Sunline made it 10 for 10 in her homeland in returning with a win in the Mudgway Stakes (NZ-II) at New Zealand's Hawkes Bay on Aug. 24. The champion distaffer had to scrap some with pacemaker Tit For Taat in the stretch before recording her 32nd win from 45 starts. She won by three-quarters of a length.
It wasn't the victory march her fans have become accustomed to in weight-for-age races, but it pleased the additional thousands shoehorned into the Hastings oval surrounds.
Expectations of a facile comeback win at her first start at seven disappeared when she was just one of nine group I winners within the 16 acceptors to face the starter for the seven furlongs around two turns.
Gate 2 was a bonus, but any thoughts Greg Childs might have harbored about controlling the race from the front went south when she had multiple challengers for the lead. Childs was content to trail in fourth, one horse away from the rail. He produced Sunline three deep outside La Bella Dama as they flattened for the run home. Childs went for the whip inside the furlong pole, but seemed more intent on showing in to her at eye-level.
They gradually reeled in the New Zealand 2,000 Guineas winner of 1999 and gained the upper hand. Amid the noise of celebrating fans, Cent Home flew home to snatch third just ahead of Nureyev 4-year-old Pure Theatre, a farther length from Tit For Taat.
Sunline will have her next start in a group II mile in Australia--the Chelmsford Stakes in Sydney on Sept. 7 or the J. F. Feehan Stakes at Melbourne's Moonee Valley seven days later. The 3-time Australian and 4-time New Zealand Horse of the Year was beaten in the latter race and the subsequent W. S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) last year by Northerly. He is likely to follow the same course this spring.
In the wake of Sunline's successful return, top Australian 4-year-old Lonhro was surprisingly beaten in the Warwick Stakes (Aust-II). In pursuit of his ninth straight success, the Octagonal colt was run down by Dehere's fall grade I winner Defier. Lonhro was rated second only to the also Jack and Bob Ingham-owned Viscount, but was Australia's Eclipse equivalent as the leading 3-year-old.
Viscount joined his sire Quest For Fame at the Ingham brothers' Woodlands Stud. A winner of 10 from 13 runs going into the Warwick, Lonhro was sent out a 2-7 favorite, his partner Darren Beadman criticized for impatience.
The colt remains a 3-1 elect for the Cox Plate, a point shorter than Sunline with Northerly at 6-1 and Defier at 8-1. Japanese entry Eihsin Preston is a generous 12-1 for the Oct. 26 race.
Last season's top rated juvenile Victory Vein opened her classic season with a smooth win in the Silver Shadow Stakes (seven furlongs, Aust-II) earlier at Warwick Farm. Snowland, who chased Victory Vein home at the first of her two group I wins in the AJC Sires' Produce Stakes last season, landed the male equivalent--the Up and Coming Stakes. Gooree's son of Snippets won narrowly from 9-10 favorite Thorn Park, an exciting prospect by Spinning World's first southern crop.