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Getting off the Canvas

by Zeb Armstrong for AJRA


What do the former superstar middle distance horse Shogun Lodge and the immortal champion jumper Hibernian Prince have in common? The immediate answer that comes to mind is nothing! Well, both are racehorses of course, and upon scrolling through the archives it soon becomes apparent, that the two stars of the early 21st century do in fact have something in common.

Both these racehorses shared heartbreak over the Easter weekends of 2001 and 2002 and both endured a very similar set of circumstances in their losses. The difference is that Hibernian Prince bounced back from his heartbreak, whereas Shogun Lodge, the Sydney star, was more often than not relegated to the bridesmaid position. What does all this mean you may wonder? Consider…

The Doncaster Handicap, Australia’s best 1600m race and the Great Eastern Steeplechase, one of Australia’s great jumps events, have been for decades both held over the Easter long weekend. In 2001 Shogun Lodge was battling to get past the star Waterhouse trained gelding Assertive Lad in the Doncaster, while Hibernian Prince, some 1,400km was giving his all to get past St. Steven in the Great Eastern Steeplechase. Both Shogun Lodge and Hibernian Prince weren’t winners in their races; Shogun Lodge was dismantled by a few lengths, while Hibernian Prince was beaten over the gruelling 4950m by a very slender margin…

Fast forward 12 months to the Easter long weekend 2002 and the exact same thing happened! This time it was the champion mare Sunline who denied Shogun Lodge victory in the Doncaster, while a grey gelding named Ballata took first place from Hibernian Price in the Great Eastern Steeplechase. In 2001 Shogun Lodge was beaten 3.2 lengths in the Doncaster, while Hibernian Prince was beaten as abovementioned, less than half a length in the Great Eastern. In 2002 in the same races, the roles were reversed.

For two horses to both be defeated in the same respective races by such similar margins in consecutive years is truly remarkable, even if these races could not be more different. One is a handicap over 1600m that today is worth some $3 million dollars, while the other is a steeplechase over 4950m worth $166,000.

But for the connections of Hibernian Prince it is not all bad news. In 2001 after being defeated in the Great Eastern at Oakbank, Eric Musgrove gave his star gelding a nice freshen-up, and next start entered the great jumper in the Grand Annual Steeplechase in Warrnambool. In 2001, the defeat in the Great Eastern was quickly erased by a win in the granddaddy of jumps racing, the Grand Annual. This was a brilliant piece of training by Eric. The horse all but won the race in Oakbank, and he did not need another run heading to the ‘Bool. He won by 7 lengths!

Then again in 2002, after going down in the Great Eastern, Eric again aimed his star steeplechaser at the Grand Annual in Warrnambool. However in 2002, Hibernian Prince was beaten in the Great Eastern and in preparing Hibernian Prince for the upcoming Grand Annual Eric sent Hibernian Prince to Traralgon for a run, then to Stoney Creek, on the flat. Being prepared for the gruelling 5500 metre race to come, Hibernian of course didn’t have the sprint power to win either of the flat races, but winning was not the goal; the gelding needed the runs and again, the results are there for all to see. After the run at Stoney Creek, Hibernian Prince became just the 10th horse to win the Grand Annual Steeplechase in back-to-back years when he easily accounted for Crafty Dance by 3.5 lengths. This win came about after a brilliant ride by Brian Constable where the gun jumps hoop of the time cut the famous downhill right-hand corner to gain an unassailable lead on his rivals.

Just for good measure, in 2001 Shogun Lodge won the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes after his Doncaster defeat, but the great campaigner could not match Hibernian Prince in again winning the race the following year, although Shogun Lodge did compete, finishing out of the placings.

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