Sunline after winning in Hong Kong
The current breed probably need to have a few more years at the top before they can crack the top ten as we have managed to select an exceptional bunch of runners to formulate our top ten runners from the past 25 years of racing in Australia.
Trainer: Paul Perry
Choisir is a tough one but with unquestionable talent as well as victories in some of the biggest races Choisir squeaks in as our first runner to be listed in the top 10.
While most runners cement their spots in the top 10 and there could be easy arguments for the likes of Dundeel and Buffering to make our rundown we’ve gone with Choisir for a number of reasons.
He didn’t show much as a two year old only winning a couple of black type races and finishing third in the Golden Slipper and Champagne Stakes. It was as a three year old he really laid down his credentials.
When racing in his three year old season Choisir won the Group One VRC Lightning Stakes as well as the G1 VRC Sprint (or Linlithgow Stakes previously) in impressive fashion. He also registered placings in the Oakleigh Plate and Caulfield Guineas at Group One Level as well minor placings in a handful of other black type contests.
Where the big chestnut really stakes a claim for our honours list is the fact he is a dual hemisphere winner having won in the UK at Ascot as well as down under for trainer Paul Perry. Whats more impressive is that Choisir is the only Southern Hemisphere horse to have won twice at Ascot in the same week.
The son of Danehill Dancer achieved this when he won the King Stand Stakes on the Tuesday at Royal Ascot before backing up on the Saturday in the Golden Jubilee Stakes winning both in impressive fashion.
Trainers: Michael, Wayne and John Hawkes
His behavior towards the end of his career is probably why the grey flash didn’t get higher on our rankings for racehorses in the past 25 years. Refusing to jump from the barrier several times as well as not winning in nine of his ten final races tarnished him slightly but what he achieved can never be questioned.
When he was firing on all cylinders Chautauqua was one of the best racehorses to watch as he was an exciting off the pace sprinter who would come flying late and swoop over the top of fields with electrifying pace.
His three back to back victories in the TJ Smith Stakes speak for themselves but victories in the Lightning Stakes as well as the Manikato Stakes are the exclamation points. Even a trip to Hong Kong didn’t phase the Grey Flash as he demolished the field from the back.
Possibly his statement win and one that cements him in the top 10 as one of the best in the past 25 years was when he defeated English in the 2017 TJ Smith Stakes. Dead Last on the turn, jockey Tommy Berry descended from the clouds to swoop late and win an impossible race.
It was a freakish win that day at Randwick and Chautauqua is thoroughly deserving of a spot in the top 10.
8. Takeover Target
Trainer: Joe Janiak
One of the stories you love to see in racing. A true case of the rags to riches fantasy that everyone hopes for one day came true for Queanbeyan taxi driver and horse trainer Joe Janiak who bought Takeover Target for just $1250 in 2003.
Takeover Target would go on to amass an incredible $6m in prize money and win some of the biggest sprint races in Australia.
It was a tough ride for Janiak. Most runners would be racing from two years old or in some cases held back and started off as a three year old. In the case of Takeover target he would not see his racecourse debut until 4 years old due to ongoing leg and joint problems. When he was ready to go though, he certainly obliged!!
When making his debut on track Takeover target would go undefeated in his first seven races including the last race, the Group One Salinger Stakes at Flemington. This would be the first of 8 victories at the top level.
From that first win there was no mountain to high for Janiak and his runner nicknamed ‘Archie’ as they embarked on a global tour winning in each state at Group One level in Australia then heading to Japan, Singapore and the UK to register wins at the highest level.
To this day Takeover Target remains the only winner to have won a Group One contest in each of main racing states in Australia as well as wins at Group One level abroad.
Trainer: Fred Kersley
It comes to that point where you need to discuss the big three that graced the racing world at the same time - Lonhro, Sunline and of course Northerly. When it comes to ranking them unfortunately The Fighting Tiger comes out 3rd of those three.
Without doubt Northerly comes first when it comes to toughness and a winning desire however when we compare winning records Sunline and Lonhro have the better results which is why Northerly falls to 7th on our list.
Northerly achieved some huge wins during his career winning back to back Cox Plates as well as the rare Caulfield Cup - Cox Plate double in the same Spring Carnival. He Also was a winner of two Australia Cups one of which was set in a record time.
His fighting spirit couldn’t be questioned and is without doubt the one of the best if not the best horse to come from Western Australia. In recent years there has been the likes of Regal Power and Arcadia Queen however none have been able to replicate the achievements of Northerly.
Trainer: John Hawkes
When we compare Lonhro to Northerly and you do it on form alone Lonhro will always come out on top having won a whopping 26 of his 35 starts and placing in a further 5 of those races. Where he does fall behind The Fighting Tiger however is a distinct lack of Cox Plates.
While Northerly won two and back to back no less, Lonhro never seemed to handle the tightness of the Moonee Valley track. He lost there to both Northerly and Fields Of Omagh however he was the best horse at the track having won a host of Group One races both prior to and after the Cox Plate runs.
The son of Octagonal won it all as a middle distance horse. He won the MacKinnon Stakes, Caulfield Guineas, the Australia Cup and the Orr Stakes in Victoria, whilst winning the George Ryder, George Main Stakes and The Queen Elizabeth II in New South Wales.
