Rough Habit and John Wheeler  Photo:

On this day - April 20

Tim Barton
20 April 2020
Only the State of Origin rugby league team was more popular than Rough Habit in Queensland in the 1990s.

The unfashionably bred New Plymouth gelding won the Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney on this day in 1992 but it was Queensland where his profile was the highest.

Rough Habit, who was trained by John Wheeler, became a fixture at the Queensland winter carnival.

He had 20 starts in Queensland for 10 win and six placings, with six of those wins in Group I races.

He is the only horse to have won the Doomben Cup (2020m) three times, twice won the Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) and recorded the first of his 11 career Group I wins when successful in the 1990 Queensland Derby (2400m), defeating fellow Kiwis Ray’s Hope and Castletown.

Rough Habit’s standing in Queensland is illustrated by the fact that a bar at the Doomben track was named in his honour and the Rough Habit Plate is now a major three-year-old race at the winter carnival.

His two Stradbroke triumphs would rank among the best of his 29 wins. The Stradbroke is the richest, and usually the most competitive, open race in Queensland but Rough Habit won the 1991 edition by six lengths.

He returned a year later but started at 11-1 as he had the topweight of 58.5kg and drew 18 in the 20-horse field. He came from near last on the turn for regular rider Jim Cassidy to record a spectacular win.

His final run in Brisbane, as an eight-year-old, produced an emotional and hugely popular victory in the Group II O’Shea Stakes (2400m) in 1995, five years after his first visit to the state.

However, Rough Habit, who won a total of 18 group races, was far from being a one-state wonder. He won 10 Group I races in Australia, the same number as Sunline, with three in Sydney and another in Melbourne.

He was twice voted the NZ Horse of the Year, the first time as a five-year-old and again as an eight-year-old. He won five races as an eight-year-old, including the Group I Caulfield Stakes and was half a head way from a Cox Plate win.

He also won a 1200m graduation open at New Plymouth – at his first start for a year - with 71.5kg. He carried 15kg more than the runner-up and 20.5kg more than the third placegetter.

Wheeler was always willing to look outside the square with Rough Habit, who twice contested the Japan Cup, finishing fifth the first time, and also had a crack at the Hollywood Gold Cup in California.

Rough Habit died in November 2014, aged 28.

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