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.
After a number of weeks of contentious discussion, we finally complete our lists of the best horses to race in Australia.
50. Andrew Hawkins – Briseis (b. 1873) 17/6/2/2 (35%)
Despite her limited career, if there’s one filly who can topple Surround as the best filly to race in Australia, it’s the hero of 1876 in Briseis.
What a filly.
She won the Doncaster Handicap as a two-year-old, with the feather weight of 35kg, while she added the All Aged Stakes later in the week.
First up for a spell in the spring, she won the Victoria Derby in Australian record time, before she came out and won the Melbourne Cup under the lightweight of 40kg.
Two days later, the VRC Oaks was added to her resume, and she remains the only filly to win the Victoria Derby, Melbourne Cup and Crown Oaks treble.
Remarkably, she was also ridden at most of her races by Peter St Albans, who was just 12 when she won the Melbourne Cup. He remains the youngest jockey to win the Cup.
50. Justin Cinque – Red Anchor (b. 1981) 14/9/4/1 (64%)
Red Anchor is the only horse in history to have won the Caulfield Guineas, Cox Plate and VRC Derby in history. As such, he ranks as one of the great three-year olds in Australian racing.
At two, he won the Champagne narrowly over 1600m but his career was over less than 12 months later when suspensory ligaments gave way.
In the spring of 1984 Red Anchor was a shining light at a time when Australian racing was searching for its next superstar.
Like so many great middle-distance champions, Red Anchor’s hallmark was the ability to churn out consecutive lung-burning sections in the latter part of a race.
Therefore a feature of many Red Anchor victories was the shellacking he gave the opposition in the last furlong of a race.
50. Sheek – Archer (b. 1856) Racing stats incomplete
Archer rounds out my top 50. He simply must be here as our first ‘modern’ champion, for want of a better word. Modern in the sense that he set the template for all champions who followed in the next 100 years or so.
He was obviously considered a very good horse because in the Melbourne Cup ‘the champion horse of NSW’ was allocated 60.5 kgs in 1861 and won again with 64.5 kgs the following year.
Only an administrative error with the submission of his nomination prevented Archer from most likely winning the first three Melbourne Cups.
49. Andrew Hawkins – Mahogany (b. 1990) 43/19/7/5 (44%)
I originally had Mahogany higher, and while I’ve dragged him right down the list, I feel he deserves a mention.
A Group 1 winner at two in Brisbane, he improved as a three-year-old, winning the Caulfield Guineas before an imperious display when winning the Victoria Derby by five lengths.
He came back in the autumn to win the Australian Guineas and AJC Derby.
However, it was as a sprinter that he was to make his mark, winning two editions of the Lightning Stakes.
If he’d raced a decade later, it is likely he would have taken Royal Ascot by storm, his proven stamina a help up the punishing Ascot straight.
Nevertheless, his greatest effort for mine was a beaten effort in the Cox Plate. He entered the race second up, having finished second to Jeune in the Craiglee Stakes, and only just failed to defeat Octagonal.
He ticks the boxes for versatility and longevity which I prize, and therefore deserves a place in this list.
49. Justin Cinque – Luskin Star (b. 1974) 17/13/3/0 (76%)
Luskin Star is the second best two-year old to race in Australia behind Todman.
‘The colossal colt from the coalfields’ is the only two-year-old Triple Crown winner to have gone on to win a Caulfield Guineas (Pierro went close last year when second to All Too Hard).
Like Pierro, Luskin Star also placed third in the Cox Plate. But no-one talks about Luskin Star the three-year-old.
They speak about the hulking colt that waltzed to a seven-length victory in race-record time in the 1977 Golden Slipper.
And they remember the Sires Produce when he smashed the Australian record (as a two-year-old!) for 1400m when winning by three lengths. And there’s also his six-length demolition of the Champagne.
Luskin Star then went to Queensland to claim the QTC Sires before winning what is now known as the JJ Aitkens (Group 1) over the mile beating the very good filly Gypsy Kingdom.
Australian breeding is geared towards producing another Luskin Star so it speaks volumes that no two-year-old has gotten close to the brilliance of this great Novocastrian in the 35 years since his retirement.
49. Sheek – Rain Lover (b.1964) 46/17/10/11 (37%)
It’s probably fair to say Rain Lover would not have won a second Melbourne Cup had Big Philou started. However, this should not detract from his obvious quality.
He was undoubtedly a champion stayer, winning two Melbourne Cups, the first by an amazing eight lengths, plus an Adelaide Cup.
He was an excellent weight-for-age performer, winning the mackinnon Stakes, CB Fisher Plate, two St.George Stakes and Queen’s Plates, VRC Queen Elizabeth (then wfa), Chipping Norton and Autumn Stakes, Craiglee and Underwood Stakes.
