Champion New Zealand distaffer Sunline managed yet more history in Melbourne on July 30 and she wasn't even there. Before being named Australian Horse of the Year for an unprecedented third time, the history-making working girl from Auckland was inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame.
Australian racing authorities have come late to the concept, starting only last year, but equine Hall of Famers tend to be dead, and for the best part of some time. Phar Lap led off the first five in 2001. Expect Sunline to remain unique for a long time as an inductee while still racing.
The annual poll of Australian media and major race club chief executives made it 62.5 votes ahead of 53 polled by Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) heroine Ethereal. Northerly, Sunline's conqueror when she attempted a W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) hat trick last October, was third with 42.5 votes. Some voters cast split-ballots and factions behind Ethereal and Northerly also played for Sunline.
Only eight females have earned Australia's Horse of the Year honor. Only one other horse, Hall of Famer Might and Power, has earned the title twice.
The daughter of Desert Sun won six of her nine starts at age six in 2001-02 and was second in the other three. The pinnacle came in her narrow win in the Doncaster Handicap and her All-Aged Stakes demolition. The Randwick mile triumphs in the fall took her career earnings to $11,019,741 (Australian funds), and secured her ninth and tenth grade I successes. They also ensured her deeds stayed fresh in the minds of voters.
Northerly, who has beaten Sunline twice, was named Leading Middle-Distance Galloper ahead of Sunline (117.5 to 39.5). Northerly narrowly beat Sunline in Cox prep and the Feehan Stakes (Aust-II) also at Moonee Valley. Northerly might have collected the major award but for his defeat by fellow Western Australian, Old Comrade, when defending the Australian Cup (Aust-I) in a rushed fall campaign.
Except for two botched ballots out of the 159 counted, Ethereal was unanimously voted Champion Stayer. The daughter of Rhythm was unbeaten in three major races from 2,400 meters, also securing the Caulfield Cup and weight-for-age Tancred Classic at gr.1 with her trademark late charges. As Sunline races on at seven this spring, the other great daughter of New Zealand could be in foal to Giant's Causeway. Falvelon, was named leading Sprinter ahead of the ultra-consistent 3-year-old Mistegic - 82.5 to 59.5.
Octagonal's high class son Lonhro emerged as a clear choice for leading 3-year-old, polling 112 votes, Australian Derby (Aust-I) winner Don Eduardo next on 19. The afore-mentioned Viscount managed just six votes. The juvenile section was also a runaway with Victory Vein miles ahead of her rivals with a tally of 123.
St. Stephen, who created history in winning the $1 million (US) Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan on April 13, repeated his Leading Steeplechaser award a week after collecting a second A.V. Hiskins Steeple at Moonee Valley.
But the night at Melbourne's Crown casino belonged to Sunline. It also belonged to senior part-owner Trevor McKee. The veteran Auckland conditioner races the mare with Thayne Green and Helen Lusty and trains her with his son Stephen.
Later in August she will be named New Zealand Horse of the Year for the fourth time. More Sunline history in the making. Who is to say she won't belatedly collect her third Cox Plate come October 26.