Bart Cummings has crammed everything into his almost 80 years, the vast majority with horses despite a lifelong allergy to Lucerne. The trainer is a national living treasure.
But without adding to his 245 group I winners in almost four years, and with a reduced quota of top horses, the champion conditioner has seemingly been reduced to a the role of statesman, his high quotient of quotable quips covering for a lack of major wins.
That all changed in a drama-charged 125th Caulfield Guineas (Aust-I). His charge, God's Own, overcame incredible odds to grab the major share of the $1 million (Australian funds) 1,600 meters classic for 3-year-olds Oct 8.
A mortal colt had no right to run down morning-line favorite Paratroopers in deep stretch. Enter, God's Own, after appearing to be knocked out of contention twice. The second time, at the top of the lane looked to be more crucial. Yet he clawed his way back into the contest and then into the lead right at the wire.
His momentum carried him a long head clear at the wire and it seemed less of a struggle with the brave but out-on-his feet Paratroopers (11-2), but more of one against history.
That struggle was won. Amid wild scenes the media considered the deeper sections of their supply of superlatives.
Chief steward Des Gleeson summed up this way: "He couldn't win at the 1,400 meters, he couldn't win at the home turn, he couldn't win at the 100 meters or the 50 meters. But he did it."
For this observer it's the most astonishing win in this race since Tulloch in 1958. Tulloch was a champion who careered to an eight-length win after being forced to race wide throughout. With 11 wins from 17 starts, he was on the threshold of greatness that day and without any attempt at comparison, this colt stands at the same gateway.
God's Own has raced just five times for three wins and a second. The $602,000 purse whooshed his total to $873,250.
Paratroopers was gallant in just going under, the 1:37.53 in heavy rain. The Bob Ingham entry raced outside the leader Gonski as they rattled, or rather slushed their way through the first 1,000 meters, much of it uphill, in :59.16. Gonski hung on grimly to finish fourth of the 12. Stratum's fifth also had merit although he and Noel Callow were chiefly responsible for the two major incidents which cost the winner and others ground.
Gonski was the only Danehill in the field, those ahead of him all by sons of the incomparable Dane: Redoute's Choice, Commands, and Flying Spur, the latter sire of an immature surprise-packet named Primus (14-1). Redoute's Choice won the 1999 edition with Commands third. Father-son wins a rare, but there a father-daughter success was completed in 1905.
Despite the early interference, the riders of God's Own (13-2) and Primus, Glen Boss and Greg Childs, felt their mounts were not too badly off, as they would have settled rearward anyway.
Boss improved God's Own five places to sixth 800 meters out and they were working into the race strongly when they again received another proxied buffeting. That should have been that, but history beckoned.
God's Own is raced by Dato Tan Chin Nam and Khaw Siok Chye, the latter in Cummings' 1999 Epsom (Aust-I) winner, Allez Suez. Dato Tan has shared three of Cummings's historic 12 Melbourne Cup wins, with dual winner Think Big in the 1970s and 1996 W.S. Cox Plate and Cup hero, Saintly.
Cummings was left in the Guineas winner and now hot sire property because he couldn't find more owners.
He found the colt bred by Bob Oatley at his Edinglassie Stud at the 2004 Sydney classic, the secondary Inglis yearling auction to its Easter sale. Cummings paid a record classic price of $220,000 to secure the handsome bay from a family intimately known to him.
The first dam, the raced-twice Angel in Disguise is by Sky Chase a prolific group I winner for him in the 1980s. The link was stronger through the second dam, Ziegfield Lass, an unraced sister to All Grace, with whom Cummings bred Saintly, his 1997 Horse of the Year, also by Sky Chase. Cummings paid $130,000 for Ziegfield Lass in 1981. All Grace was her first foal, Cummings left with her when his partners opted out.
Third dam Salote was another hook as a sibling to Taj Rossi, a Cox Plate and Derby hero for Cummings in 1973 and Horse of the Year. Early milestone horses for the barn that has racked-up close to 700 stakes wins, include Storm Queen, the first of his four winners in this race.
The reward for God's Own is to step up to the plate in the $3 million Cox Oct 22. His rivals include a rampaging Makybe Diva, international performer Grey's Inn, 2003 Cox winner Fields of Omagh and the just once-defeated New Zealand 4-year-old Xcellect. The Diva is a heavy favorite.
Only four Caulfield Guineas winners have gone on to collect the Plate against the older horses of the 34 to attempt in the 83 years the Moonee Valley 2,040 meters weight-for-age championship has been in existence. Yet there are 18 winners at three, including last year's winner, Savabeel.
Firstly comes the task of finding a suitable jockey to ride God's Own at or near 48.5kg in the Cox. Boss is one of the few senior riders who could make that weight, but he has a prior commitment, Makybe Diva!