Let us not argue.
When it comes to the top racehorses in Australia, we all have our favorites.
After all, Australia has produced the best thoroughbreds in the world, to narrow it down to just five?
That’s no easy feat.
Comparing champions over different times is nearly impossible.
So call us a wuss all you want, this list is not ranked.
But we’ve chosen the best Australian racehorses of all time who have proved greatness time and time again.
In their time, they’ve set new standards by which other racehorses will now be judged.
That said, let’s pay tribute to the 5 top racehorses in Australia who have dominated Australian tracks, got pulses racing and changed lives—including history.
1. Black Caviar
- Sex: Mare
- Racing career: 2009-2013 (4 years)
- Earnings: $7,953,936
- Record: 25: 25-0-0
- Historic record: Undefeated in all her races
- Superpower: great strides
What do Usain Bold and Black Caviar have in common?
For starters, they are both sprinters.
But the horse has a historic advantage: she’s never been beaten.
In all her 25 races, this dark bay filly dominated history as a sprinter with no failures.
In fact, she thrashed a generation of 193 top racehorses in Australia in her 4-year racing career and raced for a total of 1671.96secs or 27.87mins.
What’s her Superpower?
According to experts, it’s in her extraordinary stride—which is far bigger than most horses—at 8.33m. Combine that with speed and endurance.
Simply put, she had the ability to run swiftly in sectionals and sustain them at crashing speed. That’s 24 strides over 200m.
Let her cover a 1200-meter track and she’ll ease away at 63 seconds.
Aside from having her own shampoo brand and a social media sensation, other historic honors about the first of our top racehorses in Australia are as follows:
- Rated as one of the top Thoroughbred racehorses in the world (with a 136 Timeform rating)
- Three-time Australian Racehorse of the Year (2011, 2012, 2013)
- Won 15 Group 1 Races among top racehorses in Australia
- First in the Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings (WTRR) of 2013
- Black Caviar was rated the second-best active racehorse in the world next to wonder horse British Frankel
- Longest unbeaten streak in horse racing was unequaled in more than 100 years
- Her 25 wins were achieved on seven different tracks against top racehorses in Australia
Where is Black Caviar from?
Born on August 8, 2006, her Victorian roots can’t be denied. She is the first foal of Helsinge, sired by Bel Esprit, also a sprinter.
She was born and bred in Victoria by Rick Jamieson. Her jockeys, trainer and most of her owners are full-fledged Victorians. Jamieson then sold Black Caviar to Peter Moody for $210,000 at the Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale, a move he didn’t regret and one that would prop Moody to fame by owning the winner among the top racehorses in Australia.
When did Black Caviar Retire?
“Black Caviars don’t come along every day.”
Peter Moody announced the historic horse’s retirement on April 17, 2013.
“We thought long and hard about racing on but believe she has done everything we asked of her and felt it was the right time to call time on her wonderful career.”
She retired with a flawless record and joins the ranks of undefeated top racehorses in Australia in the history of racing.
However, this isn’t the end of her remarkable story.
On September 22, 2017, she gave birth to her fourth foal as part of her successful stud career.
Her first foal, Oscietra just won her first race at Geelong in a 100m-maiden track.
- Sex: Mare
- Racing career: 2014-present
- Earnings: A$18,998,425
- Record: 35: 29-3-0
- Historic record: world record of 18 group 1 wins and possibly more
- Superpower: late-charge speed
Some records are made to be broken.
Less than five years later after Black Caviar, Winx shattered her predecessor’s 15 group 1 wins.
She holds a world-record of 18 wins under her hoof.
And she isn’t even done yet.
The day she matched Black Caviar’s winning streak, the racing world went wild.
“InWinxable. The day a champion became an immortal,” headlined the Sunday Telegraph.
Although she did have a catalog of misfortunes when she started out, mind-blowing performances rolled in out after another.
A mere six counts of defeat don’t even cast a shadow in her 29 glorious wins out of her 35 starts.
Although not yet retired, she belongs to the top racehorses in Australia of all time because she proved herself a champ in an era when it’s hard to be a champ
Think about it, lots of legends before you.
So much to prove, so much pressure.
Her racing days aren’t over so there’s more to come.
In the end, she may even outrun them all.
What’s her Superpower?
Among top racehorses in Australia, it’s definitely speed.
Late supercharge speed seems to be her signature move.
