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Might and Power

Might and Power (foaled 1993 in New Zealand) was arguably the greatest thoroughbred in Australian horse-racing of the late 1990s. In a period of 12 months during 1997 and 1998, he won the Caulfield Cup, the Melbourne Cup and the Cox Plate. He also dominated the Sydney autumn carnival of 1998.

Might and Power was foaled at Windsor Park Stud in New Zealand, a son of great Zabeel and an Irish mare Benediction. He would become a very versatile horse. From 1800 m to 3200 m he won most of his races and was most always competitive. He had no trouble on left-handed or right-handed tracks and could handle all conditions from fast to heavy tracks. He first came to the notice of the Australian racing public early in 1997 as a three-year-old. In the 1997 AJC Derby he suffered severe interference to finish fourth behind Ebony Grosve. The next week he displayed a glimpse of the brilliance to come when he won the Packer Plate at Randwick by six lengths.

Later in 1997, as a four-year-old, Might and Power won first up in a 1200 m sprint, and started favourite in the Group 1 Epsom Handicap over 1600m at his fourth run back. He was unplaced, but not far from the winner, and trainer Jack Denham took him to Melbourne for the Group 1 Caulfield Cup over 2400 m. Handicapped with only 52.5 kg and ridden by flamboyant jockey Jim Cassidy, Might and Power raced to one of the most emphatic victories seen in the race. Riding against instructions, Cassidy took Might and Power to the front and allowed him to stride along freely. Turning for home Might and Power was well clear and raced away to win by seven lengths in record time. Betting markets for the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup were hastily rearranged with Might and Power being installed as a short priced favourite for both events. As it turned out Might and Power had to wait another 12 months for a Cox Plate run because trainer Denham (who had eventual runner-up Filante in the Cox Plate) and owner Nick Moratis decided to go directly to the Melbourne Cup without another run. The horse had received a 3.5 kg penalty for the race after his win at Caulfield and was now carrying 56 kg.

On Melbourne Cup day several large bets were wagered on Might and Power despite a quality field including 1995 Cup Winner Doriemus, AJC Derby and LKS MacKinnon Stakes winner Ebony Grosve, and a strong contingent of internationals. At starting time he was 7-2 favourite. During the race Cassidy again took Might and Power to the lead. The horse withstood three distinct waves of challenges - Crying Game at the 1600 m point, Linesman on the home turn, and Doriemus over the final 200 m. Might and Power shook off Linesman and led by more than two lengths with 300 m left to run but in the last 200 m Doriemus closed strongly. Edging closer and closer, Doriemus appeared likely to score with 50 m to go but Might And Power found again in the final strides. In a thrilling finish, there was little between the two horses, and Greg Hall, on Doriemus, waved his whip in salute after crossing the line but the photo showed Might and Power had held on for the victory.

After this stirring win Might and Power was acclaimed World Champion Stayer and was sent for a spell.

Injury problem

Might and Power resumed racing in early 1998 in the Group 1 C F Orr Stakes of 1400 m at Caulfield. He ran a promising third but at his next start he was surprisingly beaten by Cox Plate winner Dane Ripper in the 1800 m Group 2 St George, also at Caulfield. They were due to clash again in the Group 1 Australian Cup of 2000 m at Flemington but on the eve of the race Might and Power was struck by a mystery leg injury that threatened his career. Dane Ripper easily won the race.

The injury was found to be superficial and he was able to resume training. Unfortunately, in his next start, in the weight-for-age Group 1 Ranvet Stakes 2000 m at Rosehill Gardens in Sydney, he was beaten by promising three-year-old Gold Guru (who later won the AJC Derby that year). The horse's owners were less than satisfied with the efforts of Cassidy and he lost the ride to Brian York.

His next start was in the Group 1 The BMW Stakes of 2400 m, Sydney's premier distance weight-for-age event. York ran the race perfectly and the champion bolted in by five lengths, defeating Gold Guru and Doriemus. It was the start of a golden patch of form.

