What makes a great horse? Is it their record? Is it the quality of the races they won or by how far? Is it having to overcome adversity or triumph when the odds were stacked against them?
You will find all of those attributes in the horses listed below, and more, however picking the Ten Greatest Australian & New Zealand Horses Of All Time is no easy feat.
There are many horses that have achieved incredible and seemingly impossible feats on the race track however this list is full of those that managed to make racing fans out of average punters.
They made an impact not only on the track but in the stands and on the TV screens at home.
Winx has taken the racing public on an incredible and truly unbelievable ride over the past few years and she will step out onto the turf for the last time this Saturday in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick. She has shattered almost every record along the way but where does she rank in terms of champions of past eras?
Here is a our list of the Ten Greatest Australian Race Horses Of All Time.
1971 Epsom Handicap, 1971 Toorak Handicap, 1972 George Adams (Cantala) Handicap, 1972 Doncaster Handicap, 1972 W.S Cox Plate.
When trying to fit so many great horses into so few spots, certain biases become evident from the person attempting such an impossible task. As you’ll find out as you read on, some may very well argue that my bias may be the incredible stories and adversities that some of the great horses have had to endure in their racing careers.
The ‘Goondiwindi Grey’ was purchased for $1,300 by four battlers from outback Queensland and he fast became one of Australia’s most favourite gallopers.
He was a sensation on the track, incredibly losing only once over the mile in his career when he was beaten by a half head in the Epsom Handicap carrying 62.5kgs.
Just like many horses on this list, the champion grey was very popular with the racing public and didn’t he know it!
9. RISING FAST
1954/55 Caulfield Cups, 1954 W.S Cox Plate, 1954 Melbourne Cup.
Rising Fast remains the only horse to have won the Spring Grand Slam by winning the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup in the same carnival in 1954.
He incredibly returned the next Spring to win his second Caulfield Cup and then was narrowly denied another Melbourne Cup when he ran a close second carrying 63.5kgs.
The champ was knocked off balance by the eventual winner in the final 200m however the decision was made by the owner not to protest.
The general consensus was that he would have won the race had they involved the stewards.
The rider of the winner, Neville Sellwood, was suspended for two months for the interference.
1969 Golden Slipper Stakes, 1969 Champagne Stakes, 1969 Caulfield Guineas, 1969 George Adams (Cantala) Stakes.
Vain’s legacy on Australian Racing can not be denied.
There has never been a more dominant horse as a two and three year old race in this country.
He won 12 of his 14 race starts including the Golden Slipper by four lengths and the Champagne Stakes by 10 in the fastest ever time recorded by a two year old over 1200m.
As a three year old, after winning the Caulfield Guineas, he achieved one of the most incredible feats ever seen on a race track.
In the space of eight days he preceded to win the Craven ‘A’ Plate (VRC Sprint Classic) by 12 lengths, the Linlothgow Stakes by six lengths and then carrying 4.5kg over weight-for-age, he won the George Adams (Cantala) Stakes over 1600m.
His only loss as a three year old was against Daryl’s Joy who went on to win the Cox Plate, VRC Derby and later won at Group 1 level in the United States.
After his racing career was over he went on to sire 370 winners who won over 1800 races.
He sired two Golden Slipper winners as well as being the great-great grand sire of another horse on this list (spoiler) Black Caviar.
7. MAKYBE DIVA
2003/04/05 Melbourne Cup, 2005 Australian Cup, 2005 Cox Plate.
No other horse has has won our great race three times and although the great staying mare was best known for these wins, she achieved much more.
In between those historic wins she won the Sydney Cup, the BMW (Tancred) Stakes, The Australian Cup, The Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Cox Plate among others.
To back up in such a testing staying race under handicap conditions three times is a truly remarkable feat and she was the first horse to carry the number 1 saddle cloth to victory since Rising Fast in 1954.
Maykybe Diva is another example of just how a horse can capture the attention of the racing public and seemingly levitate above the sport as a whole. A champion. A legend.
6. Black Caviar
2012 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, 2011 Newmarket Handicap, 2011/13 T J Smith Stakes, 2011/12/13 Lightning Stakes.
If there is one thing that most horses on this list have in common, aside from their phenomenal records on the track, it is that they managed to capture the attention of not only the hardened punter and racing enthusiast, but the casual racing fan as well.
Trainer Peter Moody was determined to take his champion sprinter all over the country for fans and the bomb proof mare won in five states throughout Australia.
