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Big races, big margins: Five dominant Group 1 performances

After Flightline's 19-and-a-quarter length victory in the G1 Pacific Classic, a look back at five of the most emphatic Group 1 victories in horse racing history.

Flightline’s devastating romp in Saturday’s million-dollar G1 Pacific Classic that sent the unbeaten American colt to the top of Timeform’s global ratings has sent tremors across the racing world.  

Now rated 143 to undefeated British champion Baeed’s 137, Flightline’s Del Mar blitz – which saw none other than G1 Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammar languishing a staggering 19-and-a-quarter-lengths astern in second place – drew comparisons both with the immortal American champion Secretariat and another Pacific Classic winner, Candy Ride.  

But as the dirt settles on a performance that has the racing world talking, what are some of the other most dominant Group 1 demolition-jobs ever seen on a racetrack? 

5. Orfevre – 2013 Arima Kinen 

Japanese superstar Orfevre is perhaps unfairly remembered for his agonising defeat in the 2012 Prix d’le Arc de Triomphe, when the Japanese superstar was gunned down by French-trained mare Solemia in the final two strides, having previously exploded to what appeared to be an unassailable lead in the straight. 

Japan’s 2011 Champion Colt and Horse of the Year won both the prestigious G1 Tokyo Yushun and G1 Arima Kinen in his three-year-old season as well as a host of other top level races in a career that netted prizemoney of a staggering 1,344,084,000 Yen (AU$14.1 million). 

But the adored, handsome chestnut may well have saved his best for last. Sent out the dominant favourite in his farewell race, the 2013 Arima Kinen, Orfevre would in turn send the 124,782-strong Nakayama crowd into a frenzy. Cruising to the lead at the top of the straight after settling towards the tail for jockey Kenichi Ikezoe, you will rarely see a horse handle big-race rivals with such casual arrogance. 

4. Shergar – 1981 Epsom Derby

The Michael Stoute-trained Shergar – a bay son of champion miler Great Nephew distinguished by his distinctive white blaze and four white feet – was expected to be too good for his 17 rivals in the 1981 Epsom Derby on the back of some dominant lead-up form. And the 10/11-favourite delivered in the most emphatic way possible, turning the Classic into a ‘procession’, as the BBC’s Peter Bromley called it, while barely getting out of second gear.

The ten-length margin remains the biggest in Derby history. Wins in the G1 Irish Derby and G1 King George followed for Shergar but his story of course ended in tragedy when, on the eve of his second season as a stallion in 1983, the horse was stolen at gunpoint from the Aga Khan’s Ballymany Stud by unknown persons, and never seen again. Various media investigations have asserted that the IRA was behind the botched kidnap and ransom demand, and killed Shergar after he panicked and sustained a leg injury. 

3. Might And Power – 1998 Queen Elizabeth Stakes

Dual Australian Horse of the Year Might And Power was no stranger to ‘space jobs’, taking the 1997 G1 Caulfield Cup by seven-and-a-half lengths in a devastating display of sustained front-running. It was his G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes win at Randwick in 1998, however, that might have been his most commanding performance. 

Having swept all before him in securing the famous Cups double the previous spring, Might And Power had returned in the autumn with several placings over shorter trips, before crushing his rivals in the G1 Tancred by five lengths. Three weeks later, the son of Zabeel produced this peak performance at Randwick, pinning the ears back in the final furlong to win by what appeared an effortless ten-and-a-half lengths:

Though the Heavy 10 surface may not have been to the liking of all runners, four of the other five combatants were Group 1 winners, with Intergaze, Catalan Opening, Juggler and Champagne boasting 16 Group 1 victories between them.

2. Snowfall – 2021 Epsom Oaks

A daughter of Japanese superstar Deep Impact, Snowfall was out of a Galileo mare named ‘Best In The World’. And in winning the Epsom Oaks of 2021 the filly Aidan O’Brien-trained filly looked exactly that. 

The 16-length victory added four lengths to Sun Princess’ previous record winning margin in 1983. For jockey Frankie Dettori it was a 21st Classic win, and none achieved so effortlessly. 

Snowfall was tragically lost just seven months after her Oaks victory, after being discovered to be lame in her box at Ballydoyle. The star filly was eventually euthanised as a result of serious pelvic injuries. 

1. Secretariat – 1973 Belmont Stakes

The dominance of the ‘tremendous machine’ Secretariat in the final leg of the American Triple Crown is the stuff of horse racing legend. When the big red horse hit the wire that day he was a staggering 31-lengths ahead of Twice A Prince in second, stopping the clock at 2:24 flat, a record that still stands as the fastest American dirt mile-and-a-half. 

The ‘Secretariat pole’ at Belmont – covered in his famous blue-and-white checks and just over 77 metres from the finish –  now commemorates the span of Secretariat’s victory. 

Honourable mentions: 

The champion Australian sprinter and sire Vain also deserves a place on this list for this 12-length cakewalk in the 1200m Craven ‘A’ Stakes up the Flemington straight.

Sprint races are simply not won by such broad margins, and while the race now known as the Salinger Sprint is not a Group 1, this emphatic demonstration of speed remains one of the best performances on an Australian track.

As for Cox Plates, it’s up to the inherent biases of the beholder to separate Dulcify (1979), Sunline (2000) and Winx (2016). Though Winx won by a bigger margin, in terms of pure visual dominance Dulcify might just get the two great mares by a nose, instead of the seven lengths he won by in ‘79.




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