“Kingston Town can’t win.”
They were the famous words uttered by race caller Bill Collins as the champion racehorse looked out of the running to claim a historic third straight W.S Cox Plate in 1982.
We all know what happened next.
The horse known as ‘The King’ has gone down in Australian sporting history as one of our best ever gallopers and the only horse to win three Cox Plates.
After it failed to reach its $8000 reserve at the yearling sales, owner David Hains decided to race it under the guidance of Sydney trainer Tommy Smith.
At the start of its racing career Kingston Town looked anything but the champion we’ve all come to know, running last by a staggering 30 lengths in its first start in a two-year-old handicap at Canterbury.
However his maiden race proved to be an aberration as ‘The King’ – as the name suggests – went on to rule all before him.
Known as a ‘Sydney champion’, Smith brought Kingston Town to Melbourne in 1980 with a point to prove, having previously run for no wins from three starts in the Victorian capital. And prove a point he did, winning the AJC Derby and of course the first of three W.S Cox Plates.
In 1980 the black-coated star cruised to a 5 length win in Australia’s greatest weight-for-age race. In 1981 a closer three-quarters of a length victory was the result and then arguably the most famous win in 1982 when he came from nowhere to catch Grosvenor on the post.
Was the 1982 victory famous for the amazing ride by jockey Peter Cook or for Bill Collins astonishing call? Maybe both. Either way the win etched Kingston Town into Australian sporting folklore.
Next year marks 35 years since Kingston Town made it a hat trick of Cox Plate victories. It also marks the year in which we could next see that feat achieved, with the legendary Winx gunning for its very own slice of history.
In the super mare’s last start we witnessed a ‘Winx blitz’, with the champ making it 13 straight wins. The 8 length margin was the greatest in Cox Plate history.
There’s no doubt Winx has an eye on equalling Kingston Town’s record and if she comes back for the 2017 Cox Plate, which is looking likely, the one thing that is for certain is that the race caller will be keen to avoid Bill Collins’ “can’t win” call from 1982.
By Simon Draycott