Sunline, the greatest
horse to race in Australia in 20 years was retired after the running of the
WS Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 26 2002. Her story began seven
years before on September 29 1995 when the filly by Desert Sun from Songline
was foaled at Pleasanton Stud in Cambridge, New Zealand.
Desert Sun was imported from England to Ra Ora Stud in 1994 standing at a
fee of $NZ5000. By champion Green Desert he now stands at Eliza Park and
has sired stakeswinners such as La Bella Dama, Moralee, Thee Old Dragon,
Egyptian Raine, Desert Ace and Danceinthesun in addition to Sunline.
Songline was bred by R & M Archer from a mare called McAngus who was
purchased at the 1981 NZ yearling sales. McAngus was stakesplaced on
multiple occasions and produced 4 winners from 6 foals. She was a half
sister to Australian stayer Our Shout and the dam of stayer Interval.
Songline won 5 races and was stakesplaced. Her first foal by (Our)
Westminister was a stunning colt but he died as a yearling. By then Sunline
by first season New Zealand sire Desert Sun was on the ground and Songline
was in foal to Straussbrook. Around this time Songline was sold to
Australian breed DR JD Woolridge and foaled the Straussbrook colt, later to
be gelded and named Jessie Perfect, in Australia. Songline then went to
Simonstad after an earlier missing to Salieri with the resultant filly named
Sunny Song arriving in 1997. Neither Jessie Perfect or Sunny Song did a lot
on the racetrack with the latter now at stud. Songline missed the following
year before producing the colt Octasong to Octagonal and then the Danehill
filly Song of Songs in 2000. She missed the following year and in 2002
produced a chestnut colt by Desert Sun making him a full brother to the
boasts some of the best horses to race throughout the world with Carbine's
blood appearing through Nearco (4 times) and Bois Roussel in 5 of the 8
horses in her third generation along with the blood of America's greatest
horse Man O'War plus Count Fleet. Her great grand dam Honey Carlyle traces
back through her dam line to Fortune Wheel a sister to Phar Lap. With
ancestors like this she just had to be good.
Sunline was bred by
Susan Archer & Michael Martin who planned to race
her themselves but due to personal circumstances they chose to offer her
for lease to the Takanini trainer Trevor McKee. He took up the lease
(which included an option to buy for $40,000) with Thayne Green and
Helen Lusty who had also been involved with the stayer Interval before
his sale overseas. She proved wilful and determined when being broken
in but eventually was educated and prepared for her first barrier
trial. On the track for the trail she proceeded to dump her jockey
twice and then took off bolting a lap of the track. Was recaptured and
later sent out to trial again this time running third under a throttle
Sunline was then
entered for her first race a midweek maiden at Paeroa over 1100m on a slow
track on 10th May 1998. In the early stages of the race Sunline dropped
back but turning for home she raced to the lead from Retrousse then came
Speed to Burn running on from Harvard Honour. By the 200m Sunline put a gap
on the opposition striding to the line eased up to win by just under two
lengths from Speed to Burn with Retrousse third.
Sunline's second start was in a 2yo Hcp over 1200m at Ellerslie on another
slow track. Again she won defeating Light Opera and The Mule's Brother and
her next target was a race at Listed level. She was freshened for the
Breeders Stakes over 1200m run in early July. Sent out as odds on favourite
she duly saluted by ¾ of a length from the classy Life of Riley with Pacific
Quest 4 lengths away third.
Sunline was then given a short break before preparing to go the Sydney
spring carnival for the fillies races. Her last start before leaving New
Zealand was a race for 3yo fillies over 1200m. Instead of dropping back in
the small field of six runners she was taken to the lead to keep out of
trouble. The change of tactics was successful with Sunline winning by 2 ½
lengths from No Alimony with Had A Dream a further 1 ½ lengths away third.
Two weeks later she was in Sydney lining up against 12 opponents in the
Furious Stakes over 1400m at Randwick on a heavy track. Sent out as the 4/1
favourite she skipped away from the opposition in the straight won as she
liked by 6 lengths from Zaroyale with Witchia third and Rubicall fourth with
a gap to the rest.
Next she lined up in the Tea Rose Stakes over 1500m at Rosehill.
She was a short priced favourite but the doubts were raised over the wonder
horse from New Zealand. It was her first start on a dry track, she had the
outside barrier and was trying the 1500m distance for the first time. On
jumping Sunline slipped and went down on her knees somehow scrambling back
to her feet while jockey Larry Cassidy struggled to keep his balance and
eventually she sat outside the leader Witchita in the run. In the straight
Wichita was still in front but Sunline ranged up wide on the track. She
soon hit the front and raced away from Zola, Zaroyale then Wichita. It was
all Sunline in the final stages as she went on to win by 4 lengths from Zola
with Zaroyale third and Confer fourth. After the Tea Rose Stakes the option
to purchase on her lease was exercised.
