Dual Cox Plate Winner in 1999 and 2000, and 2nd in 2001
Dual Doncaster Handicap winner in 1999 and 2002 (58kg), 2nd in 2000
Dual Coolmore Classic winner carrying 60kg in 2000 and 2002
Winner of $11m in prizemoney, a southern hemisphere record
Winner of 13 Group 1 races in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong
International Champion - Winner of the 2000 Hong Kong Mile (G1)
Rated by Timeform (UK) as the World's Greatest Mare in 2000
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Sunline's Page is divided by race (most recent at the top), for quicker loading
on the links below to view a selection of PHOTOGRAPHS from individual races
Scroll down to read about Sunline's CAREER TO DATE
Doncaster Handicap (G1)
Coolmore Classic (G1)
Feehan Stakes (2nd)
Apollo Stakes (G2)
BMW WS Cox Plate (G1)
Turnbull Stakes (G2)
John F Feehan Stakes (G2)
Memsie Stakes (G2)
Manikato Stakes (G1)
BMW WS Cox Plate (G1)
Doncaster Handicap (G1)
Angus Armanasco Stakes and 1999 Kewney Stakes
Sunline first visited Australia in the Spring of 1998, arriving with an unbeaten record of 4 wins from 4 starts in New Zealand. She went on to win her 3 Australian starts - the Furious Stakes, the Tea Rose Stakes and the Group 1 Flight Stakes in effortless fashion, quashing the theory that she was just an effective wet tracker. However, just when it appeared she would make a clean sweep of the Melbourne 3 year old filly classics, she sustained a minor injury before the Thousand Guineas that ended her spring campaign. This paved the way for the very good filly Grand Archway who won both the Wakeful Stakes and VRC Oaks in Sunline's absence.
In the autumn of 1999, Sunline returned to Australia to contest the Australian Triple Crown series for fillies. She had maintained her unbeaten record when winning first up in New Zealand, but her winning run came to an end when she and Larry Cassidy were defeated by the Rose O'War in the Angus Armanasco Stakes at Caulfield when she was short of a run. In true style however, she bounced back by winning the Kewney Stakes at Flemington after leading all the way, and then followed that performance with a brilliant 5 length victory in the $1million Moonee Valley Oaks, defeating both Grand Archway and Rose O'War. It prompted her connections to proclaim that they would be back later that year to win the Cox Plate. The MV Oaks was Sunline's first start at Moonee Valley, the track she has truly made her own! In what was to the start of a great future association, Greg Childs rode Sunline for both wins, with her (then) regular jockey Larry Cassidy required back in Sydney to ride the 3yo colt Arena for John Hawkes. Sunline then travelled to Sydney, where she was reunited with Larry Cassidy in the Group 1 Doncaster Handicap at Randwick on 3 April. Carrying WFA, and starting as the shortest price favourite in years, the brilliant NZ filly led all the way to score by a couple of lengths in what was a memorable performance. She stayed in training for the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes a fortnight later, but pulled up distressed when unplaced behind Intergaze, and appeared to have definitely trained off.
Sunline next returned to Australia as a 4yo mare in August 1999, a much bigger and stronger horse (although even as a 3yo she'd been incredibly strong and burly for a filly). She commenced her spring campaign with a brilliant win in the classic G2 WFA Warwick Stakes, defeating Tie the Knot in controversial circumstances (Shane Dye, on Tie the Knot, was suspended for the ride for failing to give his mount every opportunity, but he had the charge dismissed on appeal). Sunline was then narrowly beaten in her next 2 starts, by Adam at Rosehill, and then by the good 3yo Shogun Lodge in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (by a mere neck, with Adam running his usual game race for a close third). She then ran a courageous race for fourth in the Epsom Handicap under a big weight. Although some wrote her off early for Australia's premier event, the WS Cox Plate, with the late rain that fell the week before, Sunline actually started favourite. Reunited with Greg Childs, she was in front passing the post for the first time, and led all the way before running away from her rivals at the home turn to record a breathtaking win, with Tie the Knot second and Sky Heights third.
Sunline did not start again in Australia after her Cox Plate victory, missing the MacKinnon Stakes after suffering a minor reaction to the inoculations she required for Hong Kong. She instead returned home to New Zealand, and duly effortlessly won, at Pukekohe on Saturday November 20, the $60,000 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) at the Counties Cup meeting, a Gr 2 race for fillies and mares. Sunline then contested the $HK2.5 million Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on December 12, again with Greg Childs on board, but the pair suffered their first defeat together, when Sunline ran unplaced as favourite. The mare was not at her best, after travelling badly and being in season. It was probably one of her worst performances, and a great disappointment that she did not race anywhere near her best form.
