26th Aug 2011
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Horlicks with Graham and Deborah de Gruchy
Phar Lap (NZ) (Night Raid). Sunline (NZ) (Desert Sun). They are names that are inherent in the psyche of racing fans on both sides of the Tasman. But one mare blazed a path to glory that opened an entirely new market to the Australasian industry, and should never be forgotten as one of the true champions of the turf.
Horlicks (NZ) (Three Legs).
The champion mare passed away on Wednesday at the grand age of 28 at Cambridge Stud, after spending the past four years in blissful retirement.
Born in October of 1983, Horlicks (NZ) was the first foal of the unraced Moss Trooper mare, Malt (NZ), who had appealed to owner Graham de Gruchy so much as a yearling; he took out a bank loan to secure her.
The grey filly made her way into the stables of champion trainers’ Dave and Paul O’Sullivan, who failed to be impressed by her lack of inclination, until she hit the track on raceday.
Debuting with little fanfare at Tauranga as a spring three-year-old, the grey filly showed signs of the incomparable determination that would become her trademark, winning four races in her sophomore season.
Returning in late spring as a four year old after an indifferent campaign in August, Horlicks (NZ) quickly stamped herself as a star of the future, winning three races in succession before stepping out in Group One company for the very first time and delivering a rousing performance to defeat all bar the outstanding Cox Plate winner Bonecrusher (NZ) (Pag-Asa).
Two starts later, she was able to exact revenge upon the champion, proving too strong for the son of Pag-Asa in the Group One Television New Zealand Stakes.
The O’Sullivans then hatched an ambitious plot, taking Horlicks (NZ) to take on the previously unchartered Japan Cup after a fruitful spring campaign which saw her defeat weight-for-age superstars King’s High (Full on Aces) and Vo Rogue (Ivor Prince). Taking all before her, the mare from New Zealand won in dominant fashion, recording a race time that has been bettered once in the past 22 years.
Returning to New Zealand to record a further two wins at the highest level, Horlicks (NZ) was retired to stud in 1990 and proceeded to equal her racetrack success.
Charged by owner Graham de Gruchy to manage the stud career of his grand mare, Sir Patrick Hogan has had the pleasure of watching her dynasty develop.
“All her foals were born and reared at Cambridge,” Sir Patrick Hogan said today, “We were delighted to have her, and proud and honoured to have her as a broodmare here.”
“She was the loveliest mare. We are very sad to lose her as she was a real favourite around the place.”
“It has always amazed me the number of tourists, particularly from Japan, who don’t know much about racing but knew Horlicks and felt compelled to visit the farm to see her.”
“It is amazing how far reaching her name is.”
Horlicks (NZ) is the dam of thirteen foals, six winners, headlined by Champion Stayer and Melbourne Cup winner Brew (NZ) (Sir Tristram), and Avondale Guineas winner Bubble (NZ) (Sir Tristram).
Additionally, she is the grand-dam of stakes winners Tusker (NZ) (Volksraad), Solo Flyer (Belong to Me) and Group One winner Fiumicino (NZ) (Zabeel).
“ Graham (de Gruchy) and I had an agreement that when her day comes, my wish would be that she returns home to Hawkes Bay and be laid to rest in the manner that all good horses’ should be,” Sir Patrick said.
Horlicks (NZ) was buried at the De Gruchy’s Hastings property on Thursday. She may be gone, but will never be forgotten.