Her ability to sustain an extraordinary speed throughout her races and still be able to sprint so quickly at the business end made her impossible to run passed and although her opposition throughout her career was sub par, it was hard to see how anything could beat her.
She showed her toughness when she took on the world in England and having torn muscles in her chest, clung on for a famous victory in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
5. KINGSTON TOWN
1980/81/82 Cox Plates, 1980 AJC Derby, 1980 Sydney Cup, 1981/82 George Main Stakes
What a truly remarkable career ‘The King’ produced.
In his 41 starts he only missed the placings on four occasions.
He won 21 races in a row in Sydney from June 1979 to August 1982 and the only real blight on his career was when the champ headed south.
He still managed to win five of his 13 starts in Melbourne including the weight-for-age classic Cox Plate three times in a row.
Although not an out and out stayer he attempted to win our greatest race, the Melbourne Cup, twice.
He ran 20th in 1981 but was beaten a long-neck into second carrying 59kg in 1982.
Three Cox Plate victories looked an impossible feat to break however Winx went passed The King last year with her fourth win in the race.
1889/90 Sydney Cup, 88,89 All Aged Stakes, 1890 Melbourne Cup
Standing 16 hands 1 inch, Carbine was a brute of a horse.
30 of his 33 career wins came at Stakes level and remarkably he only missed the placings once due to a split hoof.
His endurance, stamina and versatility were his best attributes which is evident when reeling off some of his biggest wins.
He won the Sydney Cup carrying 5.5kg over weight for age setting a record in the process.
On four separate occasions Carbine won two races on the same day.
In his win in the 1890 Melbourne Cup he carried 66kg beating a field of 39 starters and carrying 24kg more than the horse that ran second!
1958/60/61 Queen Elizabeth Stakes, 1957 Caulfield Cup, 1957 Caulfield Guineas, 1957 VRC Derby, 1957 AJC Derby, 1960 Cox Plate.
A winner of 36 races in total, Tulloch won almost everything that Australian racing has to offer.
He won from 1000m to 3200m including 14 of 16 starts as a three year old, which included the Caulfield Guineas, all three eastern state Derbies and the Caulfield Cup in 1957.
Struck down by a virus after his three year old season, Tulloch did not race for a full two years before returning to win 15 of his last 24 races to finish his career.
His only unplaced finish came in the 1960 Melbourne Cup where he finished seventh carrying 64kg as the $3 favourite.
He was 60 lengths behind the leader at the 1200m and it was simply too far for the champ to make up with the heavy weight.
2. PHAR LAP
1929 AJC Derby, 1929 VRC Derby, 1930/31 Cox Plates, 1930 Melbourne Cup, 1932 Agua Caliente Handicap.
It’s hard to imagine just how popular Phar Lap was as a horse in a time where the Australian public needed a hero more than ever.
The Great Depression hit the working class the hardest and it was his feats on the race track that gave an escape from the harsh financial realities that plagued the public.
His record is amazing and for the longest time he was untouchable as a figurehead of Australian racing.
He won the Melbourne Cup (with 63kgs), two Cox Plates and 19 other weight for age races and then went on to win in Tijuana Mexico, with the weight of the country behind him.
In one incredible week, Phar Lap won four races.
The Melbourne Stakes (2000m) on the Saturday, the Melbourne Cup (3200m) on the Tuesday, the Linlithgow Stakes (1600m) on the Thursday and finally the C.B Fisher Plate (2400m).
The end to his life will always be a mystery however his status in Australian and racing folklore will never be forgotten.
2015 Epsom Handicap, 2015/16/17/18 Ladbrokes Cox Plates, 2016/17/18/19 Chipping Norton Stakes, 2016/17/18/19 George Ryder Stakes, 2016 Doncaster Handicap, 2017/18 Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Every horse on this list is a once in a generation horse. They are freak animals. Winx is more than that.
She makes the impossible look possible. When her rivals are seemingly at top speed and under hard riding, she glides up to them without expending any energy and cruises passed with ease. Again and again.
In a way we were lucky she wasn’t a great young horse. We got to see her ‘work through the grades’ winning in Queensland and under handicap conditions in the Doncaster Handicap. Once she was well on her way to a recording her 32 consecutive Stakes races her racing campaigns became predictable and she raced in only weight-for-age races.
Her record of four consecutive Ladbrokes Cox Plates will never be beaten. Her legacy will never be forgotten. She is the greatest of all time.