When two great horses clear out on their own over the final stages and push each other to the limit it not only brings crowds to their feet but highlights what is special about the thoroughbred.
Saturday saw one of the best of recent times when Alligator Blood and Catalyst matched motors at Flemington, but where does the clash rank among the best two-horse duels?
5. Redoute’s Choice v Testa Rossa, 1999 G1 Caulfield Guineas, Caulfield.
“Testa Rossa has to find, Redoute’s digs, he lunges and wins.”
This was the culmination of an age-group rivalry that has since entered mythological status. The build up to this race created a sense of occasion and caller Greg Miles rose to it with one of his greatest big race calls.
4. Alligator Blood v Catalyst, 2020 G3 CS Hayes Stakes, Flemington.
“They’re stride-for-stride, Alligator Blood and Catalyst … “
When jockey James McDonald slid forward in the early stages on Catalyst and sat the Kiwi raider on the outside of Alligator Blood in the CS Hayes Stakes, it set the scene for one of the most stirring two-horse duels in recent times.
Went stride for stride with the NZ sensation, Catalyst. pic.twitter.com/Skn8MnlMGC
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) February 15, 2020
3. Lonhro v Sunline, 2002 G1 Yalumba Stakes, Caulfield.
“Excitement rippling around Caulfield now, the great mare is going to corner with a good lead on Lonhro.”
It is hard to beat this duel for combined star power. This battle between two of the great weight-for-age performers of their time was a passing of the torch in many ways, with Lonhro overhauling one of the greatest front-runners of modern times.
2. Northerly v Freemason, 2003 G1 Tancred Stakes, Rosehill.
“By golly these two are having a duel, 550 to go and it’s Northerly on the outside of Freemason going hammer and tong.”
When Patrick Payne, riding the $1.45 favourite and weight-for-age champion Northerly, tried to put this race to bed when he served it up to Freemason at the 800m mark, he was probably entitled to think the 35-1 would soon fold. Although seemingly outclassed and having being eye-balled by the “Fighting Tiger” from a mile to go, Freemason produced a career performance as he drew his rival into a lactic acid hell and held on in a thrilling photo finish.
Voted in at No.4 in the most memorable BMW wins of the last 20 years is 2003 winner… Freemason! pic.twitter.com/xyFnn0H9AZ
— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) March 22, 2017
1. Bonecrusher v Our Waverley Star, 1986 G1 WS Cox Plate, Moonee Valley.
“Our Waverley Star the rails, Bonecrusher the outside, and Bonerusher races into equine immortality.”
When legendary race caller Bill Collins asked “have they gone too early?” as Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star surged to the front with 600m to go in the 1986 Cox Plate, the answer was probably yes, but the tactics set up the greatest two-horse war in Australian racing history.