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Sunline  -  Profile of a Champion
Bay Mare Born 29 September 1995
by Desert Sun out of Songline
Page 4

Nearly four months later Sunline returned to racing and for the first time in 41 starts she drew the inside barrier.  Spring Rain flew the start to cross and lead from Sunline then Vinaka and Butterscotch with Ethereal near the rear.  By the 800m Able Attempt accelerated around the field as Sunline kicked up to hit the front from Able Attempt then Spring Rain followed by Vinaka and Sequel.  Around the turn Sunline led as Spring Rain ran on from Able Attempt then Vinaka.  On straightening Sunline raced clear of Spring Rain as Honour Bound started to make ground.  Under hands and heels Sunline raced away to win eased up by over six lengths from Spring Rain with Honour Bound third ahead of Vinaka, Ethereal and Tit For Taat.  The placings were later changed after a protest with Honor Bound second, Vinaka third and Spring Rain relegated to fourth.

Sunline then headed  back to Sydney for the Group 1 Coolmore Classic over 1500m.  Carrying the topweight of 60kg Sunline took on a field of quality fillies and mares including the Group 1 Golden Slipper winner Ha Ha.  Poppett led Sunline then Maitland Gold followed by Lady Marion then Ha Ha and Primrose Sands.  Little changed as Poppett led clearly from Sunline then Maitland Gold to the turn where Poppett was joined by Sunline as Primrose Sands made a run along the fence with Maitland Goldout wider from Ha Ha and Gentle Genius.  By the 200m Sunline was in front from Dotteressa with Gentle Genius and Nanny Maroon flying down the outside.  By the 100m Sunline was holding the opposition though Gentle Genius and Nanny Maroon tried their best.  Sunline was too good holding the half length margin to the line over Gentle Genius with Nanny Maroon a neck away third as the others that had been in the leading division dropped out to the tail of the field.  In winning Sunline became the first mare to win the Coolmore Classic twice.

The Doncaster was Sunline’s next target and although she started at 15/8 favourite many of the tipsters wrote off her chances.  Sunline carried the topweight of 58kg on a 47kg limit and started from barrier 7 in the huge field of 20.  Sunline jumped to the lead from Gordo, Ha Ha, Huge Demand and The Man.  By the 1000m Sunline led Ha Ha then a break to Huge Demand, Dash for Cash, The Man then Defier.  Around the turn Sunline was in front and clear of Ha Ha then Dash for Cash making ground followed by Huge Demand with Defier wide on the track and Shogun Lodge weaving through the field.  By the 200m Sunline was still well clear of Ha Ha and Dash for Cash as Shogun Lodge got clear and Defier started to storm down the outside.  By the 50m Sunline was ¾ length in front but starting to tire as Shogun Lodge and Defier put in their claims.  Inside the final 25m Shogun Lodge was wearing down Sunline but the mare fought back strongly.  Right on the line Sunline lunged to win by a nose from Shogun Lodge with half a length to Defier third then El Mirada fourth ahead of Hey Pronto.  The crowds went crazy as the fans gave Sunline a reception not heard for many years since the days of Octagonal’s AJC Derby win or even Super Impose’s second Epsom.  In winning Sunline had carried well over weight for age and became the highest weighted mare to win the race since 1936.  It was also the highest weight carried to victory since Super Impose in 1991 (59.5kg) and the third highest behind Gunsynd (60.5) for the last 30 years. 

A week later Sunline was back in the All Aged Stakes again over the 1600m course at Randwick against a field of 10 including the classy NZer Cent Home and the Group 1 winners El Mirada, Dress Circle and the talented Tears Royal.  Mowerman led Sunline and Cent Home then El Mirada followed by Tears Royal then a break to Osca Warrior and Kingsgate then Let’s Compromise, Dress Circle and Weasel Will.  By the 1200m Mowerman led clearly from Sunline then Cent Home followed by El Mirada and Tears Royal.  Around the turn Sunline slowly gathered in Mowerman as Cent Home made his run from El Mirada and Kingsgate.  By the 200m Greg Childs released the brakes and Sunline bounded clear from Mowerman with Cent Home running on from Kingsgate.  Making the race look like a track workout Sunline strode to the line 6 ½ lengths ahead of Cent Home with ¾ length to Dress Circle running on for third.

Again the fans cheered loudly as it was considered that Sunline may be having her final preparation before retirement though when asked after the race her connections said they may have to reconsider and bring her back for one more attempt at the Cox Plate.

