Great New Zealand jockey Noel Harris has compared Bonecrusher to the one and only Phar Lap.
And the man who rode the mighty Bonecrusher in all but one of his 18 victories - Gary Stewart - has paid tribute to the horse which changed his life.
Bonecrusher, the $3000 buy who went on to win a string of major races such as the Cox Plate, has died at 33. His passing has rekindled memories of when horse racing held a central part in New Zealand life, and produced thoroughbred stars like Bonecrusher, Sunline and Kiwi and harness racing legends such as Cardigan Bay.
"It really was rugby, racing and beer back then," Harris recalled. "Our best horses go overseas now."
The 60-year-old Harris, who rode more than 2000 winners in a famously long career, said Bonecrusher - the champion horse of the 1980s - had a magical connection with the public that went much wider than the racing community. Harris rates the Australian star Kingston Town as the finest horse he has seen, with Bonecrusher next. But Bonecrusher - known as Big Red - had a special magic beyond the track.
"People who didn't follow racing still knew about Bonecrusher," Harris said.
"He would come from impossible positions to win races...you would have him written off and he would come home with those powerful finishes.
"They said that Phar Lap had a heart twice the size of normal horses and I think Bonecrusher was probably the same. He just caught the imagination of the public.
"And people here loved him because he went over and beat the Aussies...he made the Aussies look second class. I think he was New Zealand's answer to Phar Lap, who was also known as Big Red."
The New Zealand-born Phar Lap dominated Australian racing and captured the public's heart during the 1930s, becoming the most famous horse in Australasian racing history.
Harris said beating Bonecrusher were highlights of his career. Harris managed the feat twice.
"To have that on your CV was plus plus," he said.
"I never talked to Gary about riding Bonecrusher but I didn't have to. You just had to look at how big and strong he was to sense what it would be like. I would love to have hopped on board him...a lot of jockeys got close but only to his backside."
The 52-year-old Stewart, who has lived in Queensland for the past five years, was on board for 17 of Bonecrusher's 18 victories, his only miss being due to suspension when Jim Cassidy took the reins.
Stewart said: "Even now, people say 'You were Bonecrusher's rider' and I'm so flattered to be known as that.
"To be involved with a horse of his calibre is something very special and doesn't happen to many jockeys. I was fortunate that it happened to me.
"He had such a great constitution which is why he lived to a ripe old age. I've been told his mind was still sharp but the body couldn't sustain any longer.
"He was one in a million, that's for sure. After he retired, I rode another 1000 horses before I realised how super special he was."
Stewart, who was raised in Avondale and did his apprenticeship in Takanini, was working for trainer Frank Ritchie and owner Peter Mitchell when he got the call to ride the two-year old in an 800m race at Avondale where he ran fourth, then won his next start.
"No one could predict the great heights at that point - when he came back as a three-year-old he had improved out of sight," said Stewart.
"He got a cult after winning the New Zealand Derby and then he took Sydney by storm in the autumn, and Melbourne by storm in the spring."
Predictably, Stewart rates the 1986 W.C. Cox Plate win at Moonee Valley in Victoria as the highlight, when Bonecrusher beat another champion Kiwi horse Our Waverley Star in a stunning finish to match the 'Race of the Century' hype.
"It's great to see how they still show the race a lot and it is etched in everyone's memory," said Stewart.
"The horse had a great ability to relax and conserve energy and he would come with finishing bursts. He had a tenacious will to win. He was a lovely horse to be around. It was just great to be involved riding a horse of that calibre through his career."
Born in NZ
51 starts, 37 wins, 3 seconds, 2 thirds.
12 major wins (1929 - 32)
Earnings: 66,738 Australian pounds (3rd highest in the world at the time)
Nickname: Big Red
Born in NZ
44 starts, 18 wins, 5 seconds, 12 thirds
10 major wins (1985 - 87)
Earnings: NZ$674,225/A$1,679,495 (first NZ thoroughbred to earn $1m)
Nickname: Big Red