LEGENDARY WINNER - BONECRUSHER
2011 marks the 25-year anniversary of the epic battle that was universally acclaimed as the ‘Race of the Century’.
It was the 1986 W. S. Cox Plate, where two New Zealand horses became gladiators, and it was Bonecrusher, who ‘raced into equine immortality’ that afternoon at Moonee Valley.
Only Moonee Valley could deliver the theatre of this amazing race. The Valley became the Colosseum, and the crowd roared as Our Waverley Star and Bonecrusher went stride for stride, testing both horse and rider over the final 800 metres of the Weight-For-Age Championship.
Both horses entered the race with outstanding form behind them. Bonecrusher was a New Zealand Champion, with a cult-like following, having won a string of three-year-old classics including the New Zealand Derby. His form continued in Australia winning the AJC Derby, the Underwood Stakes, and the Caulfield Stakes.
In turn, Our Waverley Star had dominated in New Zealand in the lead-up to the W.S. Cox Plate. Given this, the race was highly anticipated, especially as it was the first time the two horses would meet each other under race conditions. It was, in essence, a match race to crown the champion thoroughbred of their generation.
It was an ideal race setting, raced at an even tempo, in perfect weather and track conditions, neither favouring nor disadvantaging either horse. Our Waverley Star settled wide, mid-field, while Bonecrusher, as usual, settled towards the back of the field.
At the 800 metre mark, Bonecrusher, ridden by Gary Stewart made his move and positioned behind Our Waverley Star, ridden by Lance O’Sullivan. Quickly, the two horses cleared out from the rest of the field. Race caller Bill Collins giving what is considered to be one of the finest ever race calls - questioned whether the horses had gone to early: “Here come the New Zealanders . . . have they gone too early...?”.
From this point it was a two-horse race. As they entered wide into the home straight, Bonecrusher had a slender lead. Quickly, Our Waverley Star gathered in Bonecrusher and it seemed he would pull away, but with bullish determination Bonecrusher fought back to win by a neck at the post. Never before had we seen two horses fight so hard, straining their every fibre, to cross the finishing line in front.
Subsequently, the 1986 W.S. Cox Plate has become folk-lore - both inside and outside of racing circles. This was largely due to the build-up and expectation being fulfilled in such a compelling outcome. “This was one of those races where the hype in the lead-up was matched, surpassed even, by the race”, Bill Collins.