The recent C. S. Hayes Stakes at Flemington gave the tables of knowledge at every local pub around the nation plenty of cause for debate over talk of which is the greatest head to head turf dual of all time.
It was Alligator Blood with the narrowest of victories a fortnight ago, and they go head to head again this Saturday in the Australian Guineas in what is one of the most intriguing races of the calendar year thus far.
In the meantime, here’s a Top 5 list that should provide plenty of Friday arvo fodder in the local watering holes around the nation.
Bonecrusher v Our Waverly Star
Race: 1986 Cox Plate
When talking head to head duals, few would argue that this is the greatest of all time. Billed pre race as a two horse war, these two equine immortals didn’t let any of the 20,000 patrons jammed in to Moonee Valley down.
The call of the great Bill Collins does far more justice to the race than I ever can in words and perhaps his line as they passed the post “…and Bonecrusher races into equine immortality!” is what gave birth to ‘the race where legends are made’.
Northerly v Freemason
Race: 2003 Tancred (BMW) Stakes
Most part time racing fans would be familiar with the work of ‘The Fighting Tiger’ from the West, Northerly, but as far as Freemason goes, he would have been remembered by the die hards at best, barring one career best run back in the Autumn of 2003 at Rosehill.
Under the guidance of Patrick Payne, it was meant to be a one act affair with the WA visitor starting at $1.45 but Freemason at $31 under the guidance of Darren Beadman was having none of it. Whipping around the field in the early stages to take up a lead off a slow tempo, Freemason, the rangy son of Grand Lodge was taken on from the mile by Northerly, a renowned hard head in a dog fight. The two went at it toe to toe to the line with only a bob of the head scoring the fight Freesmson’s way.
It would be the closest Northerly would come to winning a race again, retired just three starts later.
Lonhro v Sunline
Race: 2002 Yalumba Stakes
A real match race with just the seven runners which saw an aging 7yo world conquering mare in Sunline tackling the rising star of the turf, a 4yo Octagonal colt by the name of Lonhro.
And the two left little to the imagination with Sunline taking up her customary front running role, whilst Lonhro, coming off a rare defeat by the Guy Walter trained Defier at his previous start, took up an unfamiliar position of third trailing the mighty mare by an average of two lengths throughout the run. At the 800m Sunline upped a gear, giving pacemaker Ustinov the slip and the race was on, literally for the young and old.
At the 600m, the great G. Miles proclaimed “it’s the Sunline of old” as D. Beadman got to work on Lonhro, and few were doubting his call when passing the final furlong pole she looked to have race won. But in the shades of the post, under some heavy overarm urgings (which would these days see Beadman with a raft of post-race ‘excessive use’ charges) it was Lonhro who would take the title.
Sunline would soon be retired, just one start later after yet another gallant front running display for a 4th in Northerly’s 2nd Cox Plate, her 4th crack at the race, for two wins, a 2nd and a 4th, earmarking a career worth $11 million in prize money accumulated across four countries.
Redoutes Choice v Testa Rossa
Race: 1999 Caulfield Guineas
At the time, billed as the Caulfield Guineas of the decade, few could imagine the impact some of the contenders here would have on the future shaping of Australasian breeding. The likes of Pins and Commands along with Testa Rossa still feature heavily in the pedigree pages today of any race around the country, but it was Redoutes Choice, undoubtably the most influential sire since Danehill who would be triumph here in what is remembered as a dual for the ages.
Drawn upside of each other in 1 and 2 respectively, it was J. Cassidy, under a tight hold who took Redoute’s Choice straight through to the lead with Testa Rossa trailing in 4th.
On the corner many were questioning Cassidy as the strong headed Bay carried him 4 off the fence green lighting Testa Rossa for a rails run through and quickly putting up a length a half on the hot pot favourite.
But it was the man they call ‘The Pumper’ whose praises they would be singing after the race, as Jimmy knuckled down in his customary style, lifting the future champion stallion to his greatest career victory in the final strides.
Alligator Blood v Catalyst
Race: 2020 C. S. Hayes Stakes
Again, a match race in two, just the six runners, with the favourite pair eyeballing each other in the 1/2 positions shortly after jumping and from the 400m it was literally that, eyeball to eyeball. Never headed, The Alligator showed true champion qualities extending his neck on the line for the narrowest and also gutsiest of wins.
They go at it again on Saturday in what is a far more intriguing race with the likes of WA visitor Superstorm and recent G1 WFA winner Alabama Express thrown in the mix.
It’s the Alligator again for mine, but whatever way the photo falls at the wire, I think the best bet is we will see a cracking race.