The formidable Valley specialist Manikato won the William Reid Stakes five years in a row from 1979 to 1983.
By Adam Hamilton
There is just something special about Moonee Valley and remarkable winning streaks in its biggest races.
You immediately think about the champion mare Winx and that historic swathe she cut through the Ladbrokes Cox Plate with four successive wins from 2015 to 2018.
Winx is the most recent and the most amazing – but her Cox Plate streak is just one of many incredible such chapters in the history of Moonee Valley.
Before the Winx chapter came what was quite possibly the most memorable few years Moonee Valley ever witnessed. Through the early 1980s, Kingston Town and Manikato ruled the Colosseum-like racetrack in Moonee Ponds.
Sure, what Winx did was mind-blowing, and that Bonecrusher/Our Waverly Star Cox Plate is folklore. However, those years in the late seventies and early eighties watching Kingston Town and Manikato come back time-after-time and stamping their greatness at The Valley was something else.
They were the yin and yang, which provided so many memorable moments. Kingston Town the great middle-distance and staying horse. Manikato the incredible sprinter who could stretch out and win over a middle distance.
For all of his magical and memorable race calls, the late Bill Collins – nicknamed “The Accurate One” – will be remembered for getting one wrong. He wrote off Kingston Town rounding the home turn in his third Cox Plate win in 1982. Collins said, almost casually “Kingston Town can't win!
But he did win...and emphatically.
That day even spawned a documentary, ''The King and Man'', capturing the magic of Kingston Town’s third Cox Plate win and Manikato winning the Moir Stakes just minutes later – both horses the only ones to have topped $1 million in prizemoney in Australia at the time.
It was incredible when Kingston Town won that third Cox Plate, and almost unthinkable that Winx would be able to trump him and snare her fourth.
So, think how great Manikato must have been to come back five years in a row and win one of the great sprinting races at Moonee Valley, the Group 1 William Reid Stakes?
And how he alone helped elevate the William Reid to the great race it is today – a $1 million sprint that the very best want to win.
Like Winx, Manikato’s greatness and aura made him a people’s horse in his time.
Just recently, Winx’s trainer Chris Waller talked about the mental exhaustion he felt when she crossed the line and won that fourth Cox Plate. “I didn’t think I had anything left to give,” he said. “I said to the owners I thought we should retire her.”
Imagine how Manikato’s trainer, the late great Bob Hoysted, felt when he took the mighty sprinter back for that fifth crack at the William Reid when, as a seven-year-old, he was deep into the twilight of his career and the old legs of his needing plenty of nursing.
Manikato, who was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2002, lives on at Moonee Valley in many ways. He is buried in “Manikato’s Garden” at the track and one of the track’s other great Group 1 sprint races, the Manikato Stakes, is fittingly named after him.
Manikato stands alone with his five William Reid Stakes wins. The multiple winner’s theme began at the very start when the English-born The Night Patrol won the first two runnings of the race in 1925 and ’26. Since then, another seven horses have won it at least twice.
Flying Halo is closest to Manikato with three wins (1952, ’53 and ’55).
Further underlining the greatness of the William Reid Stakes, the incomparable Black Caviar won it twice (2011 and ’13) during her unbeaten 25-start career. Her second William Reid was the 24th of her career and the last time she raced in Melbourne.
The other dual winners have been the hugely popular and white-faced Apache Cat (2008 and ’09), All Shot (1973 and ’74), Golden Doubles (1957 and ’58) and Heros (1934 and ’35).
There has been a trend of “peoples’ horses” winning it.
Queensland champion Vo Rogue was another. Best known for his daring and front-running dominance in middle distances races, the Vic Rail-trained superstar showed his versatility by winning the 1988 William Reid.
Vo Rogue was another inductee to the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame, and that William Reid win was the defining sprint race win of his career.
Black Caviar isn’t the only William Reid winner to take on the world and win at Royal Ascot, which she did in the 2012 Golden Jubilee. The Lee Freedman-trained Miss Andretti won the 2007 edition and just a few months later she smashed the track record to win the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Some of the other notable William Reid winners include Winfreux (1968), Dual Choice (1972), Family Of Man (1978), River Rough (1985), Campaign King (1986), and Zeditave (1989).
Just last year (2021) we saw one of the greatest rides in the history of the William Reid when Willie Pike weaved through a gap that hardly even looked to be there and storm to victory on the gifted Masked Crusader.
That win gave Hall of Fame trainer John Hawkes his fourth victory in the race, the first three as a solo trainer with Masked Crusader trained in partnership with his sons Wayne and Michael.
With prizemoney now at the $1million mark, the Group 1 over 1200m will continue to attract the country’s greatest sprinters.