The retirement of So You Think a few weeks ago gives pause to reflect on a career whose significance was lost, coming as it did between Makybe Diva and Black Caviar.
So You Think was good enough to win the Cox Plate as a three year old, becoming only the third horse since 1984 to achieve the feat. In the spring of 2010 he demonstrated his true greatness with dominant wins in the Cox Plate and the McKinnon Stakes and a third in the Melbourne Cup.
His performances in the UK and Europe have been somewhat underestimated. He won Group I races against small fields because other trainers avoided him in much the same way that they avoid Black Caviar here. He ran fourth (first male horse across the line) in the Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe at Longchamp, a huge performance in the context of Australian racing. The Arc is the race that the purists rate as the best bar none.
His performances overseas also have to be considered against the background of the admissions by Aidan O’Brien that he trained So You Think wrongly by trying to turn him into a dour stayer rather than taking advantage of his devastating speed.
So You Think will now have the opportunity for greatness as a stallion in the coming years. With the resources of Coolmore at his disposal he will have every opportunity to succeed and he seems to have the attributes for a successful stallion, racetrack success, breeding and stunning looks.
To me, he’s our best middle distance horse since Makybe Diva and second only to Black Caviar in the last few years. I would have loved to see Bart given the chance to give him a proper Melbourne Cup preparation, rather than taking the race on as an after thought having won another Cox Plate. Having seen the Cox Plate field last year I believe he could have annexed that race on the way through, anyway. I also would have loved to see So You Think race against Frankel over 2000m. I doubt he could beat Frankel but I think he’s one of very few that could make a race of it.
In about 1993 I went to Moonee Valley with a friend for the William Reid stakes meeting. At the time I had no interest in racing but was happy to go along and see what goes on and have a few beers.
In the first race that was run after we walked in, there was a horse called Don’t Cry. This was too good to ignore for a young Guns n Roses fan so I had $5 place only on it. It came second at any old price and of course I was thrilled. I knew it was just a fluke but it certainly caught my attention. Everyone we spoke to that day told us that a horse called Wrap Around would be winning the main race and she did at a suitably short quote.
The same day a horse called Dr Grace was pointed out to me and I thought he was the most incredible looking animal I had ever seen.
After that day I took a passing interest in horse racing for the next couple of years. I was a regular weekend punter but took no real interest in anything other than what was in the form guide from week to week.
Around 1995 there began to be racing on TV regularly, at least that was the first time that I noticed it. That year, Octagonal ran 2nd in the Golden Slipper, unleashing an incredible finishing burst but just failing to catch Flying Spur. The following spring he won the Cox Plate, becoming the first three year old since Red Anchor 11 years earlier to win the race. It is history now that Octagonal took all before him as an autumn three year old, winning four Group I’s in succession.
It was with the emergence of Octagonal that I began to realize that the great horses had something that even very good horses didn’t. It was as if he knew where the finish line was and that his job was to get there first. Once you see that, you’re looking for it everywhere but you see it only rarely. I’ve seen it again with Northerly and Sunline but not many others. Makybe Diva and Black Caviar just seem to be a class above their opposition so it’s unfair to compare them.