During the winter the Horse of the Year awards were announced.  Sunline was again named Australian Horse of the Year receiving the bulk of the votes from Ethereal and then Northerly.  She was also named Champion Mare and again picked up the New Zealand Horse of the Year for the fourth consecutive year.

Sunline returned to racing in what was to be her final New Zealand start in the Group 2 Mudgway Stakes over 1400m at Hastings.  Sunline jumped to the lead but was soon taken on by Danzapride before Tit For Taat accelerated around the outside to take up the running.  On settling Tit For Taat led La Bella Dama then Danzapride with Sunline one off the rails in fourth then Comacho and Hello Dolly followed by Pure Theatre with Cent Home well back.  Around the turn Tit For Taat led La Bella Dama as Sunline peeled out to chase from Pure Theatre.  In the straight Tit For Taat kicked clear as Sunline started to slowly overhaul him.  By the 200m Tit For Taat was holding Sunline but she knuckled down to chase the fitter gelding nwith a gap to Pure Theatre.  By the 100m Sunline had drawn level and began to inch past from Tit For Taat (who was to go on and prove himself the best in New Zealand during the rest of the season) pulling away in the shadow of the post to win by ¾ length with Cent Home a fast finishing third from Pure Theatre and Conquistar.  The Mudgway was Sunline’s 10 start in New Zealand and her 10th victory.  It was also her 11th run over 1400m for 11 wins.

Arriving in Sydney Sunline’s next race was the George Main but due to the 5 week break she lined up in a barrier trial on 20 September over 1200m at Randwick. Arlington Road led early but Sunline raced away under her own steam in the straight from Arlington Road and Spurred On  by a hard held 3 ½ lengths.  The barrier trial attracted many to Randwick and it was shown live on TV such was the hype surrounding her fitness and her final racetrack appearance in Sydney.

A small field lined up in the George Main Stakes over 1600m including the rising champion Lonhro, talented Defier, Excellerator and Shogun Lodge who has finished second at Group 1 level more than 10 times often beaten in a photo.  Sunline settled in front in a slowly run race from Defier then a length to Shogun Lodge outside Lonhro and a further length to Excellerator and Hey Pronto.  Little changed until they sprinted around the home turn where Sunline led Defier with Excellerator out wider around Shogun Lodge with Lonhro pocketed then Hey Pronto.  With 200m left Defier ranged up to Sunline then Excellerator outside Shogun Lodge and Lonhro.  Sunline tried to fight back but the younger horse hit the front as Excellerator moved up on the outside with Lonhro and Shogun Lodge behind them.  In the final 50m Defier started to draw away from Excellerator to win by a half length with a further length to Sunline third then a length to Lonhro who couldn’t get clear in the straight  with Shogun Lodge next.

Questions were asked was the 7yo mare past it? was she a victim of the strong headwind down the side which had taken its toll on other front runners? did she go too slowly early rather than her usual manner of going at a steady speed and slowly increasing throughout?  Was she not yet fit? 

Sunline hadn’t appeared right in the coat and looked like she would benefit a lot from the run.  She hadn’t been able to sprint away from her rivals and faded when challenged in the straight.  Connections reportedly declared if she couldn’t run a place at her next start, the Caulfield Stakes, she would be retired immediately with no fourth Cox Plate attempt.

Caulfield Stakes day dawned warm and sunny as the crowds arrived to see the great mare and her heir apparent Lonhro clash in the big race.  The other five runners were not expected to prove major threats to the favourites.  Sunline looked and behaved like her old self and strode around the mounting yard as she headed out for the race attempting to join Kingston Town in the modern record of 14 Group 1 wins.  The Sydney 4yo stallion Lonhro looked magnificent with his black coat gleaming despite the sun giving way to overcast conditions and looked ready to avenge the defeat of his sire Octagonal in the race 6 years before.

Sunline led from the start from Lonhro and Distinctly Secret then Ustinov followed by Republic Lass with Tully Thunder and Prized Gem at the rear.  By the 1400m Sunline led Ustinov then Lonhro followed by a gap to Distinctly Secret, Republic Lass, Tully Thunder and Prized Gem.  Sunline kicked away by the 800m to Ustinov then a gap to Lonhro and another gap to the others.  Around the turn it was shade of the Sunline of old as the crowd roared and she hit full speed from Ustinov as Lonhro started to run on.  In the straight Sunline was under hands and heels and still clear but Lonhro was starting to make ground.  Inside the final 200m Sunline was under pressure as Lonhro slowly drew alongside.  Sunline fought back and was still in front with 30m left but the black stallion stretched out to his limit and gradually inched ahead.  Sunline came again but on the post Lonhro was in front by a long head with daylight back to Ustinov third and Republic Lass fourth.  Despite the defeat no race fan could have been disappointed as two of the best horses in the country went stride for stride to the line.  Connections of the winner declared it was a mighty race and it would have been fitting to have been a dead heat.  Lonhro returned to scale and the crowd gave him a fantastic reception and finally Sunline came back after the other placegetters and too received a huge reception for her magnificent effort.  Both horses then went on to the Cox Plate a fortnight later but did the Caulfield Stakes a virtual match race take a toll on both of them?