Probably one of his most iconic wins was his Australia Cup victory in 2004 where jockey Darren Beadman tried to push the Champion through a gap when entering the straight and despite getting checked managed to get the champ over the line first.
Lonhro also had a huge cult following with many racegoers donning the cerise colour of the champion. If he had just one of those Cox Plates there would be an argument for him going higher on the list however with his issues with the Moonee Valley track he records a respectable 6th position.
5. So You Think
Trainer: Bart Cummings, then Aidan O’Brien
So You Think achieved a lot in his career but we have to ask, if he had been allowed to stay down under what could have been? He was a tremendous racehorse and his career in Australia was curtailed in order to test his talents in the Northern Hemisphere.
The wonder colt will always be known for his two Cox Plate wins but if we had have seen him stay in Australia there is an argument that he won those races so effortlessly whilst oozing class could he have gone on to win 4 or 5 in total.
Of course we can’t prove that but we can see what happened. So You Think won the Cox Plate twice, won an Underwood Stakes, The Yalumba Stakes as well as The Mackinnon Stakes before moving to the Aiden O’Brien stable in the Northern Hemisphere to enhance his breeding credentials.
So You Think would race 11 times for the O’Brien stable registering a total of 6 wins with 5 of those at Group One level. These wins included two wins in the Tattersall’s Gold Cup as well as two wins at Ascot in the Eclipse Stakes and the Prince Of Wales Stakes.
When you throw into the mix a third place finish behind Americain in the Melbourne Cup as well a fourth in the Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe So You Think has one of the most glamorous resumes and fully deserving to kick off our top 5.
Trainer: Trevor McKee
When we’ve talked about Lonhro and Northerly at the same time there was Sunline. The Mare. Before we talk about great mares you have to start somewhere and Sunline was certainly a pioneer when it came to representing the fillies and mares of the racing world.
It’s easy in modern times to not be phased by a mare winning the big races in Australia however in the early 2000’s there wasn’t so much so when Sunline began to tear up the form book people began to take notice.
Sunlines greatest achievements included back to back Cox Plates in 1999 and 2000 but what was more appealing about the mare was her ability to seemingly win at any distance having recorded victories between 1100m and 2040m.
She travelled far and wide having won races in New Zealand, Australia, won the Hong Kong Mile at Group One level and grabbed a minor placing in Dubai in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes.
At times Sunline seemed unstoppable and retired with an impressive 32 wins from 48 starts but where she deserves her spot in the top four is her records. She won the most group races in modern times with 27 group level wins and previously held the international record for most Group 1s with 13 until she was surpassed by fellow Kiwi Melody Belle in 2021.
3. Maybe Diva
Trainer: David Hall, then Lee Freedman
When you’re a three time Melbourne Cup winner there has got to be something pretty special ahead stopping you from finishing in the top two of a top ten segment. Even add to that a Cox Plate, a BMW Handicap, a Memsie Stakes and an Australian Cup you’d feel pretty hard done by.
Her achievements are unparalleled and thoroughly deserving of the third spot in our top ten. Not only did Makybe Diva win three Melbourne Cups, she did it in three consecutive years and in the final year did it carrying a record breaking 58kgs.
It seemed as though if Lee Freedman wanted to win a distance race he’d send the Diva into bat. She would go through her first year tearing up the handicap before dominating in the Weight for Age circuit.
The only blot on the Makybe Diva copy book would be her failure to win oversees having been sent to Japan to compete between winning a second and third Melbourne Cup. Maybe it was the love of the Flemington track behind her continued success.
2. Black Caviar
Trainer: Peter Moody
This will be the first time that Black Caviar has finished second in competition and it does seem ridiculous that a horse can go a perfect 25 from 25 in competition and finish second in a list of a top ten horses from the past 25 years.
However, when we considered who was the best racehorse in the past 25 years Black Caviar falls into second purely because of her lack of versatility having run only over three distances - 1000m and 1200m consistently and 1400m once.
She did admittedly make the trip to Ascot and win in the Northern Hemisphere which is something she has over Winx but apart from that she never pushed far from her comfort zone. Yes she won consistently in races at the highest level including Newmarket Handicap, the Lightning Stakes, the TJ Smith and the VRC Sprint and that can’t be questioned but it would have been nice to see how far she could have gone.
It’s unquestionable that Black Caviar was one of the greatest ever and one of the best sprinters ever and thoroughly deserves the runners up spot on this occasion. She captured the attention of Australia during her time and will never be forgotten.
Trainer: Chris Waller
There are horses that are once a generation, lifetime and so on but with the case of Winx she could actually be the greatest ever having set benchmarks so high in racing it would take the best part of a decade to replicate.
Winx retired having won 37 starts and over $26m in prize money. Along the way she amassed an incredible 33 races undefeated over distances that ranged from 1100m to 2200m in multiple states across Australia.
As a middle distance runner she dominated the horse racing industry between 2015 and 2019 with great horses in there own right such as Hartnell, Kermadec and Happy Clapper continuously running into roadblocks as Winx sit back in the biggest races and steam roll home to take out titles.
At her best no one came close and she showed the punters winning four consecutive Cox Plates, four consecutive Chipping Norton Stakes, four consecutive George Ryder Stakes and is about to add a third straight Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
She undoubtedly the best in the past 25 years but the question is now will she remain the best ever!!