Sunline returned to Australia in the autumn of 2000, where she campaigned exclusively in Sydney. She won the Apollo Stakes first up, defeating Hire and Tie the Knot on a very heavy track. She then started in the Coolmore Classic (G1), and lumped 60kg to victory over Beat the Fade, who received about 8kg from the mighty New Zealand champion. Sunline then ran what some judge her finest race, in defeat (a la Kingston Town and the Melbourne Cup I guess), when she went down by a neck to the 3yo Over, who received a whopping 6kg from the mare. Sunline was taken on in front by Danglissa and Adam (who both finished at the tail of the field), and only surrendered her lead in the final 25 or so metres (heartbreaking !!!). Although there was some debate as to whether Greg Childs had set her alight too early, at the top of the straight, but for a long time down the straight it looked as though she was holding the colt, alas it was not to be. Like the true champion she is, Sunline bounced back to win the Group 1 All-Aged Stakes over 1600m a week later, at WFA. Without his huge pull in the weights, Over ran a distant third. The form was backed up when the second placed Georgie Boy, who trailed Sunline home by over 4 lengths, came out the next week and easily won the Group 1 WFA Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2000m, with Sunline by this stage relaxing at home in her paddock in New Zealand.
In the spring of 2000, as a 5yo mare, Sunline again returned to Australia in triumph. Although her doubters said she would be suspect over 1200m against sprinters like Newmarket Handicap winner Miss Pennymoney, Sunline kept her unbeaten record at Moonee Valley intact when she demolished the field in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes on 19 August, wining with ridiculous ease. Sunline next raced at Caulfield, winning the Group 2 Memsie Stakes (1400m). She appeared to show a definite dislike for Caulfield (the scene of her only Melbourne defeat as a 3yo filly), and did not win with her usual effortless style. Nonetheless, Childs only ever rode her hands and heels, and Umrum (who went on to win his second Toorak Handicap a month later), hard ridden, never looked like passing the great mare. Sunline's next start was the John F Feehan Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley, bringing her record at the Valley to 4 starts for 4 wins, two at Group 1 level. The only difficult question for me with this race was how far up the track to stand, because I wanted to get her travelling, not cantering to the line. I ended up at the 200m mark, but Childs was still only just sooling her along as they ran past me, she still made my heart pound though! Her next start was the Turnbull Stakes on 7 October, where she met with defeat for the first time that preparation, although losing no admirers in the process. Under the set weights and penalties, she carried 56.5kg, and went down by a short head to the AJC Derby winner Fairway, after the two staged a titanic battle down the straight. The rise in distance from (the easy) 1600m of the Feehan to 2000m of the Turnbull didn't help the mare, and Fairway is a talented and tough horse, who later ran a great race on the pace for third in the Caulfield Cup. The photographs from this race are just superb, and are available from both Fairway's and Sunline's pages.
Sunline went into the Cox Plate on 28 October without another run, where she started a firm favourite to become the first horse since the mighty Kingston Town, to win successive Cox Plates. What happened next, after all the pre-race hype, was nothing short of incredible. There had been an incredible build up to the race, and rival jockeys, including in particular, Glen Boss who was riding the second favourite Sky Heights, were all vowing to try to bring about the defeat of Sunline. As written in one of the newspapers the day after the race, Greg Childs rode to win, all the other jockeys rode to beat Sunline, it was a big difference. Sunline recorded a memorable victory. She started in the extreme outside barrier, and leaving the straight the first time she was four horses wide, with her rivals trying to keep her out. Childs kept cool, and kept moving forward, to eventually sit off The Message. She travelled in second place until about the 1000m mark, when Childs let the mare stride forward. From that point onwards, Sunline turned the greatest race on the Australian calendar into a procession. The further she went the further in front she got, turning for home 6 lengths in front of the rest of the field, who were all under the whip and making no impression. Sunline won the race by the same margin as the great Dulcify, and emulated Kingston Town to win the race for the second successive year. Her supposed main rivals, Sky Heights, Tie the Knot and Shogun Lodge all ran very poorly, and they all finished near the tail of the field. Testa Rossa ran well for fifth, and the Caulfield Cup winner Diatribe ran a terrific race, and made up many lengths to finish 2nd, but was still 7 lengths short of Sunline. My shots of the race are amongst my favourites, and probably are the best shots I have ever taken of the mare.
Sunline then confirmed that she is absolutely world class, with a determined win over local champion Fairy King Prawn (an Australian bred half brother to Easy Rocking), in the 2000 Hong Kong Mile (G1), on 17 December. As always, we were very, very proud of her, especially me!
Sunline commenced her 2001 autumn campaign in breath-taking fashion in New Zealand, with no end to the brilliance of this great champion, as she took on the Group 1 Waikato Draught Sprint (1400m), at Te Rapa in New Zealand, in front of her adoring home crowd. The win surprised everyone. Sunline led for almost all the way, kicked clear to lead by as much as 6 lengths at one stage, before easing down for the easiest of wins, by 4 and a half lengths. The win prompted comparisons, again, with the great Kingston Town, with some notable Kiwis such as Noel Harris, the rider of the second placed Fritz, NZ's supposed best sprinter, quoted as saying "I always thought Kingston Town was the best horse I'd ridden against - Sunline's better. She is a freak". High praise indeed.
