W.S. Cox Plate Legend - Bonecrusher

W.S. Cox Plate wins 1986
 Trainer Frank Ritchie
 Jockey Gary Stewart
 Colour Chestnut
 Sex Gelding
 Prizemoney NZ$674,225 & A$1,679,495
 Career 44: 18-5-12

 'The Race of the Century' evokes vivid memories.

The 1986 W.S. Cox Plate was one for the ages, two heavyweight New Zealand stars in Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star slugging it out with 600 metres to go. The 1986 race was a one-off Cox Plate that might never be replicated, with the hype between the two combatants in the build-up coming to fruition on the day.

One second Bonecrusher had the advantage, the next Our Waverley Star until they hit the finishing line. Bonecrusher called on all his reserves to win by a neck. Race caller Bill Collins call added another dimension to the race as he was also out of tickets by the end of the race but managed to force out the unforgettable line "and Bonecrusher races into equine immortality." It's a line that has stood the test of time and reflects the feelings of all who witnessed the great race.

Trainer Frank Ritchie, son strapper Shaune and jockey Gary Stewart had hatched the perfect plan for Bonecrusher race day, but Frank recalls that all went out the window when Bonecrusher slightly missed the jump and found himself back in the field. Bonecrusher's team believed a true staying test was the best way to beat Our Waverley star and Stewart decided in the run to make it just that by taking off at the 800-metre mark, with Lance O'Sullivan following suit on Our Waverley Star.

The last 200 metres of the race almost defies description. Heads were bobbing up and down, both horses responding to the whip and the roars of the crowd. The rest of the field fading into obscurity. For all money, it was set to be a dead heat, but Bonecrusher outlasted, and Bill Collins' famous line reverberated across the course and around the world.

Connections of both horses embraced each other in awe of what they had just witnessed, paying mutual respect to both horses. Trainer Bart Cummings, who had seen it all, had never seen anything like this and rushed down to congratulate all, saying, "that's the best race I've ever seen, or hope ever to see.'
Bonecrusher was hailed a hero both in Australia and New Zealand, and the race was beamed across the globe, replayed millions of time over as the greatest horse race ever witnessed. Bonecrusher would encounter injuries later in his career, but as he was all heart, he still managed to finish third in the 1988 running of the Cox Plate behind fellow Kiwi Our Poetic Prince.

But whatever Bonecrusher achieved in his career, which was remarkable with 10 Group 1 wins and entry into New Zealand and Australian Racing Hall of Fames, it's his win in the 1986 Cox Plate that will have him remembered forever.

He was sadly euthanised at the ripe old age of 32 after contracting the hoof disease laminitis and buried at Auckland's Ellerslie Racecourse where he won his first Group 1, the New Zealand Derby in 1985. Frank Ritchie said Bonecrusher's will to win at all costs had taken a physical toll on him later in his career, and what a career it was!