48. Andrew Hawkins – Bonecrusher (b. 1982) 44/18/5/11 (41%)
No matter what else he achieved in his career, Bonecrusher’s career is always marked by that memorable Cox Plate of 1986.
Who could forget it?
It was the Cox Plate where he took off with fellow Kiwi and second favourite Our Waverley Star at the 800m, prompting Bill Collins to remark, “Have they gone too early?”
It looked it, but somehow, both lifted off the canvas in an epic clash for the ages. After looking defeated, somehow Bonecrusher found a fifth wind to get up and defeat Our Waverley Star.
Without that victory, I doubt he would have ‘raced into equine immortality’ and into this list.
He won many other races – the New Zealand Derby, Tancred Stakes, AJC Derby, Underwood Stakes, Caulfield Stakes and a memorable Australian Cup win over At Talaq among his other victories.
But none compare to the 1986 Cox Plate.
48. Justin Cinque – High Caste (b. 1936) 72/35/19/7 (49%)
High Caste was a grand campaigner. He boasts a near one-in-two strike rate in a career spanning 72 starts.
High Caste won more than ten times at modern-day Group 1 level and claimed the now defunct CB Fisher Plate three times. If the CB Fisher was still around, there’s no doubt it would be a Group 1 race – it has a Cox Plate-like honour roll.
At two, High Caste won the VRC Sires and the Champagne. The following spring he claimed the Rosehill and Caulfield Guineas as well as the Ascot Vale and Caulfield Stakes.
As an older horse he won three Linlithgows and two St Georges, a Epsom with 59kgs and beat Ajax in the 1940 Caulfield Stakes.
Perhaps, a bit like Lonhro, High Caste suffers from not having won a major or a feature handicap (he did win an Epsom) because it’s not often that we hear of High Caste in the 21st century. He deserves more accolades.
48. Sheek – Miss Andretti (b.2001) 31/19/3/2 (61%)
Miss Andretti is worth a mention here for establishing five track records in Australia and England. Trainer Lee Freedman claimed she was on a par with Makybe Diva. High praise indeed.
Her major wins included the Newmarket handicap, Lightning Stakes, Royal Ascot King’s Stand Stakes and Prince of Wales Stakes (Perth).
47. Andrew Hawkins – Beau Zam (b. 1984) 28/11/5/2 (39%)
Quite clearly, I rate the mid-to-late 1980s quite a good era in racing.
I was tossing up between the Beaus – Beau Vite and Beau Zam – and I decided to go with Bart’s Beau Zam, mainly because I rate Bonecrusher so highly.
For mine, it is a shame that we never saw the best of Beau Zam. I think he could have beaten the best on his day.
He was an alright juvenile, winning two of his five starts including the Fernhill Handicap by four lengths.
In the spring of 1987, he won the Hill Stakes and the Spring Champion Stakes before running a remarkable second to mudlark Lord Reims in the Caulfield Cup after suffering interference midrace.
The run seemed to bottom him out and he failed in the Cox Plate and Victoria Derby.
But it was the autumn of 1988 where he came into his own, winning the Segenhoe (now Ranvet Stakes) by five lengths, the Tancred by five and a half lengths, the AJC Derby by a similar margin, and the AJC St Leger by almost 10 lengths.
The Tancred he won was the first international edition of the race, with the likes of Japan Cup winner Le Glorieux well beaten.
He then won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a special race at Canberra run for bicentenary celebrations, by a head from Bonecrusher with seven lengths to Dandy Andy.
Unfortunately, we never saw his best, but I have no doubt he could have won a Caulfield Cup, Melbourne Cup or Cox Plate on his day.
47. Justin Cinque – Takeover Target (b. 1999) 41/21/6/4 (51%)
The only (and therefore the best) winner of Grafton’s time-honoured Ramornie Handicap to make the top 50 is sprinter Takeover Target.
Takeover Target is remarkable for many reasons – his $1400 purchase price, his consistency over six seasons, including four consecutive wins in his last season at nine, and his performances on the world stage.
It’s the last point that gets Takeover Target into the top 50 – he won at Group level in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Singapore, Japan and England.
Takeover Target had a career full of highlights – Flemington dominance in the Salinger, Lightning and Newmarket as well as fighting victories at Royal Ascot and in Japan’s Sprinter’s Stakes.
My favourite Takeover Target wins were late in his career: against Apache Cat in the Winterbottom of 2008 – Is it the greatest race in Perth history? And in the TJ Smith at Randwick when as a nine-year old he beat our best sprinters.
Takeover Target was no Black Caviar but in some ways he was more remarkable.
