.
Showcasing all his great qualities, Vo Rogue won a William Reid at 1200. He won three Orr Stakes (1400m), two Australian Cups (2000m), two Turnbulls (2000m), two Blameys (1600m), two St Georges (1800m), a Kingston Town (1800m) in Perth and a George Main (1600m) in Sydney.
Sadly, at 29 years of age Vo Rogue died last May. It was a day before Northerly’s demise and Northerly was a modern-day version of the great Vo Rogue.
37. Sheek – Saintly (b. 1992) 23/10/8/2 (44%)
They called him the “horse from heaven”, and it certainly seemed that way when in the spring of 1996 he annexed the double of the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup. For trainer Bart Cummings, Galilee and So You think might have been better horses, but Saintly, whom he bred himself, was very close to his heart.
Additionally, Saintly won the Australian Cup and Orr Stakes. However, some critical losses have prevented him from being ranked higher.
Saintly was special for me too, because he remains one of my few winning bets in the ‘big one’ over the past 20 years!
36. Andrew Hawkins – Tranquil Star (b. 1937) 111/23/20/12 (21%)
I doubt many more popular horses have graced the Australian turf than Tranquil Star. Perhaps it was because she was a constant during the tumultuous years of World War II, even though she was hardly the model of consistency – she was a beaten favourite on 18 occasions!
A veteran of a whopping 111 starts, she didn’t show much as a juvenile but came into her own at three, winning over a variety of distances. Her form tapered as a four year old, but she bounce back again at five, winning the Caulfield Stakes, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Mackinnon Stakes.
The following year she suffered a serious injury in the form of a broken jaw, and she almost had to be put down. But she was slowly nursed back to health, and incredibly she made it back to win another Cox Plate.
36. Justin Cinque – Galilee (b. 1963) 36/18/6/4 (50%)
I’ve got Galilee only behind So You Think as the best horse trained by Bart Cummings. As Sheek reminded me in the comments of Part 7 of the Top 50, Galilee is the only horse to have won the Caulfield Cup – Melbourne Cup – Sydney Cup handicap treble in the same season.
Galilee’s victory in the Sydney Cup was by a decisive margin of six lengths under the impost of 60kgs. In the Melbourne Cup he beat stablemate and popular mare Light Fingers with authority. Galilee also had a handsome victory over the highly regarded Tobin Bronze (who features high-up in the top 50) over 2400m in the CB Fisher Plate.
In Galilee’s era, Australian racing was geared towards the feature handicaps and as a winner of four of them (Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, Sydney Cup and Toorak Handicap), Galilee has earned his place inside the top 40 of all-time.
36. Sheek – Octagonal (b. 1992) 28/14/7/1 (50%)
His son Lohnro might have the better win/loss record, but the father Octagonal won some better collection of races. Octagonal was mighty at three but less consistent at four.
I read somewhere many years ago that his oversexed balls got in the way at four as he couldn’t wait to start servicing mares! Go Octagonal!
Among his roll call of victories were the unofficial weight-for-age triple crown trifecta of Cox Plate, Australian Cup and Tancred Stakes (BMW).
He also won the Underwood Stakes, the Rosehill and Canterbury (now Randwick) Guineas and the AJC Sires Produce Stakes at two.