Subzero paved the way

28 October 2022 Written by Joe McGrath

There have been 161 Melbourne Cup winners, some multiple, throughout the history of the race. While the likes of Phar Lap (1930), Carbine (1890) and Maybe Diva (2003-05) are hard to top in terms of performance on the track, Subzero (1992) stands alone as a trail blazer off it. Subbie passed away in 2020, and this year marks the 30th anniversary of his win in the famed race.

One of only six greys to win the race, Subzero was trained by Hall of Famer Lee Freedman and ridden mainly by multiple group one winning jockey, Greg Hall. He was noted for being relaxed, talented and capable of running out a strong two miles. A win in the Adelaide Cup earlier in 1992 was proof for those looking to earmark a prospective stayer for the spring.

Subbie’s 1992 Melbourne Cup

The grey gelding Subzero was Australian bred, winner of both the South Australian Derby and the Adelaide Cup in the autumn of 1992. But it is fair to say that he was hardly a household name until he won the Melbourne Cup impressively as a four-year-old on a wet Flemington track in 1992. This gave trainer Lee Freedman the second of his five Melbourne Cup wins. It was a triumph for top jockey Greg Hall who had won the Cox Plate a week earlier on Subzero’s stablemate Super Impose.

Subzero was purchased more or less to win a Golden Slipper, but as many will know, genetics is an inexact science, and it was realised early on that sprinting was not his genre. Accordingly to Hall, he was so relaxed and an absolute joy to ride. He was such a tractable horse you could do a lot with him in the run, Hall would often say on the road with the Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour. “He made my dreams come true.”

But winning a Melbourne Cup would be half the story for Subzero, as he proved such a great ambassador post racing being the star of Racing Victoria’s Off the Track program. He visited schools, hospitals, aged-care facilities ... you name it, he did it. He made an appearance at a Dubai World Cup, visited countless racetracks across the country and even made it up the lift in Crown Towers onto the roof top garden! He also made a regular cameo appearance at Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour events.

He displayed an unusual sense of empathy rarely seen in a horse and for many, he was almost human. When on the road with handler Graham Salisbury, who only passed away two months prior to Subbie, he often would make a bee-line to those most affected, whether they be a young wheelchair-bound child, or an elderly man or woman barely capable of raising an arm for a pat. His patience, care, compassion and love for people shone through every time. He had ultimate trust in Graham Salisbury and Graham had complete faith in him. He was unflappable in and amongst crowds.

Subzero blazed a trail for all horses post their racing careers.

While he proved popular as a Clerk of the Course on race day, he blossomed when on the road engaging with the broader community. He was an inspiration for administrators who could see the value in establishing a sanctuary for past great racehorses at Living Legends nearby Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne.

In recent years, a grey race series was set up in his honour across the Spring Carnival and he was acknowledged by the Australian Racing Hall of Fame for outstanding contribution to the racing industry back in 2014.