Sunline again exhausted all of the usual superlatives in collecting her fourth straight New Zealand Horse of the Year award. Voting numbers are not generally disclosed at awards in this part of the world, but from a panel of 42 judges made up of media and racing club administrators 26 of 41 ballots (63%) placed Sunline No. 1 and Ethereal No. 2, the other plumping for a tie.
Sunline had recently achieved a threepeat as Australian Horse of the Year. In addition to presentations for the major New Zealand prize, her senior part-owner and co-trainer Trevor McKee also accepted her Sprinter-Miler award for the fourth successive year. Sunline picked up her third Weight-for Age performer award as well.
The champion will attempt to add to that and her $11 million-plus (Australian funds) earnings in the 1,400 meters Mudgway Sprint (NZ-II) at Hastings Aug. 24. Hastings is at picturesque Hawkes Bay on the east coast of New Zealand's north island. A successful final campaign could see Sunline make it five straight, something only ever achieved by Kelso. His unique five major Eclipse trophies remains one of the best streaks in sport.
Ethereal's three unbeaten runs from 2,400 to 3,200 meters, to win the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups under handicap conditions in the spring, and add the weight-for-age Tancred Stakes in the fall from Universal Prince -- all Aust-I -- would have earned her the major accolade in any other year. As it was the retired mare's owners Peter and Philip Vela went home only with the Stayer and Breeder of the Year trophies by way of consolation.
Ethereal's conditioner, Sheila Laxon, recently named Australian Racing Personality of 2001-02 for her historic Melbourne Cup success, shared the NZ Trainer award with Graeme Rogerson and Stephen Autridge. Lance O'Sullivan collected the Jockey trophy.
In the wake of St. Steven's ground-breaking win in the Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan on April 13, he added his homeland's Jumper award to the one he has picked up in Australia for the past two years.
New Zealand Derby (NZ-I) hero Leica Guv was voted the leading 3-year-old. The gelded Deputy Governor son was the pick of a less than outstanding group ahead of 1,000 Guineas winner Final Destination.