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Sunline (NZ)
Desert Sun (GB) (1988) - Songline (NZ) (1987)
Trainer: Trevor McKee

48 starts: 32 wins, 9 seconds, 3 thirds, Stakes: $11.6m
Group One wins: 13


Above: Strapper Claire Bird and the mighty mare after her win in the Waitkato Stakes (Gr.1 1400m) at Te Rapa in February 2002.

The greatest mare to have raced in Australasia, Sunline was foaled at Pleasanton Stud near Cambridge in November of 1995, the product of a mating between the son of Green Desert in Desert Sun and the Western Symphony mare Songline.

A big, strong filly, Sunline was leased by her breeders to Takanini (South Auckland) trainer, Trevor McKee.

In partnership with Thayne Green and Helen Lusty, McKee had trained and co-owned a close relation to the filly in the multiple Group winner Interval. 

With the sale of Interval to Singapore (where as Three Crowns he won the 1998 Singapore Derby), the partnership went looking for lightning to strike twice.

Racing in the McKee stable colours, Sunline had three starts as a juvenile in New Zealand for three facile wins.

Her final start at two produced her first stakes win in the Auckland Breeders' Stakes over 1200m at Ruakaka.

Sunline first arrived in the Autumn of 1998, the filly wining her first three starts in Sydney, the Furious Stakes, The Tearose, and the Group 1 Flight Stakes.

The champion front runner has added another nine Group 1's to her resume including the AJC Doncaster Handicap in 1999 and 2002.

There were also wins in the Manikato in 2000, the VATC Memsie stakes, the STC All Aged Stakes twice, the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin in 2001 and the W.S Cox Plate double in 1999-2000.

In her tilt at equalling Kingston Town's Cox Plate hat-trick of the early 1980's, Sunline was beaten into second place by magnificent Western Australian galloper Northerley in 2001 and then into fourth, by Northerly again, in 2002.

In a most memorable race she was just beaten into third spot in the 2001 Group 1 Dubai Duty Free, one of the worlds premiere weight for age races. 

The Trifecta of Jim and Tonic, Fairy King Prawn and Sunline surely included the top three gallopers in the world.

The Champion Mare won Australia's 'Horse of the year' award in the 1999, 2000 and 2001 seasons.

Season 2000-2001 reaped prize money of $3,303,022. Sunline's record for the season was as follows:

  • First Group 1 Mankikato Stakes (1200m)

  • First Group 2 Memsie Stakes (1400m)

  • First Group 2 Feehan Stakes (1600m)

  • Second Group 2 Turnbull Stakes

  • First Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m)

  • First Group 2 T B Stakes (NZ) (1400m)

  • First Group 1 Honk Kong Mile (Sha TIn) (1600m)

  • First Group 1 Waikato Draught (NZ) (1400m)

  • First Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400)

  • Third Group 2 Dubai Duty Free (UAE) (1777m)

  • Third Group 1 All-aged Stakes (1600m)

11 Starts- 8 Wins (four Group 1), 1 second, 2 thirds.

Sunline, the Queen of the Australian turf, made a stunning comeback to racing in the Group 1 Waikato Draught Stakes at Te Rapa on February 9.

The darling of New Zealand racing relished running in her homeland and bolted away from a field which included Melbourne/Caulfied Cup's winner Ethereal.

She headed to Australia for the Autumn Carnival in Sydney and under desperate riding by Greg Childs, shook off a field of good horses to win the Coolmore classic at Rosehill.

She then won the 2002 Doncaster in one of her greatest career wins holding on against the fast finishing Shogun Lodge after setting a brisk pace.

Sunline backed up the next week for an emphatic win in the All-Aged Stakes. She took the lead at the turn and put seven lengths on the field when jockey Greg Childs asked her to sprint.

Sunline returned for her final campaign in the spring of 2002.

She won the Group 2 Mudgeway Stakes in New Zealand and then returned to Australia for the George Main. Childs and the mare led into the straight but Sunline, who some said appeared rotund, couldn't go with the swoopers and ran third. It was a great run though and she looked to be clearly set for the upcoming Cox Plate.

A fitter looking Sunline then fronted up for a most memorable Caulfield Stakes. She led and kicked at the turn but Lohnro, the son of Octagonal loomed up and grabbed her on the line.

Sunline's last race was the in 2002 Cox Plate.

She took up her customary position rolling along in front and gave her final kick at the turn. Sadly it wasn't enough and she was passed by three magnificent horses. Northerly passed first and won. This guy is a freak and is our newest inductee to our Great Gallopers web. 

He'd won the Caulfield Cup (2400m Hcp) the week before and backed up to defeat Sunline in Australia's premier race for the second year in a row. The second horse to pass Sunline was Defier, referred to by many prominent racing identities as Australia' best racehorse. Third was Grandera, an international of the highest calibre ridden by the legendary Frankie Dettori.

Fans of the mighty mare were overjoyed with her grace in bowing out of racing even though the Cinderella story all race-goers had craved didn't eventuate. She returned to the ring to the rapturous applause reserved for the most loved champions of the sporting arena. 

And with on final swish of the tail, pricking of the ears and a wave from Claire Bird, Sunline was led to her stable, to lush pastures and the prospect of brilliant foals.

We salute you Sunline, Trevor McKee and Claire Bird and thankyou for the days at the races and outstanding performances - always against the best - that we'll talk about forever. Trevor, we hope you get one half as good as her soon...


One for the girls: Strapper Claire Bird and her sisters are all smiles despite the emotion after Sunline's final race.
Picture: Karen Dodd - H/Sun

SUNLINE: Principal Race Wins

Coolmore Classic 2000/2002

Waikato Draught Sprint 2001/2002

Hong Kong Mile 2001

MVRC W. S. Cox Plate 1999/2000

MVRC Manikato Stakes 2000

AJC All Aged Stakes 2000/2002

STC Fillies & Mares Classic 2000

AJC Doncaster Handicap 1999/2002

AJC Flight Stakes 1998

Trainer Trevor McKee (Right)

Gr. 2 Turnbull Stakes 2001

Gr2. AJC Apollo Stakes 2000/01

Gr. 2 Feehan Stakes 2000

Gr2. Memsie Stakes 2000/01

Gr2. AJC Warwick Stakes 1999

Gr2. CtsRC Aklnd Thoroughbred Breeders Stks 1999/00

Gr2. MVRC Moonee Valley Oaks 1999

Gr2. VRC A.V. Kewney Stakes 1999

Gr2. STC Tea Rose Stakes 1998

Gr. 2 Mudgway - Hastings 2002

Gr3. AJC Furious Stakes 1998

Beau Zam Better Loosen Up Bernborough Bonecrusher Carbine Doreimus Durrbridge Kingston Town Let's Elope Mahogany Manikato Might and Power Octagonal Phar Lap Saintly Schillaci Shaftesbury Avenue Strawberry Road Super Impose Vo Rogue Tulloch