Top 10 Legendary Australian Race Horses

Everyone loves a racing champion. EZ Horse Betting has compiled a list of the greatest race horses to ever compete in Australia. These horses are only a part of what makes racing Down Under great. Here is our list of the top ten legendary Australian race horses.  

10 – Makybe Diva

When it comes to modern Australian race horses a strong case can be made that Makybe Diva is the greatest of them all. The virtue of her inclusion on this list can be summed up by three wins in the Melbourne Cup. Some have speculated that an entire generation, or several of them, may pass before this type of feat is accomplished again. The filly was sired by Desert King.

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Makybe Diva also has a win in the Cox Plate as well as the Sydney Cup and Australian Cup. Her lifetime earnings exceeded A$14,000,000. David Hall was the first to train the horse, and Lee Freedman took over the training duties later in her career. In 2005 and 2006 Makybe Diva was named the Australian Race Horse of the Year, and was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.

The bay horse was foaled in Great Britain. It is not uncommon for horses that succeed well in Australia to be foaled in other parts of the world. The most famous example in this regard was Phar Lap.

9 – Wakeful

Most thoroughbred race horses that begin their career late in life do not perform especially well on the track. Wakeful did not compete in her first race until she was four years old. As you might expect, the expectations for a great career were not that high. There were physical problems with the horse’s shins that stalled her racing debut.

Yet, Wakeful overcame the odds and won the Oakleigh Plate in her third career start. This was followed with a win in the Newmarket Handicap and the AJC Doncaster Handicap. Wakeful was foaled in 1896, making her one of the last great Australian champions to be born in the 19th century.

The Sydney Cup is also listed among the accomplishments of Wakeful. Her victory in that event is even more impressive when one realizes that she was forced to carry the highest amount of weight in the race. Handicaps have always been popular in Australia. These types of events have varying weights assigned to different horses in an effort to make the race fair.    

8 – Manikato

Many races that are ran in Australia are long events. It is common for the greatest horses in Australia to be route runners, meaning that they are proficient at distances up to two miles! Manikato was the rare runner from Australia that excelled at sprint distances. The horse was one of the fastest on record in Australia’s history, and Manikato set numerous track records in major racing events.

Manikato was just the second horse in the history of Australian horse racing to earn more than A$1,000,000. This was done in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the purse value of races was far less than it is today. Among the more famous races that were won by Manikato are the Golden Slipper Stakes, Blue Diamond Stakes, and the Invitation Stakes.

There are some top ten Australian race horse lists which only award Manikato an honorable mention. This seems a bit unfair. One must consider the accomplishments of the horse against the backdrop of his time. Manikato was also a gelding, and that may also be why some seem to diminish his value. There was no breeding potential for the horse once his racing career had come to an end.   

7 – Ajax

Ajax was an Australian race horse that perhaps does not get enough credit in the overall scheme of Australian horse racing. This could be because he was foaled in 1934, right on the heels of the legendary Phar Lap. Any horse coming after the big red colt would have huge shoes to fill in the eyes of the public. It can be said that Ajax handled that task very well.

Ajax won 18 races in a row in Australia before he was defeated by a 40-1 longshot. The Caulfield Stakes and Cox Plate are two of the more famous races that this horse won. One of the hallmarks of Ajax was his versatility. He was successful at distances ranging from 1000m to 2400m. It is very rare for a horse to be successful at both route and sprint distances.

The horse was still capturing victories in stakes races up to 1940. His legacy has come to be more appreciated in the intervening years between his active career and the present. People are now able to evaluate how well he did by comparing the achievements against those of other Australian race horses.

6 – Bernborough

Bernborough lived from 1939 until 1960. He was a big strapping horse that displayed a tremendous amount of power. Known as a difficult ride, the horse was able to do wonderful things when his energy was channeled toward the work ahead of him on the track. What is amazing is that Bernborough was only allowed to race in Queensland because his ownership was in dispute for his entire career. This prevented him from racing on other circuits where he would have undoubtedly been successful.

The major accomplishments of Bernborough include the Newmarket Handicap and the Doomben Cup. In the Newmarket he was required to carry much more weight than his challengers. The horse was so successful that he commanded a large price when offered for sale at the age of six. It is rare for horses to be sold at that age for large sums, but the investment paid off when the horse kept on winning.

There is something to be said for a horse like Bernborough that achieves success even though it is restricted to a certain race track or circuit. Sadly, some people see this as a negative and do not give the horse the respect that it is due when comparing it against the greatest of all time.  