Two weeks later Sunline lined up for her first
Group 1 race in the Flight Stakes over 1600m at Randwick. She was sent
out the odds on favourite in the 14 horse field. Sunline led on
settling but soon Say Good Morning took over to lead clearly. Around
the turn Sunline started to chase from Camerena. By the 250m Sunline
raced clear under hands and heels as Camerena tried valiantly but
Sunline cruised home by 3 lengths from Camerena with four lengths to
Confer third and Wichita fourth.
After her impressive victory Sunline was then aimed at the Melbourne Spring
Carnival as other trainers made comments such as 'why bother' when asked
what they were aiming at the same races. Sunline went to Melbourne and was
trained at Flemington with the Thousand Guineas her immediate aim.
Ironically the expected victory would have given her one more Group 1 race
to her overall record. However it was not to be when news surfaced that
Sunline had been injured was out for the rest of the spring. She was found
to have injured her off foreleg tendon after becoming cast in her box on
October 10. A tendon injury caused in similar fashion ended the career of
Cox Plate winner and champion stallion Rubiton in the late 80s. A very lame
Sunline was sent home around a week later for a spell to repair the injury
before it got any worse.
Fortunately for the racing public the injury healed and never caused further
problems to Sunline but the leg was given a stern test at her first start
back in the autumn. Sunline lined up in a 3yo Open Handicap at Ellerslie
over 1200m on a good track. On a 52kg minimum limit Sunline was assigned
62.5kg. While she was racing against a moderate field 62.5kg is a huge
weight to carry first up from a four month spell after a leg injury. Public
anticipation of a triumphant return to take her winning streak to eight was
immense. Settling behind the leader Sunline put in her claim on
straightening set for victory. With a weight advantage of 10kg Delphic made
the filly work hard but she was too good winning by a half length. Sunline
conceded 8kg and over to the next three placegetters in Delphic (52.5kg),
Blue Veil (53.5kg) and Mendacity (54.5kg) with 2 ½ lengths to Blue Veil in
third of the 6 runners.
Back to Australia
and Sunline headed back to Melbourne for the autumn series of fillies
races culminating in the million dollar Moonee Valley Oaks. On February
20 1999 Sunline lined up in the Angus Armanasco Stakes over 1600m at
Caulfield trying for her ninth victory in 9 starts. Soon after the
start she settled in second behind Pace Invader and was going well until
Aphrodite made a charge from well back with Sunline making a run by the
600m. Around the turn Sunline was in front but under pressure from
Visual Displays as Rose of War started to wind up down the centre.
Inside the final 200m Sunline had beaten off Visual Displays but Rose of
War had hit top speed and was storming home going on to win by a half
length with 3 ½ lengths to Visual Displays third.
Two weeks later the
fillies met again in the Kewney Stakes at Flemington again over 1600m. For
the first time in Australia Sunline had a new rider. Previously she had been
ridden by PD Johnson in her first 4 starts and since then by Larry Cassidy.
However Larry Cassidy was doing a lot of riding for the Hawkes stable in
Sydney and was often required for rides there. Therefore another ex New
Zealand jockey Greg Childs now in Australia was given the job of riding
Sunline in Melbourne while Larry Cassidy was her rider in Sydney. Fitter
from her previous shock defeat Sunline raced to the front from the start and
in the straight kicked away from Rose of War. Inside the final 100m she
drew away to win easily from Rose of War with 2 ½ lengths to Lady Elsie
nosing out St Clemens Belle for third.
Despite now winning 9 of 10 starts Sunline was not considered the
best filly racing in the country. That honour went to Grand Archway winner
of the VRC Oaks the previous spring. Both Sunline and Grand Archway had
been set for the Moonee Valley Oaks with a view to then head to the Sydney
The Moonee Valley Oaks was decided over the 2040m the longest race that
Sunline had yet contested. Despite doubts over the distance Sunline was
sent out favourite for the race. Around the home turn Sunline put a gap on
Grand Archway then Rose of War, Ilze and St Clemens Belle. Under hands and
heels Sunline cruised to the post in front by 4 ½ lengths from Grand Archway
with 2 ½ lengths to Ilze holding Rose of War for third. In winning the race
Sunline passed the million dollars in stakes earnings and was installed as
favourite for the AJC Doncaster. Trevor McKee declared her as the best
horse he'd trained while Greg Childs declared her as the best filly he'd
ridden (repeating Larry Cassidy's words of the previous spring). Sunline
had run her final 800m in 46.7 and was now being touted as a Cox Plate hope
for the spring. But first she was bound for Sydney travelling on March 23
to prepare for the Doncaster on April 3.
capacity field lined up for the AJC Doncaster over 1600m at Randwick.
