The Toughest Horses of the Modern Era

Whether it being through the sheer volume of race wins, the ability to maintain an outstanding form line throughout several years of competition, or returning to the winner’s stall after serious injury, Australia has witnessed some of the world’s toughest racehorses in the modern era.

Tough veteran Extra Zero won his 100th career start at Flemington over the weekend. Photo: Ultimate Racing Photos

Tough veteran Extra Zero won his 100th career start at Flemington over the weekend. Photo: Ultimate Racing Photos

Veteran gelding Extra Zero wound back the clock at Flemington on Saturday when he defeated a smart field in the Archer Hall Of Fame Trophy (2000m), at what was incredibly his one-hundredth career start.

Extra Zero has secured his position in the history books alongside the likes of Buffering, Red Cadeaux and Vo Rogue, as one of the toughest horses of the modern era!

Extra Zero

Ten-year-old Extra Zero has been a cult hero throughout much of his long and busy racing tenure, but secured his place in Australian racing folklore last weekend when he stormed home to win the Archer Hall Of Fame Trophy at Flemington in his 100th career start. Unlucky not to have posted a Group 1 win after finishing an agonizingly-close second to stable mate Spillway in the 2015 edition of the Australian Cup most notably, the Danzero gelding has carded seven race wins and a further thirty-two minors since debuting in the autumn of 2009. The vast majority of horses do not come close to reaching 100 career starts, let alone in winning form and if Saturday’s win at 30-1 is anything to go by, Extra Zero still has plenty to give on the race track.

Happy Trails

South Australian battler Happy Trails didn’t have the breeding of many of his Group 1 opponents, but that did not stop the tough gelding having a big impact on Australian racing from 2010 through until 2016. The son of Good Journey made an immediate impact upon debuting for Paul Beshara and only continued to improve as the bar was lifted. Having made his first appearance amongst Group 1 company for sixth in the 2012 edition of the Doncaster Mile, Happy Trails returned in spring of the same year to win the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m). Undoubtedly finding career-best form in 2013 however, Happy Trails delivered the likes of Puissance De Lune and Fawkner defeat in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) before placing a close second to Shamus Award in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m). The nine-year-old was retired from racing following the 2016 Spring Carnival with an outstanding record of seven wins and seventeen minors, from sixty-five career starts.

Red Cadeaux

Like a fine wine, British raider Red Cadeaux continued to improve with age and is undoubtedly one of the toughest horses to have graced Australian race tracks in the modern era. Prepared by Ed Dunlop through all of his impressive career, Red Cadeaux made five appearances in the Melbourne Cup from 2011 through 2015 and is the only horse to have finished second in the Spring Carnival showpiece three times (2011, 2013, 2014). The son of Cadeaux Genereux was rarely set for races in his homeland through the final few years of his career and was a strong and consistent performer in major races in every corner of the globe; from the famed Tenno Sho (3200m) in Japan to the Dubai World Cup (2000m), Hong Kong and everywhere between. Having unfortunately broken down in the 2015 edition of the Melbourne Cup, Red Cadeaux claimed more than $8 million in prize money during his glittering career.

Vo Rogue

A champion of the track throughout the 1980s, Vo Rogue was a smart winner in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, but was undoubtedly at his best on hard and fast tracks in Melbourne. Vo Rogue was a six-time Group 1 winner and won a further five races which now carry Group 1 status, but the horse is perhaps best remembered for his ability to toughly finish off races after opening a healthy lead on his rivals. Vo Rogue was a strong and consistent performer at the highest level throughout his entire racing career and dominated the major weight-for-age races during the Autumn Carnivals of 1988, 1989 and 1990; consistently beating such names as Bonecrusher, Super Impose, Better Loosen Up and Our Poetic Prince; all winners of the Cox Plate.