5 – Black Caviar

Black Caviar is undoubtedly the most successful mare of the modern era. Foaled in 2006, the achievements of this spectacular female race horse are still fresh in everyone’s memory. For this reason, Black Caviar is often questioned as an inclusion on the top ten legendary Australian race horses list. Some feel that she has not had the time for her achievements to be properly validated against the accomplishments of other horses.

The horse also traveled outside of her home to score wins in important races like the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. Black Caviar also won the Newmarket Handicap while carrying an impressive amount of weight, and she was eased for the last 100m of the race because her lead was so great.

Black Caviar was given the title of European Champion Sprinter in 2012. Unlike many of her fellow Australian horses, Black Caviar was a horse that preferred speed over distance.

4 – Tulloch

Tulloch ruled the racing in Australia from 1954-1969. He was trained by Tommy J. Smith and competed in 53 racing events. 21 of those events are ones that would be considered as group stakes events in Australia today. He was only unplaced once in his great career, winning 36 times. This was quite spectacular for the time, and it received worldwide attention as America began to enter a long drought of popular race horses that would not resolve itself until the 1970s with the emergence of three Triple Crown winners.

Some do not know that Tulloch almost lost his life in 1958 under circumstances that were not that different from the ones that claimed the life of Phar Lap. A mysterious stomach ailment felled the horse, and it was doubtful that he would recover. He did in fact overcome the illness and went on to mount a surprising comeback in 1960 which saw him return to his prior form.

Tulloch is honored in the Australian Racing Hall of Fame where his heart is preserved for all racing fans to see. He is often mentioned today when those who love Australian racing gather in drinking establishments to discuss which horse was truly the best of all time.   

3 – Carbine

Like the great Phar Lap, Carbine was bred in New Zealand. Also similar to Phar Lap, the greatest successes of Carbine came in Australia. He achieved so much in his career that his skeletal remains have been preserved. Among the biggest accomplishments was a win in the Melbourne Cup while carrying the highest weight of any horse in the event. He also won consecutive racing events on the same day, something that no modern thoroughbred would likely be able to accomplish.

Carbine was a winner of 33 starts in 43 tries. He placed in all his other events except one. It was later discovered that the horse had a cracked hoof, and this is what hampered him in his effort win that day. When he was two years old Carbine was undefeated in all of his race attempts. He continued to race well beyond the age of five years old.

Those who like to bet horses in Australia are always engaged in a lively debate about who the greatest of all time was. The discussion usually comes to down to Carbine and Phar Lap. What an interesting race between the two of these it would have been if possible. The two horses raced in different eras.  

2 – Winx

Winx has become the most successful Australian race horse of the modern era. This amazing horse is still racing well into her seventh year, and that alone is an impressive feat for a race horse in any country. The most amazing accomplishment of Winx is that she won the Cox Plate four years in a row from 2015 to 2018. She also succeeded in winning 30 consecutive stakes races, a streak that dates to 2015.

There may be no mare in the world that has come close to matching the impressive statistics of Winx. She was sired by the Irish-bred Street Cry, a former winner of the Dubai World Cup. Her owners paid $230,000 for her at auction in 2013. As of early 2019 the career earnings of Winx stand at over A$23,000,000. That is an impressive return on investment for the owners of Winx.

Winx enjoys celebrity status in Australia. She was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2017 while her career was still in progress. Winx has also been immortalized on an Australian postage stamp. The connections of this amazing horse should be given credit for keeping her healthy enough to race for so many seasons.

1 – Phar Lap

Phar Lap is most deserving of the top spot on the EZ Horse Betting list of legendary Australian race horses. Bred in New Zealand, Phar Lap achieved his greatest success in Australia and came to define excellence in Australian racing. Some draw comparisons between Phar Lap and the American champion Secretariat. Both were nicknamed “Big Red” and both broke track records wherever they ran.

Phar Lap won an amazing 37 of 51 lifetime starts. Among these wins were a victory in the Melbourne Cup, two victories in the Cox Plate, and a record-setting win in the Agua Caliente Handicap. The amazing horse was preparing for a run at greatness in North America when he died in 1932 under suspicious circumstances.

Many believe that one reason this horse was able to capture the world’s attention was the time at which he competed. America was reeling from the Great Depression, an event that had economic consequences all over the world. Those who were left with little money clung to heroes of the race track like Seabiscuit and Phar Lap as glimmers of hope that things would somehow improve.

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