Who remembers Kwassa Kwassa showing up in a two-year-old handicap at Flemington in April, 2009 . . . and running into a tornado in the shape of Black Caviar?
Kwassa Kwassa was showing grand potential, having won at Moonee Valley and Flemington and twice being placed in his five starts.
But a five-length trouncing by the previously unraced Black Caviar that day may have broken his spirits, because he never
won again in his remaining 10 starts.
Black Caviar has run 20 times since her debut and remains unbeaten.
Because all 20 wins since then have been in graded stakes races, she has attracted special attention from the Australian Stud Book.
The book notes that, among celebrated females of the turf, Black Caviar is within reach of the 22 stakes races won by Wenona Girl and also of Wakeful’s 25 stakes wins.
But it concedes Sunline’s 30 stakes wins may be beyond reach, though not impossible.
The honour roll of our most-successful stakes race performers is acknowledged, with the book allowing for the fact that the Australian stakes calendar was not initiated until 1979.
It places the number of stakes wins by Wenona Girl and Wakeful using the classifications used to identify feature races as Group I, II and III and Listed events.
Black Caviar’s unblemished record is made up of that juvenile debut win followed by two Listed wins, eight Group IIs and 11 Group Is.
From the book’s viewpoint, Black Caviar has joined Wakeful in equal third place on the all-time list of female Group I winners behind Sunline (13) and Wenona Girl (12).
Peter Moody, Black Caviar’s trainer, saw and doubtless admired, quite a deal of Sunline and how the powerhouse daughter of Desert Sun went about her racing with such an aggressive winning style.
But Moody was some five years away from his birth — on the last day of the racing season of 1968-69 — when Wenona Girl ran the last race of her career of 68 starts over five seasons from two to six years. He did not get to see her in the flesh, but would have liked her very much. Bred at Newhaven Park, in NSW, from the first foal crop of the stud’s French import, Wilkes, (who became a triple champion sire in Australia), Wenona Girl was in her time the darling of Sydney racing.
She was a glamour horse, with a blonde mane and tail against a rich chestnut coat, a catchy white streak down her forehead and a white sock on her off-hind leg.
Trained by former champion jockey Maurice McCarten for Bill Longworth, chairman at the time of the Sydney Turf Club, Wenona Girl won on debut as a two-year-old, in the AJC Gimcrack Stakes (1000m) at Randwick in October, 1959. She closed her career 5 and a half years later at the same track, fittingly with a victory in the All-Aged Stakes (1600m).
The Gimcrack and the All-Aged Stakes were bookends to 27 race wins for Wenona Girl, and what qualified as stakes wins is a matter for interpretation of today’s classifications.
But it is clear that at least 15 of Wenona Girl’s wins are worthy of Group I status by those standards — judge for yourself from the accompanying list.
Clarification is required on two of her wins among the 15: the VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes and the AJC Adrian Knox Stakes.
Both the VRC and AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes were graded at Group I level in the first classifications, of 1979. But while the Randwick version retains its status today, the VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes was downgraded to Group II level from 2005.
The Adrian Knox Stakes was originally registered in 1885 as the AJC Oaks, at 2400m.
When it was renamed the Adrian Knox Stakes in 1922, the distance was reduced to one mile (1600m) but then extended to 10 furlongs (2000m) in 1946 before reverting to its original one and a half mile trip in 1956, when Evening Peal won as a forerunner to her Melbourne Cup triumph six months later. Two years after Wenona Girl won the 1963 Adrian Knox Stakes, the AJC committee reverted the set weight event to its original name before another makeover in 1995, when it became, and remains, the Australian Oaks — all the while staged as a Group I event.
Wenona Girl may also have claims to a further Group I success record when she made one of three appearances during Melbourne Cup week in 1963 — taking out the weight-for-age Linlithgow Stakes (1600m) on the Oaks Day card.
In 1908, the Linlithgow Stakes replaced the feature that had been for the previous 50 years the Flying Stakes, and the list of winners from then to Wenona Girl’s success 55 years later included luminaries such as Amounis (1926-27-29), Gothic in 1928, Phar Lap in 1930, Chatham in 1931-32-33, Ajax (1937-38), Royal Gem (1945), Matrice (1956-57), Noholme (1959) and Wenona Girl’s superb rival Sky High, in 1962. In that period, the Linlithgow Stakes would most assuredly have warranted a Group I tag given the high-quality names drawn to contest the weight-for-age feature. But the Linlithgow Stakes, reduced in distance to 1400m in 1968 and given a Group II rating in 1979, is gone altogether from the Cup-week program.
It was replaced by various sponsor names until a rebranding as the Patinack Stakes, which was given automatic Group I status.
Nonetheless, the 15 Group I equivalent wins listed here for Wenona Girl (below) are legitimate and 15 should be the benchmark that Black Caviar has to beat to become the nation’s all-time Group I-winning female.
(Also worth noting that Desert Sun, sire of the mighty Sunline, is living out his days in an Eliza Park paddock after years of sterling service).