The horse that truly captured the late great Bart Cummings' heart has died, the news emerging Friday morning that the 1997 Horse of The Year, Saintly, had passed away overnight at the age of 24.
Saintly, who Cummings bred and who spent his retirement at Cummings' Princes Farm at the foot of the Blue Mountains, won the 1996 Cox Plate and 10 days later won the Melbourne Cup before returning in February the following year to win the 1400-metre Orr Stakes.
He was ridden in that trio of victories by the legendary Darren Beadman. In all, Saintly won 10 of 23 starts but was only unplaced twice for earnings of $3.8 million.
Saintly came out of a rare crop of three-year-olds in the 1995/96 season that included Octagonal, Filante and Nothin' Leica Dane.
But he ended up the most famous due mainly to his Melbourne Cup win. He did so as the only horse of Cummings' 12 Melbourne Cup winners not to have raced on the Saturday three days before.
While he was the Group 1 winner of the Australian Cup at just three years of age, there was a four-month period in his career as a spring and autumn four-year-old where he was untouchable.
He wobbled around Moonee Valley's turns to win the Cox Plate and then Beadman went wide early in the Melbourne Cup to ensure nothing got in his way before the mighty chestnut trotted home.
But it was his win in the 1997 Orr Stakes at Caulfield that was his best when he flashed home from a seemingly impossible position at the rear over 1400m.
The gelding galloped three days later at Flemington, bowed a tendon and never raced again.