Racing: Artistic win a tribute to the great Sunline

By Mike Dillon

Artistic (rails) hangs on to win the Nissan Sunline Vase. Photo /  Natalie Slade
Artistic (rails) hangs on to win the Nissan Sunline Vase. Photo / Natalie Slade

Fiona McKee said her last wish was that Sunline herself would like the statue.

For certain she would, were she alive, the only objection being that her mouth on the bust does not open and the moving Sunline had a great delight in closing that mouth around most things human.

But this bronze memorial was not unveiled yesterday with anything to do with nature it was to honour the final resting place of one of the best mares in the world of the past two decades.

The mare who made us gasp - winning 32 of her 48 starts, with nine seconds and $11,351,607.

Irish-born Fiona McKee, wife of Sunline's co-trainer Stephen McKee, spent three years creating the memorial.

"I want to thank Stephen for his critique through the long process, even after the 300th time he looked at it," said Fiona at the unveiling.

Five minutes after the bronze was revealed the field for the $50,000 Nissan Sunline Vase further honouring the mare passed the spot where she lies beneath the Ellerslie rose gardens.

None represented the same class, but then it's only a faint hope one will in the next half century.

The winner, Artistic, is of no mean class though and the same could be said for the placegetters Joy's Choice and Splitsecond.

"She deserved that," said winning trainer Shaune Ritchie.

"She's been right up behind the best fillies and taking a short step back in class today she got her dues."

Ritchie sees Artistic as a sound back-up to his topline filly Zurella in the $300,000 Wellfield New Zealand Oaks at Trentham on Saturday week.

"If the track came up wet we could scratch Zurella in the knowledge we'd still have a nice chance with Artistic.

"They are both owned by The Oaks Stud."

Horses are not just betting vehicles, some have huge personalities.

Some can capture the human heart.

Fazzle is one of them.

Co-trainer Moira Murdoch and winning rider in yesterday's $50,000 Westbury Classic Jason Waddell are among the admirers.

"She never gives any problems, eats everything and has such a lovely nature," said Murdoch.

"You like to see horses like her winning good races."

Fazzle was good enough to win the Breeders Stakes at Counties in November and her three placings since have been in the very best company.

"Just a lovely, genuine mare," said Waddell after Fazzle got home in a desperately close finish.

Fix produced the perfect opening fix to Auckland Cup Day when she left her juvenile opposition struggling behind her in the $20,000 Lindauer 2YO at Ellerslie.

So impressive was the Iffraj filly she had James McDonald excited.

"I was surprised how easily she won," said McDonald on dismounting.

Punters who backed Fix into very short odds were relieved more than surprised.

It was a similar performance to the winning debut when co-trainer Ken Kelso produced her at Te Aroha at her only previous start.

Kelso said he was aiming Fix at the $225,000 Oaks Stud Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes on March 31, where the 1400m should suit the way the filly raced.

Ray's Girl showed the Woodville win was probably better than it looked by coming from an outside barrier to take second ahead of improver Game For Fame.

Tale To Tell showed equal contempt for her opposition to land a big punt in the New Zealand Herald 1200.

The filly recorded two placings in the spring before being spelled, returning for yesterday looking much stronger.

The 10-length barrier trial win forced the price into $3 yesterday and Tale To Tell may have won easier had she been able to sprint to the lead early.

A slightly slow beginning saw Sydney rider Hugh Bowman having to use the filly early and could not wrestle the lead.

But into the home straight, Tale To Tell broke clear and scored easily.

- NZ Herald

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