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A Tribute to Shogun Lodge

Shogun Lodge winning the 2001 AJC Queen Elizabeth S. G1 PHOTO: Bronwen Healy

Shogun Lodge winning the 2001 AJC Queen Elizabeth S. G1 PHOTO: Bronwen Healy
Grand Lodge-Pride Of Tahnee (Best Western)
b. 25 September 1996 - d. 8 November 2003

Over the years I've gathered, as many racing people do, a large number of the ubiquitous caps favoured by studs, stables, race clubs and sales companies as promotional giveaways. Occasionally I attempt to rationalise my collection, but I always find it hard to throw any caps away, despite having more than I'll ever wear.

A few have special value for me: the pale blue, red and yellow Sunline cap, of course, and now there's another one that has become precious. It's bright green with three orange stars and it's signed by Sydney trainer Bobby Thomsen beneath the words "Shogun Lodge."

I met the handsome, characterful chestnut gelding in the flesh only once, at the stables named after him, and I saw him race only on television, but that was more than enough to make me one of his many devoted fans.

And now he's gone, dying almost immediately after he collapsed during the running of Saturday's VRC Emirates Stakes G1, for which he was favourite. It was his 58th start in a career that began just over five years ago when he won the AJC Canonbury S. 1000m LR, on the same day that the three-year-old Sunline won her first Group One race, the AJC Flight Stakes. It was a co-incidence that foreshadowed the often parallel, but rarely intersecting paths their future careers would take.

Shogun Lodge won twice more as a two-year-old, at Group 3 and Group 2 level, before his third placing to Catbird and Align in the 1999 STC Golden Slipper G1, and fifth in the AJC Sires Produce S. G1, on the same day Sunline filled the same position in the AJC Queen Elizabeth S. G1. His third career victory came in the Newcastle Spring S. G3 as an early three-year-old, and he followed it with arguably his best performance, defeating Sunline and Adam in the AJC George Main S. G1 over 1600 metres.

Shogun Lodge then went to Melbourne and ran second in Blackfriars' Victoria Derby G1, returning to Sydney to win the STC Tulloch S. 2000m G2 and run second in Fairway's AJC Australian Derby 2400m G1 - on the same day that Sunline was beaten by Over in the Doncaster. A trip to Queensland netted the Hollindale S. G2 before a spell, and then he returned as a four-year-old to win the AJC Epsom H. 1600m G1 in a scintillating time of 1:33.5. Shogun Lodge followed this with a second in the VATC Yalumba S. G1 between Sky Heights and Tie The Knot, and he then ran down the track in Sunline's second Cox Plate. It was one of only eleven races in which Shogun Lodge finished further back than fifth and failed to earn prizemoney in the 60-month span of his career.

After his eighth in the 2000 Hong Kong Cup - on the day Sunline won the Hong Kong Mile - he spelled and returned to put together the best sequence of his career. He defeated Assertive Lad and El Mirada in the STC Canterbury S. G2 in March 2001, ran second in the George Ryder S. G1 and the Doncaster G1, before winning the AJC Queen Elizabeth S. 2000m, the last of his three Group One victories and his biggest cheque, $A512,460. He ended the season with his second Hollindale Stakes G2 win, and a second placing in King Keitel's Doomben Cup G1.

The 2001-2002 season saw Shogun Lodge maintain his form in elite company. Third behind Lonhro and Diamond Dane in the AJC Warwick S. G2 - on the day Sunline was beaten by Piavonic in the MVRC Manikato S. G1 - he then collected the STC Theo Marks 1300m G2, his penultimate win; was second to Viscount in the George Main S. G1; and split Northerly and Ethereal in the VATC Yalumba S. 2000m G1. That campaign ended with a fifth in the Hong Kong Mile G1 behind Eishin Preston.

Four starts in the autumn of 2002 produced three placings, including one that ranks with the best victories of most other outstanding horses: his unforgettably courageous and heart-breakingly close second to Sunline, both of them carrying 58 kg, in the AJC Doncaster H. G1. Their performances were entirely characteristic of their contrasting racing styles: she driving relentlessly in front, he flying relentlessly from the back, and each exerting maximum pressure on the other in the most testing final moments of the race.
The difference was perhaps only the mare's recognition of her great rival and her desperate gathering, in the last few metres before the post, of all her class and fortitude. Bronwen Healy's photographic record of this finish is one of the most moving visual tributes you will ever see to two magnificent competitors at the very top of their game.
View these photos on Bronwen's website:
2002 Doncaster photos by Bronwen Healy

It was in the week after the 2002 Doncaster that an article in the Sydney racing press highlighted Shogun Lodge's record of placings of Group One races, as if it was an indication of the horse's inadequacy rather than his extraordinary consistency at the highest level. It could not have been written by anyone with an intelligent acquaintance with the breeding, owning, training or riding of thoroughbreds.

That was to be the last of the three times, all in Group One company, that Shogun Lodge met Sunline and the score stands as testament to the quality of both horses: Sunline, two wins and a second; Shogun Lodge, a win, a second and that Cox Plate eleventh. He also competed with honour against most of the other outstanding horses of his era: Northerly, Lonhro, Ethereal, Sky Heights, Tie The Knot, Defier, Republic Lass, Belle du Jour, Excellerator, Catbird, Testa Rossa, Adam, Freemason, Diatribe, Over, Fairway, Blackfriars. His record will be rightly judged inferior to the best of these horses, but we know more about their championship qualities because of Shogun Lodge, who pushed, tested and sometimes defeated them in thirty Group One races.

Class, they say, is the will to do it one more time. Shogun Lodge always had the will and the class, and returned in 2003-2004 for his sixth season of racing. His first-up victory in the City Tatt's RC Lightning H. LR, breaking 59 seconds for the 1000 metres, delighted his fans and gave reason to hope that he might add a fourth Group One victory to his record.

It was not to be, and a devastated Bobby Thomsen was left to return to the Flemington mounting yard on Saturday holding the empty bridle of one of the bravest horses ever to look through one.

Shogun Lodge's career record reads:
58 starts for 13 wins - eleven of them Group races - from 1000 metres to 2000 metres, 12 seconds (most by less than a length) and eight thirds; A$4,539,190 and HK$450,000 in prizemoney. In all, he was second or third in fourteen Group One events, three of them twice: the Doncaster, Yalumba and George Ryder.

Shogun Lodge has to be ranked among the best four racehorses to date by Grand Lodge and good debates may be had about how he compared with European champion Sinndar, high-class international performer Grandera and three-time Group One winner Freemason. There is no debate about which of the three that raced in this part of the world won the hearts of Australian racegoers.

Nor is there any argument that Shogun Lodge was the best of three Group One winners bred by Mr I. And Mrs A. Millard from their wondrous broodmare Pride of Tahnee (Best Western-Tahnee's Pride by Boucher). The others are Referral (by Dr Grace; 9 wins incl. STC George Ryder S. G) and Singing The Blues (by Bluebird; 11 wins incl. VATC Oakleigh Plate). After losing her 2001 Danehill foal and missing to Grand Lodge that year, the now nineteen-year-old Pride Of Tahnee mercifully delivered a chestnut full sister to Shogun Lodge this spring, on 6 September.

- Susan Archer


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