Precedence wasn’t one of trainer Bart Cummings’ twelve Melbourne Cup winners, but the gelding will certainly go down as one of the toughest horses saddled by the master trainer in the modern era. The Zabeel gelding was consistently set for the race that stops a nation throughout his racing career and lined up for the feature a total of four times; running sixth behind Protectionist at his final attempt in 2014. Perhaps the most interestingly intricacy of Precedence was his love affair with Moonee Valley and the horse famously the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m) in both 2010 and 2013. The horse rarely put in a lacklustre performance and was still finishing towards the fore of the field in the twilight stages of his career in 2015.


Famously purchased for only $22,000 before winning more than $7 million in prize money, Buffering enjoyed a long and fruitful sprinting career which concluded only six months ago, at nine years of age. The Mossman gelding showed above-average ability from his first appearances at the races in 2010 and only continued to improve as he got older, thanks largely to his tough, ‘never give up’ temperament. Unlucky to have run into horses like Black Caviar and Hay List during his early career, Buffering won each of the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m), Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) and Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) during the spring and summer of 2013 and remained in the top echelon of Australian sprinters for the next three years. The war horse posted the final of his seven Group 1 wins when he delivered a field of the world’s best a resounding defeat in the Al Quoz Sprint (1000m) in Dubai only last year.

Better Loosen Up

Sporting the same silks at Extra Zero, Better Loosen Up was a force in Australian racing throughout his racing career and posted outstanding results from his two-year-old season, right the way through until he was seven. A small horse, Better Loosen Up won each of his first four starts and while beginning his four-year-old with a reasonably un-heralding record of five wins from sixteen starts, quickly etched his name into the history books with consecutive wins in the Group 1 Honda Stakes (Cantala Stakes), Group 1 Winfield Stakes (Kingston Town Classic) and Group 1 Railway Stakes. Undoubtedly at his best in 1990/91, the Loosen Up gelding stormed home from an estimated 30 lengths off the pace to win the Cox Plate, defeated Vo Rogue by five-and-a-half lengths in the Australian Cup and became the first Australian horse to win the Group 1 Japan Cup; a record which still stands today.

Kingston Town

The only horse to have won the Cox Plate three times, Kingston Town is not only one of toughest horses of the modern era, but also one of Australia’s best ever thoroughbreds. Breaking through for his first Group 1 win in the 1979 edition of the Spring Champion Stakes, the son of Bletchingly’s career was actually plagued by injury and he was unable to make a start during the Autumn Carnivals of 1981, 1982 and 1983; perhaps further underlining his tough nature when considering he still managed sixteen wins from twenty-three starts during spring campaigns. Trained by the legendary TJ Smith, Kingston Town ended his career with an exceptional record of thirty wins and seven minors, through forty-one competitive starts.


Champion miler Boban was known for his gutsy performances and consistently fired in races which statistics suggested that he shouldn’t have. Posting five wins from as many starts during the 2013 Spring Carnival, including both the Group 1 Epsom Handicap and Group 1 Emirates Stakes (Cantala Stakes), the Bernardini gelding was handed heavy weights for the remainder of his racing career, but still managed to post another three triumphs at Group 1 level. Boban was retired after he suffered a second bleeding attack during the early stages of the 2016 Autumn Carnival and remained a legitimate threat until his final start.

Takeover Target

Takeover Target has made an appearance in each of our recent feature articles, so was the quality of this galloper. One of the best sprinters that Australian racing has ever seen, the Celtic Swing gelding’s career was built off a foundation of toughness after he was nursed back from serious hoof issues by trainer Joe Janiak. Still somehow overcoming the best fields that both Australia and the world had to offer, Takeover Target won a total of eight Group 1 races amongst a career total of twenty-one wins and ten minors, through forty-one competitive appearances.

About The Author

Jared Timms

Jared graduated with a journalism degree in 2011. He is a keen sports fan and has enjoyed many accolades for his lively writing style and comprehensive coverage of major sporting events and horse racing. Today, you can find Jared cheering on his beloved Manchester City with a beer in hand.