On this day - April 29
It is 20 years today since Sunline recorded her first All Aged Stakes win, at Randwick, in Sydney.
It was her fifth Group I win and she notched another eight before the end of her extraordinary career.
The champion mare has been recognised as one of Australasia’s greatest gallopers. She was an inaugural inductee into the NZ Racing Hall of Fame and among the second group of horses to join the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
Sunline joined the Australian Hall of Fame in 2002 and Let’s Elope – who was sold to Australia as a three-year-old – and Balmerino are the only other Australian Hall of Famers to have raced in New Zealand in the last 50 years.
Sunline was NZ Horse of the Year four times and Australian Horse of the Year three times.
The Australian HOY award began in 1969 and only four other horses have won the title more than once. Winx has taken the award for the past four years and Black Caviar matched Sunline with a hat-trick of titles, while Makybe Diva and Might And Power were dual winners.
Though Sunline did the bulk of her racing in Australia or even further afield, she was a fair dinkum Kiwi. She was bred, trained and owned in New Zealand and always ridden by a New Zealand-born jockey.
She was superbly managed by her trainers, Trevor and Stephen McKee, but never dodged the best and sustained her form over six seasons.
Her career statistics make impressive reading by any measure, with 32 wins and nine seconds from 48 starts and earnings of $14 million. She won 25 races at Group I or Group II level, with 13 Group I wins, spread over three countries, from 1200m to 2040m.
She only twice finished further back than fourth and in 43 of her 48 starts either won or finished within a length of the winner. She was never beaten in her 10 New Zealand starts.
Her career high points were probably her two Cox Plate wins, the second by seven lengths, her Hong Kong Mile victory over Fairy King Prawn, another world class sprinter, and her second Doncaster Mile win, with 58kg.
Sunline led all the way, with 2.5kg above weight-for-age, in the 2002 Doncaster and held out a strong challenge from the multiple Group I winner Shogun Lodge. Sunline became the first mare to win the Doncaster twice and no topweight has won since. The Doncaster tends to be dominated by lightweights and Sunline was giving up to 9.5kg to her rivals.
Sadly, Sunline did not have a lengthy retirement and had to be put down in 2009, aged 13, after suffering from laminitis, a debilitating hoof condition. She is buried at Ellerslie racecourse.
Sunline had four foals – three fillies and a colt. Sun Ruler, a Zabeel colt, made $2 million as a yearling and went to stud after winning two races.
Sunstrike, a Rock of Gibraltar filly who died in 2013, won two races and both her foals have been winners, including Magic Of The Sun, who has won six races.
Sunline is also the dam of Sunalta (by Rock Of Gibraltar), who is still breeding, and Sunsett (by Hussonet), who died last year.