Winners and losers of the spring
So You Think and his trainer Bart Cummings were the headline acts of the spring for reasons of sadness as well as joy.
Cummings’ health was a major concern and the 82-year-old was hospitalised with a recurrence of a respiratory illness just a couple of weeks after recovering from a broken pelvis.
So You Think cut a swathe through the weight-for-age races including the biggest of them all, the Cox Plate to earn the right to be hailed a champion.
A week after the Cox Plate, he dazzled in the Mackinnon Stakes with his trainer listening on the radio beside his hospital bed.
That win rocketed So Yo Think to favouritism for the Melbourne Cup and Cummings was determined to be at Flemington for what could be his 13th trophy.
He was there, not knowing it would be the last time he would see So You Think race as the four-year-old ran a gallant third to Americain.
The next day it was announced a half share in the horse had been sold to international racing and breeding giant Coolmore and he was to be transferred to Aidan O’Brien in Ireland.
A shattered Cummings said he had been left out of the loop when the deal was done to sell the horse he regarded as potentially the best he had ever trained.
The controversy could not take the gloss off So You Think’s achievements which were the reason he was so sought after by Coolmore.
Leading into the Melbourne Cup he was undefeated in five starts – the Group Two Gilgai Stakes followed by the Group One quarter of the Underwood, Yalumba, Cox Plate and Mackinnon.
He is a son of Coolmore stallion High Chaparral and will be a valuable addition to their shuttle stallion roster, valuable to the tune of a reported $30 million for the half share.
While the loss of So You Think from our shores is sad for racing fans, it pales in comparison to the greatest loss of all.
Stathi Katsidis was riding high with leading carnival contender Shoot Out when suddenly, and so far inexplicably, the 31-year-old jockey died days before the Cox Plate.
Although he had a history of problems with drugs and alcohol, the talented Katsidis had turned his life around, winning a third Brisbane premiership and two Group Ones in the autumn on Shoot Out.
Shoot Out ran a grand fourth with Corey Brown aboard in the Cox Plate and filled the same position in the Mackinnon before struggling over the 3200 metres of the Melbourne Cup.
The 150th running of the Cup had been years in the planning and eight internationals lined up in what was regarded as the strongest field for decades.
And it was a truly international result with French entrant Americain asserting himself as a true stayer.
The American bred horse, trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre and ridden by Hong Kong based Gerald Mosse, is owned by Australians Gerry Ryan and Kevin Bamford who went overseas searching for the right horse.
The only thing lacking for most of the spring in Melbourne was sunshine and wet tracks took their toll on some.
Gai Waterhouse took a team from Sydney including her Randwick carnival winners More Joyous and Herculian Prince determined to regain her strength with horses over longer distances.
Her finest moment came when Descarado showed his mettle in the wet to win the Caulfield Cup a week after More Joyous won the Toorak Handicap.
Herculian Prince didn’t have the best time down south and the Metropolitan Handicap winner’s Melbourne Cup campaign was aborted after he ran unplaced in the Lexus Stakes.
On the last day of the Flemington carnival the sun finally came out and Black Caviar stepped out into the light and up to Group One company for the first time in the Patinack Farm Classic.
She went into the race unbeaten from seven starts but facing her toughest test with a new jockey to boot after Luke Nolen was sidelined by suspension.
Entrusted with ride, Ben Melham made no mistakes and neither did the mare, putting in a sprinting performance that had Peter Moody’s training rivals labelling her the best they had seen since Vain.
Moody outlined autumn plans for Black Caviar that include races in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane which, if she won them all, would make her a serious challenger to So You Think for Horse of the Year.
Asked if he was tempted to put her on the international stages, Moody summed up his feelings:
“Bugger the world, why don’t they come and take us on?
“We’ve already lost one great champion to overseas. We’ll stay here for now.”