|W.S. Cox Plate wins
When people think of great Cox Plate horses, the name Sunline is one that quickly comes to mind given the public adulation she received, both in Australia and in her homeland of New Zealand.
This striking mare was a bold front runner that set out at a cracking pace and sought to break the hearts of her competitors through sectional times that had clockers looking twice at their stopwatch.
It was also her partnership with jockey Greg Childs that punters remember so fondly, with the two inseparable throughout her career, along with Sunline's strapper Claire Bird.
Sunline competed in four W.S. Cox Plates in a row, winning two of them, placing second behind Northerly in her historic crack at three in a row and finishing fourth in what would be her last race. She was a genuine superstar of her time and was one of the most popular horses in the history of the Cox Plate.
In 1999, the mare's co-trainer Steve McKee who trained alongside son Steven in Taranaki, New Zealand, had been saying for months in the lead-up that Sunline was the best mare in Australasia. When the big day finally arrived, Sunline hit the front soon after the start and dictated the race for the entire journey, releasing the brakes on the turn and kicking clear to win by over a length to Sydney star Tie the Knot. It was to be Greg Childs' first Cox Plate victory in a career that saw him dominate the riding ranks in Victoria for many years.
With Cox Plate number two on the agenda, Sunline returned to Melbourne to win the Manikato Stakes, Memsie Stakes and Feehan Stakes, before just going down in the Turnbull Stakes. She was unbeaten in four starts at The Valley; punters installed her as the hot favourite to take out her second Cox Plate. What she proceeded to deliver, blew everyone away.
It's not often a Cox Plate is over with 800 metres to go, but it was this year. From the moment Greg Childs took her to the front, she went further and further ahead in a jaw-dropping performance, which gave the crowd a chance to cheer her home. She equalled Dulcify's record for the biggest winning margin, defeating Caulfield Cup winner Diatribe who was in second place, by a remarkable seven lengths.
Childs had reflected in the lead-up to the race that there was a lot of chatter amongst the rival jockeys that Sunline wouldn't get her way this year, however, he snuffed out any chance of being put under pressure at any stage with a bold display of front-running riding.
Sunline couldn't achieve a record third win to equal Kingston Town a year later, but she went down fighting, only losing by less than a length to Northerly. Her last career run was in the Cox Plate of 2004, finishing a gallant fourth behind Northerly again.
She was sent to stud and had four foals, none of whom matched their mothers' prowess. Sunline was put down in 2009 after suffering from the foot disease laminitis. She is buried at Ellerslie Racecourse in New Zealand. A champion in every sense of the word.