Just watch how she annihilated other top racehorses in Australia in Epsom and Doncaster and you’ll understand how she runs away with the impossible at 1400m.
Black Caviar had a particularly long stride but Winx can make 170 -freakish strides in a minute. That’s 30 more than the average top racehorses in Australia.
Simply put, she can give other horses a head start and accelerate any time she wants during the race.
“The extraordinary ability Winx has is her ability to change stride length and frequency at will that her current rivals don’t have,” Dr. Graeme Putt, a University of Auckland academic told the ABC news.
Where is Winx from?
Winx was born on September 14, September 2011, at Coolmore Stud, Jerry’s Plains in the Hunter Region of New South Wales.
This bay mare, a modern champion in our top racehorses in Australia list, is the daughter of Sire Street Cry to Vegas Showgirl, bred by Fairway Thoroughbreds.
By now names like Chris Waller (her Kiwi trainer) and High Bowman (her regular jockey) are common knowledge.
But it was the bloodstock agent, Guy Mulcaster, who first discovered her.
Mulcaster reportedly bought the yearling for $230,000 at the 2013 Magic Millions Yearling Sales on the Gold Coast.
In her still ongoing racing career, this six-year-old might mare has scored past other equine extraordinaire and makes her mark with these world-breaking records:
• Winx has earned the highest prizemoney horseracing Australia, the first to break the $16 million prizemoney barrier
• As of June 2018, she remains the highest-rated horse in the world with a 130 rating
• She’s won over 1100m, 1200m, 1300m, 1400m, 1500m, 1600m, 2000m, 2040m and 2200m races
• Winx is only the third horse to be inducted into the Australian racehorses hall of fame (next to Black Caviar and Sunline) while still racing
3. Phar Lap
- Sex: Gelding
- Racing career: 1928-1932 (4 years)
- Earnings: $66,738
- Record: 51:37–3–2
- Historic record: A legend; hero who made history against impossible odds
- Superpower: power in all its form
How do you describe a legend?
Statistics don’t make a great horse alone.
Words, not enough. Even superlatives.
But Phar Lap, here’s a legend who is larger than horse racing.
Winx and Black Caviar are sprinters.
Phar Lap is an all-around runner—a sprinter, a marathoner, a stayer.
In the 1930’s, at the height, weight, and depth of the Great Depression, Australians found hope in a horse.
Whenever he ran, the people’s dreams also went the distance.
Perhaps, it’s also this epic history in his back that makes Phar Lap the highest-rated Australian racehorse at 141.
Surprisingly, among famous Australian racehorses, had humble beginnings. He was skinny, clumsy, had warts all over his head, was worth $130, and was unplaced in his first four races in 1929.
But on September 14, of the same year, he came second in the Sydney Tattersalls Chelmsford Stakes.
People began to suspect, could there be more?
Indeed, Phar Lap’s career was much more than losing stats.
In 1930, he survived a bullet making what he did next even more remarkable:
He won four races in the next seven days of the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
He’s best remembered in the Melbourne Cup for carrying an enormous 62.5 kg handicap.
Impressively, he was carrying over 4 kg more than any other horse had ever carried in that Cup and still won.
What’s his Superpower?
Legends are born not made.
Scientists believe it’s in his DNA.
He had an unusually large heart, 1.5 times bigger than the average, at 6.35 kilograms.
“He was a biological freak,” says sports historian Mark O’Neill.
“The horse had amazing endurance, and did some amazing things under stress.”
His last race at Agua Caliente, Mexico on March 20, 1932, was a clear proof of his power and greatness under duress.
From Australia, he traveled in a cold ship.
Went on an 800 km. summer road trip.
Then suffered a hoof injury!
His rider Billy Elliot? Darn it, he was inexperienced in dirt tracks.
With both racing on dirt for the first time, Phar Lap had to carry 58.5 kg handicap; while wearing heavy bar shoes, also for the first time.
He was unstoppable; won against all odds.
Thus, this rich red gentle gelding, who stood at 17 hands high, won from sprints to marathons or whatever distance he was asked.
This kind of heart, world-impact, power, and versatility is unique, if not unmatched, in Australian horse racing history.
Where was Phar Lap from?
As Australian as he was, Phar Lap was born in Timaru, New Zealand on October 4, 1926, to sire Night Raid and Entreaty winkie.
As a yearling in 1928, trainer Harry Telford bought him from a thoroughbred sale at 160 pounds. It was under the money of David J. David, an American businessman.
