|W.S. Cox Plate wins
Better Loosen Up’s deeds in the 1990 Cox Plate was LEGENDARY; what he went on to do week’s later, on an international stage stands him as one of the greats of the Australian turf.
Initially, under the care of the great Colin Hayes, who had won the 1989 Cox Plate with Almaarad; Colin retired after 1989-90 season, and the reigns of Lindsay Park were handed over to his 28-year-old son David Hayes.
David took over the training of the five-year-old, taking out the Feehan Stakes at The Valley in the lead-up to the Cox Plate. Jockey Michael Clarke was in awe of the gelding’s performance, mentioning that “he has a tremendous will to win”.
Setting out as 2/1 favourite for the Cox Plate, he would need to call on all that tenacity to overhaul the field, when at the 800-metre mark he was in a seemingly impossible position, second last in the 11 horse field and ten lengths of Stylish Century, who was free-running out front.
It was always going to be a fast run race with Stylish Century known to run quick sectionals from the gates, but at that stage of the race with Better Loosen Up, flat to the boards, the task looked beyond his reach. Even Hayes later admitted he had all but given up hope of winning the race.
Alas, that will to win came to the fore, and Better Loosen Up dug deep and under the relaxed hands-and-heels riding of Clarke, looped the field and won with authority, with the roars of the crowd showing their appreciation for what they had just seen.
All the pressure on David Hayes in the lead-up had now abated, and he was officially a Cox Plate winning trainer in his own right. His star had just put in one of the best displays seen on Cox Plate Day, with his winning performance equal to that of any Cox Plate winner in modern times and equalling the course record of 2:01:5 for good measure.
The following week he won the Mackinnon Stakes, then was Oceania’s representative alongside Stylish Century in the time-honoured Japan Cup.
“He’ll do Australia justice,” said Hayes at the time.
He did more than that and won the race, making history by becoming the first and only Australian-trained horse to win the race, again showing his trademark determination not to be beaten.
A leg injury restricted him the following autumn and went on to run 12 more times before being retired; but not before finishing fourth in the 1992 Cox Plate at 50-1, just over a length from the winner Super Impose.
He enjoyed his retirement at Living Legends delighting visitors, before his death in 2016. He was a champion that achieved feats that we haven’t seen since.