Super Impose will go down in history for his tenacious spirit and never say die attitude, which saw him win a record four Randwick Group 1 mile races and a Cox Plate. His feat of winning consecutive Epsom and Doncaster Handicaps in 1990 and 1991 had never been achieved before his milestone – and will never be repeated again in our lifetime.
Super Impose was a son of the multiple Group 1 winner Imposing (Todman-Hialeah), out of the unraced mare Pheroz Fancy (Taipan II-Pheroz Jewel). Pheroz Jewel was a stakes winning mare, while Todman was an explosive Australian racehorse who won the inaugural Golden Slipper in 1957 and will go down in history as one of the greatest two year olds ever.
A chestnut colt when sold through the sale ring, Super Impose, was hand selected by Hall of Fame trainer Lee Freedman at the 1986 Trentham sales in New Zealand, for a small syndicate of first time race horse owners for just $40,000. The other horses Freedman fancied buying for that syndicate during the sales turned out to be out of their reach financially, but were snapped up by a cash strapped Bart Cummings. Incredibly they also turned out to be two top class Group 1 performers – Sky Chase and Beau Zam.
Super Impose was unraced as a two year old and was sent to the track by Freedman on the 28th of December 1987 to debut in a three year old Maiden event at Seymour. He won his first outing well, in an encouraging display.
In his next 15 starts, throughout 1988, Super Impose won an Improvers race at Benalla and recorded a further 10 placings before his breakthrough metropolitan victory came along in November’s Eclipse Stakes – a Group 3 race at Sandown. This was quickly followed by wins in a Rosehill Welter over 1,900 metres and the AJC Summer Cup, on Boxing Day. This three-race winning streak, despite his eventual great achievements, was to remain the longest winning sequence of his career.
In the New Year, he ran into the champion Queensland frontrunner Vo Rogue, who was in vintage form. Super Impose had to be content to play second fiddle to Vo Rogue in the 1989 versions of the Orr Stakes, the St George Stakes, and the Australian Cup, but in between those three assignments he was able to snatch victory over the nemesis of Vo Rogue, Dandy Andy, in the 1989 Carlyon Cup, in race record time.
His strong performances the previous season led to Super Impose being handicapped with 56 kilograms for the 1989 Melbourne Cup, and he ultimately carried the number 2 saddlecloth, while the previous year’s winner, Empire Rose, was topweight with 56.5 kilograms.
But with an inconclusive pedigree, rather than that of an out-an-out stayer, and some inconsistent lead-up form, ‘Super’ started at 25/1. Well-ridden by Darren Gauci, Super Impose burst to the front in the home straight, and according to Lee Freedman ‘had the race won’, but was run down close to home by his stablemate Tawrrific, who was carrying two kilograms less than Super Impose, and had a better pedigree to run out for two miles.
Nonetheless, Freedman has always regarded the defeat as one of Super Impose’s greatest performances.
Super Impose opened the New Year of 1990 with a string of placings behind Vo Rogue and Better Loosen Up amongst others and was scratched from his main mission, the 2400-metre Rosehill Mercedes Classic (2,400 meters) (now the BMW), as he had a history of poor performances on wet tracks.
Entered a week later in Randwick’s Doncaster Handicap, run over the much shorter distance of 1,600 metres, and carrying topweight of 57 kilograms, the change of plans failed to faze Super Impose, who produced a stunning finishing burst from the tail of the field to overhaul the classy Shaftesbury Avenue over the closing stages. This stunning finish was to become his trademark in the big Randwick mile races over the next 18 months.
In a golden period, Super Impose won 10 of his 18 starts, and created history in becoming the only horse to win the AJC’s Epsom and Doncaster Handicaps two years in a row, in 1990 and 1991. Nonetheless, this period, which saw Super Impose win six of his eight Group One races, was not without sensation, or controversy. Fresh from winning the 1990 Epsom Handicap with 58.5 kilograms, Super Impose was expected to provide the main opposition to Better Loosen Up in the Spring Carnival’s feature races, but bled in the Caulfield Stakes (now the Yalumba). Not only did the automatic three-month ban force him out of the Cox Plate, but connections were unable to accept an invitation to run in the Japan Cup. Compounding the disappointment, Better Loosen Up went on to win both races.
Facing the prospect of a lifetime ban if he bled for a second time, Super Impose resumed in the New Year of 1991 and quickly won three races, including back-to-back wins for new jockey Darren Beadman in the Chipping Norton and Ranvet Stakes. Seemingly back to his best, Super Impose then shocked the racing world by finishing tailed off last in the Mercedes Classic, some 15 lengths from the winner. Many pundits thought the career of the champion could be over after the numerous problems that had plagued the galloper’s career.
Then Chief Steward John Schreck pondered long and hard about ordering Super Impose to barrier trial before being permitted to race again. Instead vets examined Super Impose in the week leading up to the Doncaster Handicap, and fortunately for the horse’s short term future, he was given a clean bill of health and was declared fit to run in the Doncaster at the end of that week. It’s history that Super Impose stepped out and won that Doncaster Handicap for the second time in two years, in the process setting himself up for a shot at history in the Spring’s Epsom Handicap later that year.
“He’s going to do it, its history at Randwick”, exclaimed veteran race caller John Tapp as Super Impose swept to the front in his second Epsom Handicap. In winning each of those races for the second time, he also set modern day weight carrying records of 61 kilograms in the Epsom Handicap and 59.5 kilograms in the Doncaster Handicap. Weights such as the impost Super Impose was burdened with are unheralded in the modern era, with many trainers more concerned with the welfare of their horses after having to lump such weights in potential gutbuster runs. Only a small number of horses have carried bigger weights to victory in the 140-year history of the two races, and only Gunsynd, who carried the equivalent of 60.5 kilograms in the 1972 Doncaster Handicap, has carried more weight to victory in either race since 1960. Following these wins, Super Impose wrote himself into folklore as “Australia’s greatest-ever miler”, in the hearts of the racing public of Australia.
Whilst Super Impose went on and capped his long and illustrious career by winning the 1992 Cox Plate, it will always be his achievements at the harsh and unforgiving Randwick mile, where the squibs hit the rise and start gasping for oxygen – but which champions like Super Impose explode over with just 61 kilos, or 9 stone 8 pounds in the old – by which he will be eternally remembered. The crushing weights he carried and the authoratitive way with which he won, sweeping from the tail of the field, simply had to be seen to be believed.
The nickname ‘Super’ was sure appropriate for one of the legends of Australian turf.