March 8, 2018
2003 was a great year for HorseRacingPark. Not only was it the first year of operation but it also started the careers of two great champions and while Alpha Ultimo might have been a shooting star in the sky, the might of Icicle came to a forefront in 2005, culminating in one of the greatest single seasons ever recorded. In this in-depth history, we look at the career that was for the 2005 Horse Of The Year and analysis how it came to be, if anyone will ever repeat it and more importantly, how he stacks up to the annals of history.
The original owner of Icicle was JHamilton and while they have not been seen since 2007, it is fair to assume that they were fans of Australian horse racing, with the likes of Media Puzzle, Makybe Diva, Brew, Kingston Rule, Might And Power and Lets Elope in their stable. One of their first horses, he was a lackluster fourth in his career debut at ELP but rattled off two straight wins on the turf before trying better horses in the Grade II BEL BC, where he finished seventh in the biggest loss of his famed career. After being bumped around for a series of starts from Bluenose Barn to Unreal Racing, he finally settled into the stable of Jerry Garcia Racing on December 4, 2003, when the top owner claimed him from the same race at future Grade I winners Lone Winner and AlphaBomBay. One can say that the $62.500 paid for him might be the greatest claim of all-time but Alpha Ultimo was also claimed by the same owner for only $15.000 six-months earlier and that makes him slightly better.
With a new powerful barn behind him, Icicle was able to enter into new territory and the shift to route distances on the dirt in the Grade III Hals Hope and although he finished well behind mammoth maiden winner Nick Of Time, it was enough to earn a start in the SM Classic, which he won by two-lengths. More importantly, it signaled a fondness for longer events and solid efforts in the Grade III LS Handicap, Grade I Suburban and Grade I Pacific Classic against the likes of Papa Bear, Little Slick, Omni and Smokin set him up perfectly for a wire-to-wire win in the Grade II Goodwood BC over a star-studded field. Closing for fifth in the Grade I BC Classic from post 14 saw him finish with just under $1,000.000 in earnings for the year but for Icicle, a change in jockey for 2005 was all it took for him to go from also-ran to top of the heap.
The 2005 BC Stakes at SA is one that has to be seen to be believed. Royal Randwick was the brilliant winner of back-to-back Grade I events on the turf and one of the fastest on the track but when he went out in that 1 1/16 mile race on the dirt and set opening fractions of 21.99 and 44.99, you knew that someone had to benefit and that horse was Icicle. With straight and powerful strides, and through six-furlongs in 1:08.92, not only was he able to reel in the leader but blow the entire field away by more than nine-lengths, running the distance in a dazzling 1:38.57 that still stands as the world record at HRP today. Unfortunately for his connections, that race might have taken too much out of him and he was beaten by a whisker in the Grade I Donn Handicap at GP three weeks later by Omni, an eventual eight-time Grade I winner of nearly $4,800.000 who had won the same race in 2004. For Icicle, he lost nothing in defeat and victories in the Grade I SA Handicap, Grade I PIM Special and the Grade I HOL Gold Cup set him up for one of the most dominant victories in HRP history, a record setting 20-length victory in the Grade I $1,000.000 Pacific Classic that is simply too immense to describe in detail. A further win in the Grade I JC Gold Cup at BEL made him the 3-1 favourite for the BC Classic over the same course and distance and in true Icicle fashion, he made quick work of KYD winner Sleepless Nights, PRK winner Real Bull, BEL winner Habanero, Travers winner Grady and a whole lot of older division superstars to win by four-lengths going away. All told, seven wins including six at the Grade I level, more than $5,000.000 in seasonal earnings and awards for Older Male and Horse Of The Year put Icicle in a league of his own at HRP, with owner Jerry Garcia Racing reaping all the rewards.
2006 started exactly like 2005 had for Icicle; a huge win in going one-mile in GP in docile allowance company but his effort in the Grade I SA Handicap at 1-4 left much to be desired, as he struggled home second to Lone Winner, a horse he beat soundly in the previous BC Classic. He could be forgiven for another runner-up placing in the slop at PIM before returning to form with scores in the Californian and the HOL Gold Cup but it was in the Pacific Classic that things looked on the downturn. Facing a solid but beatable field on even weights, the horse who had wowed the DMR crowd the previous year could only finish second to Christmas Snow while nearly four-seconds slower. Some have chalked this up to a change in the racing engine to make things more realistic but whatever the case, even efforts in his last three race including a runner-up placing in the BC Classic after breaking extremely slowing signaled a changing of the guard at the top of the handicap division.
As the years wore on, Icicle was never really the same horse. Minor Grade III wins gave way to numerous off-the-board efforts in top Grade I events and his last victory came against state-breds at CT in the Hilton Memorial. Efforts to reach $9,000.000 in career earnings fell short with a lackluster sixth place finish in an allowance event at GP in April 2009 and he was graciously retired by long time owner Jerry Garcia Racing at the age of nine, having amassed a record of 23-12-6 from 57 starts and $8,995.870 in his lifetime, still good for fifth all-time almost nine years later. But the accolades are not what makes Icicle the icon he is today; it is that 2005 season that has never been matched in sheer dominance. At the top of his game, there was not a single horse who could beat him and his track records across HRP still stand today, which is a true testament to his power. In the end, the mighty Icicle shows all of us at HRP that patience, perseverance and the willingness to make a few mistakes along the way can lead to some pretty amazing rewards.
Triple T Racing 🙂