Hence, a copy of the auctioneer’s slip can be seen at the National Museum, with Davis of Sydney as the buyer.
How did Phar Lap Die?
Phar Lap died in a private farm near Menlo Park, California on April 5, 1932—weeks after beating the odds at the Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico.
He died tragically, and somewhat romantically, in American soil under the arms of his attendant—and best friend, Tom Woodcock.
Controversy surrounded his death which included arsenic poisoning by mysterious mafias.
No one would expect a horse could ever breed sadness, suspicion, and regrets.
However, in 2000, equine experts claimed he died of a bacterial infection, not of any poison.
His untimely death was devastating and left millions of fans all over the world, especially Australians with many “what ifs”.
On the upside, innumerable versions of his tale have been immortalized by books, online articles, and a movie.
His accolades don’t fall short of any best Australian horses of all time and numerous outlets have named him among the greatest, the best, all superlatives, including sports illustrated and the Blood Horse Magazine.
- He won 37 races from 51 starts at spectacular speed and impossible lengths
- He’s a national icon in both Australia and New Zealand as part of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame and New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame
- He has a$500,000 life-sized bronze memorial erected in his birthplace
- Numerous books and a 1983 movie was made in his honor
- Sex: Stallion
- Racing career: 1887-1891 (4 years)
- Earnings: ₤29,626
- Record: 43: 33-6-3
- Historic record: Greatest Melbourne Cup winner of the 19th Century
- Superpowers: stamina, versatility, speed, weight-carrying ability
Phar Lap may as well be the greatest racehorse in Australia.
He had the greatest story.
After-Phar Lap, arguably, no one would ever stack up against the legend.
But Before-Phar Lap, there was Carbine.
In a time when sports heroes were myths, none was bigger than Carbine.
Carbine was the first true champion of Australian racing.
He did everything Phar Lap Did.
As a four-year-old, he won two races on the same day, four times.
He had 15 consecutive wins, more than Phar Lap.
He was just as versatile: winning sprints and stayers, or five top-class races in eight days. All at the Randwick Autumn Carnival of 1890.
This light-colored bay set records in all distances, back in the day.
Most memorable: he conquered the 1890 Melbourne Cup against 39 horses—the largest cup field ever—while carrying the biggest weight in history at 65.8kg.
This record remains unbeaten up to this day.
If he and Pharlap would be in one form guide, his stats would have made him the better runner.
Don’t contest Phar Lap punters.
Phar Lap, after all, was Carbine’s great great great grandson.
Enough said, Grandpa Carbine, was disruptive.
A.C. (After Carbine), a sport was born out of racing.
What’s Carbine’s Superpower?
His superpowers arguably equal Phar Lap.
Sporting geniuses praised his “superb action and combined staying power with sprinting ability to an exceptional degree.”
At 16.1 hands high, “Old Jack” as he was fondly called, had a deep barrel, excellent form and a number of cute antics.
He’s often caught stopping, staring and relishing the cheers of the crowd as handlers force him to move on.
He never liked the rain. So much, his trainers had him wear a hat because he didn’t like his ears getting wet.
He was much loved for his colorful personality, as much, as for his enduring power.
Where was Carbine from?
Carbine was foaled on September 18, 1885, at Sylvia Park Stud in Auckland New Zealand. He was the third foal of Dam Mersey and last of the great Sire Musket.
On January 5, 1887, he was sold for only 620 guineas to Dan O’ Brien. Not bad for the winning returns.
When Did Carbine Retire?
He was retired from his 4-year racing career on October of 1891.
The Duke of Portland bought Carbine for 13,000 guineas and was taken to England to the Duke’s English stud at Welbeck Abbey.
In 1914, the Duke found Carbine struggling for his life with blood pouring out from his nose.
He suffered a stroke and had to be put down on June 10, 1914.
Undoubtedly, he’s both a sensational racehorse and a sire.
With that much honor, the Duke of Portland gave his skeleton to the Melbourne Horse Racing Museum and three of his hooves were made into inkstands.
During his time, accolades weren’t a thing. He’s not, however, deprived of honors or titles worthy of a conqueror.
Hereby we declare:
Phar Lap was a legend.
But Carbine made a legacy.
These are the honors of a great Sire and Champion:
- On retirement Carbine stood four seasons at stud in Australia before being sold to the Duke of Portland in 1895
- Carbine’s phenomenal progenies dominated the English Derby and the Melbourne Cup from 1914 to 1968.