47. Sheek – Bonecrusher (b.1982) 44/18/5/12 (41%)
Bonecrusher won a place in our hearts when he won the ‘race of the century’ – a gut-busting, nose-for-nose duel with Our Waverley Star down the short, tight straight of Moonee Valley in the 1986 Cox Plate.
Other wins included the Australian Cup, Caulfeld Stakes, Tancred Stakes (BMW), Australian Derby and Underwood Stakes.
46. Andrew Hawkins – Eurythmic (b. 1916) 43/22/3/4 (51%)
Perhaps this is one horse I should have ranked higher, but it is too late to change now.
It’s a close battle between him and Northerly to decide the best galloper to emerge from Western Australia, and while I’m not a huge Northerly fan, it was the fact I could actually see his races for myself that saw him ranked higher.
Eurythmic’s record reads impressively. Wins in the Karrakatta Plate, WATC Derby, Cox Stakes, WATC ST Leger and a dead heat victory in the Perth Cup read well, but like Northerly, it was in the east that he demonstrated his talent.
He won three Caulfield Stakes and three Memsies, as well as two Mackinnons, a Caulfield Cup, a Sydney Cup and a Futurity Stakes under the equivalent of 67kg.
Quite the record, even during a weaker period of racing.
46. Justin Cinque – Strawberry Road (b. 1979) 45/17/7/7 (38%)
Strawberry Road is our greatest performer on the world stage. As a younger horse in Australia he won the Rosehill Guineas, AJC and Queensland Derbies, Freeway (now Manikato Stakes over 1200m) and Cox Plate.
In Europe he won famous races including Germany’s best race – the Grosser Preis von Baden at Baden Baden and the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud in France.
As a result, Strawberry Road finds himself in the middle of some of Europe’s most esteemed honour rolls.
In the US he finished a close second to the great Darley mare Pebbles in the Breeder’s Cup Turf and won, at seven, the Grade 1 that is now known as the Kilroe Mile Handicap at Santa Anita.
Amazingly, Strawberry Road is still considered the victim of a bad ride in the 1984 Arc de Triomphe when he finished a tiring fifth.
Australian horses are increasingly found competing on the world stage but no horse has done as much as Strawberry Road – our greatest world star.
46. Sheek – Mountain King (b.1904) 21/12/2/1 (57%)
Mountain King followed Poseidon a season later and compares very favourably with that other champion of more than a century ago.
He was yet another ‘whistler’ forced to retire early due breathing problems. But his record was outstanding until health problems intervened.
Mountain King won both AJC and VRC Derbies and St Legers, the VATC Futurity Stakes and AJC All Aged Stakes, AJC Craven Plate and beat Poseidon in the CB Fisher Plate. He also ran third in the Melbourne Cup as a three-year-old.
Here is our composite list, the Roar’s top 50, as compiled by Sheek:
1. Carbine 150 (max. score)
2. Tulloch 146
3. Phar Lap 145
4. Kingston Town 141
5. Wakeful 134
6. Bernborough 132
7. Black Caviar 127
8. Ajax 126
9. Manikato 123
10. Makybe Diva 122
11. Vain 120
12. Rising Fast 113
13. Peter Pan 111
14. Malua 103
15. Sunline 102
16. Todman 101
17. Might And Power 94
18. Tobin Bronze 93
19. Gloaming 87
20. Poseidon 86
21. So You Think 85
22. Galilee 84
22. Gunsynd 84
24. Shannon 82
25. Sky High 76
26. Chatham 73
27. Crisp 71
28. The Barb 67
28. Eurythmic 67
30. Grand Flaneur 62 (2/3 votes)
31. Super Impose 60
32. Redcraze 58
33. Tranquil Star 56
34. Dulcify 55
35. Northerly 54
36. Octagonal 51
37. Saintly 39
38. Surround 35
39. Amounis 34 (2/3 votes)
40. Better Loosen Up 30 (2/3 votes)
41. Flight 27
42. Vo Rogue 24 (2/3 votes)
43. Strawberry Road 21 (2/3 votes)
=44. Heroic 19 (1/3 votes)
=44. Wenona Girl 19 (2/3 votes)
46. Dalray 18 (1/3 votes)
47. Delta 17 (1/3 votes)
48. Comic Court 16 (1/3 votes)
=49. Lonhro 14 (2/3 votes)
=49. Bonecrusher 14 (2/3 votes)
Others to poll votes are: Takeover Target (13), Beau Vite (7), Manfred (7), Let’s Elope (6), Mountain King (5), Beau Zam (4), Miss Andretti (3), High Caste (3), Rain Lover (2), Luskin Star (2), Mahogany (2), Archer (1), Red Anchor (1), Briseis (1)