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Sunline meets high expectations - again

New Zealand's champion Sunline (Desert Sun-Songline by Western Symphony) has carried the weight of public expectation for the best part of four years now. Her own competitiveness in the very best company has sharpened that expectation to an almost unreasonable degree.

How many seven-year-old mares in Australasia - or the world - could meet an outstanding field including eight other Group One winners over 1400m, fresh, without even a trial, and be expected to win comfortably?

Only one. And yet again, Sunline has met expectations that for other horses would be outrageous by winning today's Mudgway Partsworld S. 1400m G2 at Hastings. It was not won in her trademark front-running style and she had to fight hard to overhaul dual Group One winner Tit For Taat in the straight.

But she's a veteran of hard fights now, against Fairy King Prawn in Hong Kong, Northerly in the 2001 Cox Plate and Shogun Lodge in this year's Doncaster Handicap. For a moment today, Tit For Taat seemed to hold her, until the reigning Australian and New Zealand Horse of the Year found enough to forge past him and win by three-quarters of a length in 1:22.98 on an easy track.

Defier's defeat of the young pretender Lonhro in the Warwick Stakes at Randwick 70 minutes later reminded us how hard it really is to meet high expectations on the racetrack.

After five seasons, we're all so familiar with Sunline's courage, her assertiveness, power and speed that we could be forgiven for believing this is how racing will be from now on, as if she is the vanguard of a whole new breed of super racehorses.

In fact, her uniqueness becomes more marked with every start. Yet the special quality that sets her apart remains mysterious. Maybe there isn't a word for it. In the meantime, a simple word will have to do.

Class.


*Sunline has finished out of the first three in only three of her 45 starts.

*She has not raced in anything other than Group 1 and 2 events since March 1999.

*She is unbeaten in ten starts in New Zealand.

*Sunline has not been defeated in ten starts at 1400 metres.

*Her 32 wins include 13 Group One races, and twelve Group 2 races.

- Susan Archer