Defier Bests Sunline in George Main Stakes

The George Main Stakes (Aust-I) was a contest pitting an ageing queen against young and ambitious princes. That the one by Dehere was long ago gelded and has just turned five seemed to make little difference, except the odd bit of hand-wringing by breeders sorry to see such an obvious opportunity slip by.

Arrowfield Stud is the exception as it welcomed Dehere back this season three years after Coolmore sold the Deputy Minister son to Japan. With his No. 1 son white hot, Dehere has also been a partial beneficiary from the deaths of End Sweep and Zafonic.
In breeding terms, the gelding of Defier is heightened by the fact the other heir apparent to Australia's top racehorse, Lonhro, is indeed a colt. But this tyro is bred and raced by the Ingham brothers, Bob and Jack, and Australia's highest industry stakeholders are unlikely to let the Octagonal son out of their sight, except perhaps to shuttle. No amount of money could buy him for another southern farm.

At seven, Sunline has long played the queen to break the hearts of ambitious rivals. Her weapons of choice are a sublime talent, acceleration, adaptability, and the ability to make her own luck.
Notable exceptions to her lifelong rampages are when third to Jim and Tonic and Fairy King Prawn in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-II), and her narrow defeat by the year younger Northerly when attempting a three peat in the W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) last October.

Northerly is also gelded, as is Shogun Lodge, the other component of the showdown over 1,600 meters of Randwick. The Shogun was always going to be the first victim of a sit-and-sprint affair, which the $330,000 (Australian funds) Main turned out to be.

As expected, Sunline led the other five but as Greg Childs took her through the first 800 meters in a sloooow :51.89, the overly fresh mare over-raced. Less well anticipated was that sitting second not far off her ample rump was Defier, a horse with a glowing reputation as a steadfast back-runner.

Third and trapped down at the rail was Lonhro, a 4 year-old with abundance gate speed.

Sunline's taste for the fight is legendary, but this quest for a 14th group I success was quite quickly stifled by the Chris Munce-partnered Defier. Those who considered Childs had perfect control must have been the most surprised at how brief the struggle was.

Defier swept into the lead just past midstretch as Sunline kept boxing. It was left to Excellerator to take the fight up to the new leader and the Marscay 4 year-old did well to get within a long neck of Defier at the wire. Sunline held on for third another 1 1/4 lengths back and three-quarters of a length ahead of Lonhro. The 1:38.31 on a perfectly good track was a tick over 4.4 seconds outside the race record.

Lonhro and Darren Beadman saw but a glimmer of daylight. After Munce's first group I success in 198 months, his quote gleefully snaffled by the media scrum was that at the final bend he'd given Beadman "a bit of bait" before closing the gap. Had not Sunline shifted out a little under pressure, officials warned Munce he would have almost certainly courted suspension.

Defier collected the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Aust-I) last fall and like Sunline and Lonhro is heading towards another showdown in the Cox Plate on Oct. 26. For Defier, a more immediate task to improve on his eight wins from 18 starts -- for $1.35 million -- is a return to the Randwick 1,600 meters start in the Epsom Handicap (Aust-1) on just a seven-day backup.