While New Zealand’s thoroughbred racing scene is dwarfed by the scene in neighbouring Australia, this island nation has competed with its neighbour for decades in the breeding stakes.
In fact, some of the most famous racehorses in Australia were foaled in New Zealand. These include the likes of some all-time greats like Phar Lap.
With further ado, here are the top 10 most famous New Zealand racehorses of all time.
1. Phar Lap
Phar Lap isn’t just a great New Zealand racehorse, he’s punted as being one of the greatest racehorses of all time. During his career Phar Lap won a host of Australia’s most prestigious Group 1 races, including the Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate. His formidable strength and size impressed all who watched him compete. Unfortunately, his career was cut short by suspected poisoning in a race held in Mexico.
Tulloch’s list of achievements is so long and formidable it is best covered by a biographer. In short, however, he won a host of Group 1 races in Australia during his career, including major events like the Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and the Caulfield Guineas. His versatility was one of the most remarkable things about him, as he shone bright in the Australian racing scene of the late ‘50s to early ‘60s over distances ranging from 5 furlong sprints to 2 miles.
Sunline’s racing career spanned the turn of the millennium, when she was regarded as one of the finest horses active in Australasia. Her feats included winning the Cox Plate twice, as well as taking repeat wins in several Group 1 races in New Zealand and Australia. Her exploits took her beyond this region, as she went on to win the Hong Kong Mile in 2000. She ended her career with two New Zealand Horse of the Year titles, and three Australian Horse of the Year titles.
4. Rising Fast
New Zealanders appreciate nothing more than a local racehorse who cleans up the biggest races in Australia and Rising Fast is one such example. A star of the 1950s racing scene in Australasia, Rising Fast pulled off wins in virtually every one of Australia’s most prestigious races, including the Caulfield Stakes, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, Melbourne Cup, Mackinnon Stakes and the CG ORR Stakes. He was subsequently inducted into both the New Zealand and Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
When it comes to prolific winners, few horses in history can match Gloaming’s record. Not only did he win a host of New Zealand’s biggest races, but he also crossed the Tasman Sea to take wins in several Group 1 Australian races, including the Melbourne Stakes. Gloaming was raced 67 times between 1918 and 1926, winning 57 races, finishing second in nine and failing to finish just one of these races. He still holds the Australian record over four furlongs – 45 seconds.
6. Desert Gold
While Desert Gold may not be well known outside of her native New Zealand, she is widely regarded as the greatest mare the country has produced. Raced 59 times between 1914 and 1919, she achieved a massive 36 wins, taking over a dozen of New Zealand’s biggest race titles. This included taking three successive wins in the Awapuni Gold Cup. By the time her career ended, Gloaming had finished outside the places just six times in her career.
Raced from the mid ‘80s on, Bonecrusher’s feats straddled both Australia and New Zealand. During his three-season long career he took some of New Zealand and Australia’s biggest races, including the New Zealand Derby, Caulfield Stakes and Cox Cup. His impressive stature and chestnut coat earned him the nickname Big Red, which he shares with Phar Lap. In 1987 he earned his place in the history books by becoming the first horse to win both the New Zealand Derby and Australia Derby.
8. Rough Habit
Rough Habit’s career spanned a period of five years in which he won races on both sides of the Tasman Sea. His 11 Group 1 race wins included the Queensland Derby, Doomben Cup (which he took three years in a row) and the Caulfield Stakes. The longevity of his career is what earns him a place in this list, as he took his first Group 1 win in the Queensland Stakes in 1990, and maintained his winning ways until taking the PJ O’Shea Stakes at the age of eight.
While Tawriffic’s list of accomplishments cannot match the likes of Tulloch, the quality of his wins earns him a place on this list. Most notable among his achievements was his win in the 1989 Melbourne Cup, where he set a record for a winning time. During his career he also claimed the Cox Stakes, AJC St. Leger and the South Australian St. Leger, establishing himself as one of Australia’s pre-eminent stayers.
While you could dismiss him as a one hit wonder, Seagram’s single big race win was in the toughest race on the planet. In 1991 Seagram pulled off an unlikely win in the Grand National at Aintree. Serendipitously his win was achieved while the gin maker of the same name was sponsor of the world’s biggest handicap chase event. The first, and only New Zealand horse to take a Grand National win soon faded into obscurity, living out the remainder of his life in peaceful retirement.
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