Racing: Track burial for Sunline, the public champion

By Mike Dillon

Greg Childs yesterday summed up Sunline best.

There will forever be comparisons between the great Kiwi mare who died yesterday and Makybe Diva, magnificent triple winner of the Melbourne Cup.

And the man who rode Sunline to 22 of her 32 victories is best qualified to comment.

"Makybe Diva was an outstanding mare, but she was always set for a handful of specific targets and pretty much she won them.

"She raced herself into form getting to her target races.

"Sunline was different. She came into racing after a spell and won her first start, then her second start, then her third start - that's why the public loved her because they punted on her and she rarely let them down.

"She was known as a winner."

Beautifully put.

Sunline was yesterday laid to rest in a lovely spot at Ellerslie among the gardens and trees close to the saddling barn. It's a spot accessible to the public on racedays and non-racedays.

"That was important to us, the access bit," explained Auckland Racing Club racing manager Andrew Castles.

The McKee family covered themselves in glory with the way they handled Sunline throughout a long career and the great mare's demise was handled with no less care.

"Everything Trevor and Stephen did with this [the burial] was dignified," said Castles.

Greg Childs admits to being shocked by the news yesterday morning when telephoned in Melbourne.

"If there's a funny part to our association it was that people are always remembering me as that bloke that rode Sunline, but they can't remember my name.

"Yesterday morning was typical when I went into a shop just before I got the call from Stephen [McKee] to say Sunline had been put down.

"The bloke behind the counter said: 'You're that bloke that rode Sunline, what's your name, Boss? Gauci?'

"I don't really mind but it happens all the time and what it shows is how much of an icon Sunline still is with Australians."

Childs retired last year and says practically all his racing memories will be of Sunline.

"For one jockey to win 22 races on one horse at that level doesn't happen these days.

"The wonderful thing about Sunline is that my wife and my children followed me and became part of it.

"The house I now live in was paid for by Sunline.

"It grew my stature and my bank balance.

"We won't be forgetting her in a hurry.

"I feel very sad about what's happened today."

Sunline developed laminitis last year. The disease strikes in varying degrees from very minor to requiring a horse to be put down.

American expert Ric Redden was flown to New Zealand by the McKees earlier this week and determined Sunline "had lost all quality of life".

"We were faced with only one decision," said Stephen McKee.

Sunline's first foal, Sunstrike, won her first race at Te Aroha on February 13 and competes there today.

RECORD OF A LEGEND

* Sire: Desert Sun. Dam: Songline.
* Breeders: Susan Archer and Michael Martin
* Owner Trevor McKee, Thayne Green, Helen Lusty
* Trainer Trevor McKee
* Record 48 starts: 32-9-3
* Earnings $13,700,607.
* Major Wins: Cox Plate (1999-2000); Doncaster Handicap (1999-2002); All Aged Stakes (2000-2002); Coolmore Classic (2000-2002); Waikato Sprint (2001-2002); Hong Kong Mile (2000); Manikato Stakes (2000).
* Racing Awards: New Zealand Horse of the Year (1999-2002); Australian Horse of the Year (2000, 2001, 2002)

- NZ Herald

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