- Simply put, without Carbine, there would be no Spearmint (winner of the 1906 Epsom Derby) Phar Lap, Comic Court, Rising Fast, Rain Lover or think Big (to name a few)
- He became one of first five inaugural inductees into both the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame and the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
- In 2013, he was awarded Legend status into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame along with his direct descendant Phar Lap
5. Makybe Diva
- Sex: Mare
- Racing career: 2002-2005 (4 years)
- Earnings: $14,526,685
- Record: 43: 33-6-3
- Historic record: The only horse to win three consecutive Melbourne Cups
- Superpowers: versatility, fast-recovery
It could have been Kingston Town.
But the last champion in our top racehorses in Australia goes to Makybe Diva because of this:
Three Melbourne cups in a row.
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“Well, you can’t do better than that,” so said Cup king Bart Cummings.She was the first mare to win the Sydney Cup and the Melbourne Cup in the same season, only after Carbine in 1890.
But it was her three successive wins in the race that stops the nation that made her unstoppable.
Admittedly, she never stood out in any of her races at the age of three.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
It wasn’t her time.
But when she turned four, there came the story.
She became a dominant-machine in the 2003 Melbourne Cup with her hair-racing leaps that rallied the crowd of 122, 736 behind her.
The next two years were the diva’s golden ages.
Just like Phar Lap, she won every major horse race in Australia.
The Australian Cup.
And the Sydney Cup.
There came a point in her racing career when Australians would picture Makybe Diva in any kind of competitive race.
Then try to imagine her failing. It was impossible.
This impossible made the invincible immortal.
The Bay Mare earned numerous accolades after her third Melbourne Cup—love from fans, respect from the racers and the awe of the world.
Where was Maykbe Diva from?
The Australian race superstar was foaled in England by Tugela to Sire Desert King in 1999.
As a yearling, she failed to attract a bid at an auction in England.
Until South Australian Tony Santic came along.
The Tuna Tycoon brought the foreign bred horse to Australia and renamed her Makybe Diva after the first two letters from five of his employees’ name: Maureen, Kylie, Belinda, Diane, and Vanessa.
Along with trainers David Hall and Lee Freedman, no one had foreseen she would, later on, be one of the foreign-bred horses to rule the Melbourne Cup, only thrice.
When Did Maykbe Diva Retire?
Fifteen historic wins were enough for Tony Santic.
The rest of her owners decided to retire the 7-year-old mare after her third Melbourne Cup win in 2005.
What’s Maykbe Diva’s Superpower?
Speed, versatility, endurance and impressive recovery earned her the spot among other racing legends before her.
Stayers, no matter how phenomenal, struggle for one victory.
So it doesn’t matter if other equine legends have won more and run more—no horse has ever surpassed the diva’s three consecutive Melbourne Cup wins, regardless of era.
Ten years after her retirement, it’s been revealed that Lee Freedman regretted the decision.
After all, just like wine, she gets better with age.
Other horses need time to recuperate after a rest, she would be ready to race in a day or two. As Lee Freedman confirms:
“The characteristic that all those great ones have is that enormous recuperative powers. Her longevity and her resilience to win those sort of races at her age make her an exceptional racehorse.”
Aside from a property, a life-sized bronze statue and a race named after her, the fifth horse that completes the list of our top racehorses in Australia ends her racing career with honors:
- Awarded the Spirit of Sports Award in 2006 by the Sports Australia Hall of Fame
- Inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2006
- Became Australian Racehorse of the Year in 2005 and 2006
- Awarded Champion Filly and Mare in 2005
- Australian Champion Stayer in 2004, 2005 and 2006
- The only mare elevated to the status of Legend in Australia Racing Hall of Fame in 2010
Our Five Top Racehorses in Australia: Criteria
We were subjective.
However, unprecedented wins were considered heavily. Superlatives especially.
No names were tossed or disrespected.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t all about speed, endurance, feats, titles or any other wins that completed our 5 top racehorses in Australia list.
It was influence.
Cultural, historical, phenomenal impact.
These horses, in their own respective time, rallied the nation to run with them, brought back the sport in horse racing and made emotional supporters out of punters.
All in, they were game changers.
As the great Winston Churchill once said:
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
These horses, they are all good. No arguments here.
Now you have your say and let us know who your top five horses are! Don’t forget to spread the word and share this with your friends.
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