Sunline was the celebrity of the week.  Headlining in newspapers and on TV Sunline’s every move was reported and she was the star worker at the Breakfast with the Stars at Moonee Valley on the Tuesday before the race.  On raceday the fans lined the race day stall fence 5 deep around Sunline with a smaller crowd near Lonhro a few stalls away.  The mare’s nemesis in Northerly had a handful of admirers but it was Sunline’s final start and she was the main attraction for the majority of fans on the day.  The Moonee Valley race club put a special tribute to the great mare in the racebook and banners adorned the grandstands in honour of her raceday memories.  Sunline was the last horse out onto the racetrack so fans to applaud the champion but worrying signs had appeared. 

She was very toey going out and was far more worked up than usual during her pre race parade and the special attention of the cheering crowd seemed to rev her up even more.  Had she gone over the top and left her best on the training track?  Had she as a seven year old mare come to the end of her tether?  Could she do it one more time for the adoring race fans? 

From the start Sunline led from Northerly and Bel Esprit then Defier followed by Ustinov then Grandera with Fields of Omagh wide around Lonhro with Assertive Lad at the rear.  Little changed to the 1000m where Sunline put on the pace from Northerly then Bel Esprit followed by Defier then Ustinov and Grandera as Fields of Omagh and Lonhro were left flatfooted near the rear and out of contention.  By the 600m Sunline was in front as Northerly gave chase with a gap to Defier around the tiring Bel Esprit then Grandera.  Around the turn Sunline led Northerly by a length with Defier making ground followed by Grandera then a gap to Lonhro trying to run on late.  On straightening Sunline was joined by Northerly and she tried to fight back for a stride or two but while the spirit was willing the body couldn’t respond as Northerly went by to win by a length from gallant Defier with Grandera a fast finishing third and Sunline fourth with a gap to Lonhro and Fields of Omagh with a further huge gap to Ustinov with Bel Esprit and Assertive Lad eased up at the rear.

This time the crowd cheered Northerly back to scale but attention turned during his victory parade to the great Sunline returning after being out of a place for the first time since the Hong Kong race in December 1999 nearly three years before. 

Sunline headed into retirement with a record of 48 starts for 32 wins 9 seconds, 3 thirds and four  unplaced runs.  She won 13 Group 1 races for earnings of $11,690,679 and finished her career with a winning percentage of 68 % and placing percentage of 94 %.  Something unseen since the days of Kingston Town for a horse racing in the highest grades for that number of starts.  Sunline raced in only Group 1 and 2 races for the remainder of her career after winning the Group 3 Moonee Valley Oaks back in March 1999 as a 3yo.

Her favourite Australian racetrack was Warwick Farm where she was unbeaten in three runs while she won 6 from 12 starts at Randwick, 5 from 9 at Moonee Valley, 2 from 4 at Caulfield, 3 of 4 runs at Rosehill and 2 from 3 at Flemington.   

Her favourite distance was 1400m where she was undefeated in 11 attempts but also won 8 races over the mile (1600m) and 5 races over 1200m from 6 runs.   Best suited over as sprinter miler she was able to win 4 races from 10 attempts at the 2000m + distance but way always vulnerable at further than 1600m which make her Cox Plate wins particularly the 2000 edition demolition even more memorable. 

Sunline was only beaten once in 8 first up runs won her only start on a fast rated track and won 13 of 24 on good tracks, 11 of 9 on dead tracks, 5 of 6 on slow tracks and 4 of 5 on heavy tracks despite finding the softer going harder to handle later in her career.  She won stakes races as a 2yo, 3yo, 4yo, 5yo, 6yo and 7yo and won Group 1 races in open company at 3yrs, 4yrs, 5yrs and 6yrs in both weight for age and handicap company. 

As she heads to stud in the coming season on statistics and her race performances Sunline was a once in a generation horse and in this era she is simply the best.

All racing photos in this article are available for sale.  Please contact Jenny Barnes for further details.

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