In fiction, the aging champion facing a grand challenge was a cliché before Gary Cooper defined the role in High Noon. It's a part Sunline has played before, most notably in going down fighting to Northerly in the W. S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) in October. She played it again in the Coolmore Classic, Australia's only group I for distaffers, but this time she triumphed in the final reel. In the idiom now demanded by audiences, it was a narrow squeak--but she made it.
The setting was Rosehill on March 9. The slow circuit had worked against another turf idol in the previous race, the Rawson Stakes (Aust-I). In search of a three-peat in the 2,000 meters Rawson and his 14th group I success, Tie the Knot faded after reaching the lead. His fifth paved the way for Universal Prince to record his first win since collecting the Australian Derby (Aust-I) last fall. The Prince won by three-quarters of a length from Dress Circle with Freemason a solid third.
Tie the Knot is a national favorite and it was one down and one to go when Sunline stepped onto the track under appropriately gray skies. She'd won the $500,000 (Australian funds) Classic at four under 132 pounds and missed the race last year in favor of Dubai.
Toting 132 pounds again, Sunline raced in second, but when Greg Childs asked her to change gears at the top of the lane, she appeared anchored. Without her trademark sprint, she was left to tough it out over the last 300 of the 1,500 meters. With the crowd roaring, the 8-11 favorite prevailed, finally holding off 200-1 chance Gentle Genius by a neck.
Spring racing heroes Northerly and Ethereal clashed in the Australian Cup (Aust-I) at Flemington, the scene of the latter's memorable Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) win. Northerly was defending the race he won last year before claiming its spring equivalent--the Cox Plate. But the 5-year-old suffered just his third defeat in eight group I starts, going under to hometown rival Old Comrade by a neck. Ethereal was beaten 31/2 lengths in fifth after being near last of the 11 to the final bend. She will take on the Sydney horses in the Tancred (Aust-I) on March 23. Northerly is likely to head home for a spell.