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Magnificent Sunline wins her second Doncaster

Class might be defined as "the will to get out there and do it one more time."

Sunline has been doing it one more time for so long now. Three Cox Plate starts, for two wins and a second; two Coolmore Classic victories; two starts in Hong Kong for a seventh and a stunning defeat of Fairy King Prawn; a win and a second in the Manikato Stakes; two runaway victories in the Waikato Sprint; two Memsie Stakes wins; two Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes trophies and two Apollo Stakes. Not to mention nine other Group race wins in Australia, five Horse of the Year titles and almost $A11 million in prizemoney.

And now, three starts across four years in one of the world's toughest, greatest handicap miles, the Doncaster at Randwick, for a second and two unforgettable, glorious wins, at three and six.

This doesn't happen. Horses don't do this. They don't race at the top level for more than three years, seeing off almost every challenger, defying every field to run them down.

No, horses don't do it. But champions do. And Sunline is unequivocally a Champion. With a capital "C".

Backed into favouritism by punters in Australia and New Zealand - who have loved her ever since her first Doncaster victory - Sunline jumped quickly, as always, into her customary front-running position, accompanied by last year's Golden Slipper winner Ha Ha (with 1.5 kg).

Carrying topweight of 58 kg, 1.5 kg above weight-for-age, Sunline ran the first 800 metres in a scintillating 46.7 seconds, burned off Ha Ha - and then, almost unbelievably, kept going. She rounded the turn and Childs drove her two lengths clear.

Victory began to look a definite possibility when the outstanding performer Shogun Lodge, also carrying 58 kg, made the kind of challenge he loves best, coming through the field with a powerful late run, driving at Sunline so hard and so close to the finishing line, that his jockey Glen Boss waved his whip in delight, sure he'd beaten the champion.

But he hadn't. In the confident, strong hands of her regular rider Greg Childs, Sunline had maintained her momentum down that long, testing Randwick straight, had poured all her courage and all her class into those final metres. And hung on, by a short half head, in a time of 1:35 and change.

Back home in New Zealand, in front of the television, her breeders, my husband Michael Martin and I, were weeping and dancing and laughing and shouting with joy and amazement, tempered as always by our grief at losing her because we didn't have the money to put her into training in the autumn of 1997.

We've been shouting and cheering for a long time, mostly in front of the TV, as we've never seen her race live in Australia. We can still remember the thrill of seeing Sunline win her very first start, at Paeroa on 10 May 1998.

Since then, largely because of the extraordinary co-incidence of working for the NZTBA during Sunline's long ascendancy, we've done 100, maybe 150 interviews, many with journalists incapable of seeing past the loss of "all that money", precious few with those who can see what matters most to us: the achievement of breeding possibly the best horse bred in New Zealand in all our lifetimes.

We've frequently been told that we'll never breed another like her.

We say: there will never be another Sunline.


Thanks to Tony Brassel of Clockspeed for the 800m sectional time.

- Susan Archer


 

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