Sunline Loses Six-Year-Old Debut

In contrast to the recent seasonal awards, Sunline couldn't maintain her unbeaten record at Melbourne's Moonee Valley when the champion distaffer was beaten in her first run as a 6-year-old.

In her defense of the Manikato Stakes (Aust-I) on Aug. 18, the great New Zealand mare was out-sprinted by Piavonic at the end of the 1,200 meters (six furlongs). The winning daughter of Scenic is also six.

It wasn't an overly-convincing opener to the campaign for a third straight W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) at the same oval on Oct. 27. Yet although well beaten, by two lengths after leading 200 meters from home, the winner of more than $8 million (Australian funds) fought on gamely to defeat high class sprinter Falvelon by a head for second.

On a rain-affected Strathyr turf track, the favored surface of both mares, the 1:12.96 was more than 2.6 seconds outside the oval record.

There was not a trace of panic in the camp of Sunline's trainers Trevor and Stephen McKee and their co-owners after a 10th group I win remained elusive. There is no reason why there should be, although punters who took the 6-5 and skinnier odds might take some convincing.

Much of the expectation had revolved around Sunline's apparent invincibility around Moonee Valley where she had been five-for-five. The three-time New Zealand and twice Australian Horse of the Year is on course for her Cox threepeat, although the Manikato result was barely digested before German raider and Cox candidate Silvano served notice with his 3-lengths win in the Arlington Million, also a leg of the Emirates World Series. Hap, runner-up in Chicago, could be a late entry for the $2.25 million (Australian funds) Cox Plate, for which the fourth-placed Caitano has been entered by Gary Tanaka--along with the $4 million Melbourne Cup on Nov. 6.

Sunline will have her next start in the Memsie Stakes (Aust-II) at Caulfield on Sept. 1.