Sunline then travelled to Dubai, and started in the Group 2 Duty Free Stakes on turf over 1777m, a support event to the Group 1 World Cup, over 2000m on dirt on the same day (a race won by the likes of the great Cigar and Dubai Millennium) because he was concerned that he did not have sufficient time to have Sunline ready for a gruelling race over 2000m on dirt. Before that, she came to Sydney for the Group 2 Apollo Stakes, over 1400m, at Warwick Farm on 3 March. Although heavily promoted as a match race between the champion mare and Tie the Knot, Sunline was untroubled to win the Apollo Stakes in effortless fashion. She ran a courageous third in Dubai, beaten by Jim and Tonic and Fairy King Prawn, after being taken on in front by Frankie Dettori on Slickly. She returned home and although she'd been working as well as ever, she ran a tired third in the All-Aged Stakes, before being sent for a well earned spell.
Sunline again came across the Tasman, for the Manikato Stakes, but suffered her first defeat at Moonee Valley when she ran second to Piavonic. She appeared to be slightly jaded all spring, and not quite the Sunline of old, prompting some to write her off. She bounced back to win the Memsie for the second successive year, then ran a narrow second to Northerly, in their first meeting. The defeat surprised many, including me, as many thought she'd be invincible over a mile at the Valley. She then won the Turnbull, and lined up for her third crack at the Cox Plate. Heavily supported by the capacity crowd, Sunline ran the race of her life, and in a dramatic and controversial finish, ran second, again, to Northerly, with Viscount a most unlucky third, after suffering severe interference from both Northerly and Sunline. Sunline went for a spell, her first real break over spring, after connections ruled out a third trip to Hong Kong.
That turned out to be a sound decision, because Sunline returned in the autumn in such brilliant form that she appears to have yet again staved off retirement. She had 4 starts, all in Group 1 races, and won them all. She won first up in New Zealand, then again carried 60kg to victory in the Coolmore Classic on a heavy track, and then in a thrilling contest she narrowly won the Doncaster Handicap under 58kg after leading all the way, again defying the field to run her down. Glen Boss on Shogun Lodge waved his whip after the race, making us think he might have grabbed the great mare, but she had won. It was one of my most emotional experiences photographing, because I cried after the race, she was just so great and so brave. She then turned the All Aged Stakes into a procession, winning by 6 lengths. I unfortunately missed that race, deciding that another trip to Sydney with my young baby was too much, sigh....
Sunline returned in the Spring of 2002 for one last hurrah. She won first up in New Zealand, in what was to be her homeland swansong, then made the journey across to Australia for what proved to be her final campaign. Although winless, she still covered herself in glory, finishing third to Defier in the G1 George Main Stakes when she really needed the run, then nearly bringing the house down when it looked to all that she would be victorious in the G1 Caulfield Yalumba Stakes. That race would have seen her equal Kingston Town's record of 14 Group 1 wins, however, she was run down close to the line by the very classy Lonhro, losing by I think half a head. It was then announced that the 2002 Cox Plate would be her final race, and what an emotional day it was for all of us. To their credit, the folk at the Valley made a real fuss of her retirement, with a special tribute in the racebook, and posters everywhere. Press surrounded the great mare wherever she went. It was not the fairytale ending we all hoped for however. Although she was courageous to the end, Sunline faded in the straight to finish fourth. Whilst still a commendable performance, it was clear that the McKee's had made the right decision to retire her when they did. And thankfully they did not go ahead with the sale of their champion, and have retained her to breed from themselves. She has been served by the Danehill champion Rock of Gibraltar in the spring of 2003, and I sincerely hope she is a success as a broodmare. Not that she owes us anything! She now won 32 races, 13 Group 1s, and $11million in prize money, making her truly one of the greats of the Australian turf. What a gal!
Sunline was bred by Susan Archer and her husband Michael Martin, who work for the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Association. Those familiar with the Australian Racing and Breeding Homepage will recognise Susan as our NZ correspondent. Sunline is a truly magnificent mare, and a joy to photograph. I absolutely love her! She also has her own official website (www.sunline.co.nz) although of course this page is the greatest source of the best images (CLICK ON ANY OF THE LINKS ABOVE TO SEE WHY) of a horse who is arguably the best mare to ever grace the Australian Turf, and the horse who is also arguably the greatest horse to race in Australia since the mighty Kingston Town. Her connections are aiming at further emulating that great champion, by trying to bring Sunline back to win her third Cox Plate on Saturday 27 October 2001. Come hell or high water, I will be there for that.