At the Randwick carnival, Might and Power was entered for the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes of 2000 m at weight-for-age against a crack field that included Group 1 winners Juggler, Champagne, Catalan Opening and Intergaze. Juggler was a top weight-for-age performer with multiple Group 1 victories. Champagne subsequently won the WFA MacKinnon Stakes at Group 1 level and ran second in the 1998 Melbourne Cup. Catalan Opening had won the Hong Kong Mile. Intergaze finished his career by winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes twice, as well as an Australian Cup. But this was Might and Power's day. He jumped straight to the lead and most of the runners were struggling by the 800 m. Turning for home Might and Power led by about six lengths and as he careered past the winning post the margin was 10.5 lengths to the gallant Champagne with a further three lengths to Catalan Opening.

His next start was in Queensland where he bolted in with the A D Hollindale Stakes 1800 m on the Gold Coast before winning the 2020 m Doomben Cup in race record time. He was sent for a well deserved but short spell after an arduous four-year-old career.

Contracted virus

Might and Power became a five-year-old on August 1, the date all thoroughbreds celebrate their birthdays (or more accurately, age another year) in the Southern Hemisphere where spring is approaching. He was being set for the Cox Plate which trainer Jack Denham had lost narrowly the two previous years with his top galloper Filante. Might and Power started his campaign in Sydney with a good second up victory in the Chelmsford Stakes but in the Group 1 George Main Stakes 1600 m, Might and Power failed badly, finishing well out of the placings. It was subsequently discovered that Might and Power had a virus that put his spring campaign in some jeopardy.

He returned to racing in Melbourne in the Group 1 Yalumba Stakes of 2000 m at Caulfield, a traditional lead up race to the Cox Plate. Pitted against the champion was the top New Zealand mare Tycoon Lil. With uncertainty about his form and a change of jockey again (York was sacked after the George Main failure). Tycoon Lil, ridden by Shane Dye led for most of the journey but after straightening for home Jim Cassidy asked Might and Power for the big effort and he responded magnificently to win running away by two lengths.

Might and Power had attracted a huge army of admirers in Australia, so Moonee Valley Racecourse was packed with nearly 40,000 people on October 24, all hoping to see Might and Power achieve a feat not completed since 1931. In that year the legendary Australian Champion Phar Lap won the Cox Plate the year after having won the Melbourne Cup. Since then no horse had achieved the feat. In addition, Might and Power would become only the second horse after Rising Fast to win the big three races of the Australian turf, namely the Caulfield Cup, Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate. However Rising Fast achieved this unique treble in the one season (1954).

When post time arrived Might and Power was the 5-4 favourite. In the race, he started slowly and because of the short run down the straight to the first turn, Jim Cassidy was caught between horses as they turned. Soon after he urged Might and Power to the front and by the 1600 m he was settled in front with Tycoon Lil tucked in behind. Cassidy let the champion loose from the 800 m and as they turned for home he led by two lengths. Outsider Northern Drake made a late challenge but on the line Might and Power was going better than anything else to record an emphatic 1.5 lengths victory.

Odds-on favourite

Two weeks later Might and Power saddled up for the Group 2 VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Flemington over 2500 m, a quality handicap. Given the maximum allowable impost of 60 kg with the rest of the field compressed down near the weight scale minimum of 51 kg, Might and Power was sent out at unbackable odds of 5:1 on. Having led all the way he extended his winning margin to seven lengths at the post.

His next assignment was to be the Japan Cup over 2400 m where Australians were keen for him to prove himself to be the best thoroughbred in the world, but Nick Moratis was unable to secure a direct flight for the horse's return from Japan, so Might and Power was spelled. Unfortunately, early in 1999 while preparing for a return to the track, Might and Power bowed a tendon. He returned for two races as a seven-year-old in 2000 but failed dismally in both and was retire with a record of 15 wins, seven seconds and a third in 33 starts.

Might and Power now resides at Living Legends horse retirement home in Woodlands Historic Park, Greenvale, Victoria.

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