On this day - May 2
Poetic Prince launched an outstanding career when recording his first win on this day 33 years ago.
The Taranaki galloper attracted little fanfare when winning a late season juvenile race, at his second start, on a soft track at Trentham on May 2, 1987. But the Australian-bred colt was rarely far from the headlines over the next two years.
A fortnight later he won the Shifnal Prince (Castletown) Stakes at Foxton and won again at Tauherenikau the following weekend, to give him three wins in three weeks. Sixteen days later, he was taking on a Group I company in Brisbane, in the 1600m Castlemaine Stakes. Poetic Prince looked a big chance on the turn but lost all chance by veering towards the outside fence in the straight.
It was enough to convince trainer John Wheeler that Poetic Prince would measure up in top company and the horse did much of his future racing in Australia.
Poetic Prince did not win in Australia as a three-year-old but should have won the Caulfield Guineas, ran second in the Cox Plate and fourth in the Victoria Derby.
He was comfortably first past the post in the Caulfield Guineas but was relegated to second by stewards, a decision that still rankles with Wheeler.
Poetic Prince tackled the Cox Plate at his next start and was caught late by Rubiton, after racing greenly in the closing stages.
Rubiton, who raced for only two seasons, was near unbeatable that spring, with seven wins – all at Group I or Group II level – and a third from eight starts. The horses behind Poetic Prince in the 1987 Cox included Vo Rogue, Beau Zam, Campaign King and the Kiwi mare Tidal Light. Between them, that quartet won 21 Group I races.
Poetic Prince returned to Brisbane in the winter and was twice runner-up in Group II races, before finishing fifth in the Group I Stradbroke.
He still won five races in New Zealand as a three-year-old, including beating Westminster and Courier Bay in the weight-for-age feature at Otaki, which then had listed status, and a win over Weston Lea. He earned more than $500,000 for the season, but with a touch more luck it could have been so much better.
However, he was to realise his potential in his four-year-old season, which was also his last.
Poetic Prince’s next 13 starts produced eight wins and five placings and almost $3 million in stakes. Four of those wins came at Group I level and two others in races which now have Group I status.
He began the season by winning the Foxbridge Plate and Byerley (Tarzino) Stakes at Hastings, races which then had listed status only, before heading to Melbourne.
He won the Group II Feehan in Melbourne and was runner-up in the Caulfield Stakes, before reaching new heights by beating Horlicks and Bonecrusher in the Cox Plate, with the winning margin a length and a quarter.
Back in New Zealand, Poetic Prince beat Courier Bay at weight-for-age in the Waikato Sprint before another fruitful campaign across the Tasman.
He ran third in the Australian Cup, behind Vo Rogue and Super Impose, followed by a Group I double at the Sydney autumn carnival, in the Tancred Stakes and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, despite always being more comfortable on left-hand tracks.
Poetic Prince’s 20 runs on left-hand tracks produced 14 wins and three seconds and he was never further back than fourth. His return from 16 starts right-handed was two wins and seven placings. His career record was 16 wins, eight seconds and five other minor placings from 36 starts and $3.5m in stakes.
He was named the New Zealand Horse of the Year in 1989 and he went to stud in Victoria that spring.
He had little success as a sire and finished his stallion career in Korea.