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Ad Black Caviar in 2013, winning the race named in her honour and eclipsing the time set by Special 25 years earlier. (Lucas Dawson/Getty Images/VRC)

The Straight Six is memorable for fast sprinters

18 December 2023 Written by Racing & Sports

Flemington racecourse could be home to the most famous strip of turf in Australian racing.

It is home to Australia’s most prestigious sprint race, the Newmarket Handicap, Australia’s premier speed test, the Black Caviar Lightning, along with the country’s most significant race for three-year-olds, the Coolmore Stud Stakes.

It has hosted all of our greatest sprinters and has been the scene of some of our most iconic performances.

Given the 1200m strip of turf’s nickname as ‘The Straight Six’, here are six speedsters who hold a special place in the history of the Flemington straight course.

BLACK CAVIAR

This list is not about detailing the best horses to have graced the Flemington straight, but it is impossible to lead off with anyone other than the undefeated champion.

Black Caviar’s first start was at Flemington, she won her first Group 1 race there and won all of the straight-track Group 1 races for open-age gallopers, including three-straight wins in the race that now carries her name, the 1000m Black Caviar Lightning.

Black Caviar won her second Lightning in 55.53 seconds, which was just 0.03secs outside Special’s track record set in 1988, but she claimed the honour as the fastest horse at Flemington in her final start there, when she won the 2013 Lightning in 55.42secs.

No horse has come close to bettering Black Caviar’s 1000m benchmark since, with Testa Rossa’s 56.04secs win in the 2000 Lightning Stakes the next fastest time recorded this century.

IGLESIA

Luke Nolen’s decision to take it easy on Black Caviar over the final 50m of the 2011 Newmarket Handicap is the only reason she does not also hold the 1200m record, leaving Iglesia’s 2001 Standish Handicap performance as the benchmark time for that trip.

On a hot day, with a howling tailwind on a firm track, the son of Last Tycoon justified a monster betting move - $11 into $3.50 – to score by 2.5 lengths in a time of 1:07.16.

Black Caviar ran 1:07.32 in the Newmarket and she remains the only horse to have come close to bettering Iglesia’s mark since.

Iglesia died less than six years after his career-defining run but continues to impact straight-track racing with his son Written Tycoon a top stallion and the sire of reigning Black Caviar Lightning winner Coolangatta.

GOLD ACE

Iglesia claimed the 1200m record from Gold Ace, who remarkably took it from a member of his own family.

The owner of the six-furlong (1207m) record when metrics were introduced in 1972 was the great Aurie’s Star, who had his time converted to a 1200m time of 1:07.8secs, which Final Card matched when he provided Anthony Cummings with his first Group 1 winner on Derby Day 1991. 

Five years to the day later Gold Ace who, like Final Card, is out of the mare Coup De Chance, ran 1:07.5secs in the same race.

Final Card’s Derby Day win was his only Flemington success, but Gold Ace won three other races down the straight, including the 1996 Lightning Stakes.

PRINCESS ABASSI

Maintaining the family theme, Princess Abassi is worth a mention not only for her blowout maiden win, but also due to one of her sons being a feature winner down the straight.

The John North-trained filly remains one of the longest-priced winners in Flemington history thanks to her win in the 1200m two-year-old event on July 25, 2001, when she started $201 but returned a SuperTab dividend of $323.70.

Princess Abassi’s first named-foal was Lord Of The Sky, a son of Danerich who scored an upset win in the Group 3 Standish Handicap in 2018.

TAKEOVER TARGET

The bargain buy emerged as a bona fide star of Australian sprinting with Group 1 victory on Derby Day 2004, which was the seventh-straight win to start his career.

His winning run ended there, but Takeover Target returned to Flemington in 2006 to win the Lightning Stakes and Newmarket Handicap, and he remains the only male speedster to have won the VRC’s three Group 1 open-age sprints – the Newmarket Handicap, Lightning Stakes and Champions Sprint.

Mares Maybe Mahal and Special achieved the feat previously and Black Caviar has done it since, while Miss Andretti also won all three races, but her Lightning and Newmarket wins were at Moonee Valley and Caulfield respectively.

Nature Strip ridden by Jamie Kah winning the Black Caviar Lightning in 2021. (George Salpigtidis/Racing Photos)

NATURE STRIP

The enigmatic sprinter is just as famous for some of his defeats at Flemington as his victories, but he sits behind only Black Caviar (eight wins) as the most prolific straight-track winner this century.

Among his six wins are two VRC Sprint Classic victories and a Black Caviar Lightning success.

Nature Strip is one of just five horses to have contested the Lightning four times, along with Marmion, Zambari, Tauto and Zambari, while Redelva – the 1990 Lightning winner – holds the record for the most Lightnings contested with five.

Nature Strip is also one of only four horses to have run to at least 130 on the Timeform scale down the straight this century.

Both of his Champions Sprint wins came in 130, the same mark Lankan Rupee ran to win the Black Caviar Lightning.

Hay List posted a Timeform figure of 132 when he lumped 58.5kg to victory in the Newmarket Handicap with his great rival Black Caviar the only horse to have posted superior ratings.

She owns the three highest ratings run at Flemington this century; 136 in the 2012 Lightning, 135 in the Newmarket Handicap and 133 in the 2013 Lightning.