Despite being a 3yo filly taking on the older more experienced horses
Sunline was installed as the 10/9 favourite. Sunline settled in front just
shading Al Mansour then Adam and Foxwood. By the 800m she led by ¾ and
little changed until they straightened where Sunline cruised along in front
of Al Mansour with Adam running on along the rails as Lease and Juggler made
ground down the outside. Sunline ridden out hands and heels was far too
good drawing away to win by 2 lengths from Lease with Juggler a neck away
Two weeks later Sunline lined up for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick
over 2000m. Randwick is regarded as one of the toughest courses in the
country with the 1600m more like a 2000m distance elsewhere and the 2000m
races often won by a staying type rather than milers. The race was billed
as Judgement Day as a showdown between the standout colt, Sky Heights winner
of the AJC Derby, and the standout filly Sunline. Sunline went to the front
but Sky Heights moved up to take her on midrace a move that made it
impossible for either to keep going when the other challenges came from the
older horses in the field of 6. In the straight Sunline began to tire and
faded to 5th beaten 3 ½ lengths as Intergaze went on to win by a length from
Istidaad with Sky Heights half a length away third. Sunline was then sent
for a spell.
At the end
of the season she was named New Zealand Horse of the Year, Champion 3yo and
Champion Sprinter-Miler but all awards eluded her in Australia with Grand
Archway named Champion Filly and Might & Power and Tie The Knot fighting out
Horse of the Year.
Before heading back to
Australia Sunline took part in an exhibition gallop at Avondale working a
hard held 1000m in 61.5 in mid August.
Sunline returned to racing
in her 4yo season in the WFA Warwick Stakes at Warwick Farm over 1400m on a
good track. Settling off the pace Sunline hit the front soon after
straightening as Referral gave chase from Arena, Tie the Knot and Padstow.
Tie The Knot ran home hard in the closing stages but Sunline had too much in
reserve to win by a half length with a long neck to Referral in third place.
She was then sent out odds
on favourite for the Theo Marks Quality where she carried topweight of
58kg. Adam led as Sunline settled just off the pace but things were not to
turn out as expected. Passing the 600m Adam headed for home and Sunline
gave chase in earnest but despite making up ground in the final stages
couldn’t quite catch the game stallion who held on to win by a half neck
after running his final 600m in 33.65 with two lengths to Al Mansour third.
Two weeks later Sunline
lined up for revenge in the George Main Stakes over 1600m and was again the
odds on favourite. By the 800m Adam led Sunline then Perfect Paradise and
Dangerous with the 3yo Shogun Lodge well back. Turning for home Sunline
strode up to Adam as Northern Drake started to make ground on the leaders
and Shogun Lodge started to thread his way through the field. Inside the
final 150m Sunline was in front of Adam who was fighting hard as Shogun
Lodge with only 49.5kg started to swamp the leaders. Inside the final 50m
Shogun Lodge swept to the front to win by a short neck from Sunline with
Adam a half length away third.
Again race fans were
shocked and started to question whether this new star mare was really as
good as the champion grey Emancipation from the mid 80s. The Epsom handicap
was expected to show if Sunline had just been unlucky or if she just hadn’t
come back the same as the autumn.
In the Epsom Adam and Sunline led early before Sunline
took over from Al Mansour as both horses took each other on at top speed
followed by Beau Champ then Adam followed by Typhoon. By the 600m Sunline
led Al Mansour as Typhoon made a forward move from Beau Champ and Adam. At
the 250m Zastov joined Sunline as Beau Champ ran on along the rails and
Allez Suez with Referral ran on out wider. With 100m left Zastov hit the
front from Referral as Allez Suez dived between them with Sunline fighting
on along the rails. On the line Allez Suez was in front by a head from
Referral with Zastov third and Sunline fourth less than two lengths from the
It was now on to the WS Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.
Despite being the star worker at breakfast with the stars the Tuesday before
the race there were still doubts from many that she was a genuine chance in
the race as the champion stayers Sky Heights and Tie The Knot were favoured
to run her down with her price drifting out to 6-1 by start time. Sky
Heights had just won the Caulfield Cup seven days before and had previously
finished in front of the mare over 2000m while star 3yo Redoubte’s Choice
had taken all before him in the spring and was coming off victory in the
Caulfield Guineas. Sunline led from Redoubte’s Choice then followed by
Intergaze and Commands. Make No Mistake was next then Sky Heights and The
Message followed by Tie The Knot with Inaflury, Testa Rossa and Lahar at the
tail. Little changed to the 1000m where Sunline was clear from Redoubte’s
Choice and Intergaze then Make No Mistake and Commands with a break to
By the 600m Sunline was still well clear and going easily as Redoubte’s
Choice and Intergaze tried to make ground with Commands running to the
outside rail and
moving out to make his run. Around the turn Sunline had raced away from
Redoubte’s Choice and
then Intergaze followed by Tie The Knot and Testa Rossa. In the straight
Sunline had the race won with a huge gap to Tie The Knot and Sky Heights
with Testa Rossa still making ground. In the final stages Tie The Knot
charged but Sunline was in no danger winning by 1 ½ lengths from Tie The
Knot with nearly two lengths to Sky Heights third and Testa Rossa fourth
with a gap to the others.