When world champion sprinter Black Caviar set a new course record of 55.42 seconds for 1000 metres in last Saturday’s VRC Lightning Stakes, a shaft of spotlight also fell on the previous record-holder.
Special had held the record since 1988 and she is still alive and well aged 29 at Arrowfield Stud.
Special’s record time of 55.50 was also set in the Lightning Stakes, where she defeated the outstanding sprinters Snippets and Redelva. The trio were all multiple Group 1 winners but 1988 was Special’s year of glory at headquarters.
The Swettenham mare triumphed in the Lightning and the Newmarket, then returned the following spring to win the G1 Gadsden Stakes. That was the final success in Special’s exceptional career for the famous partnership of trainer Colin Hayes and owner Robert Sangster.
Special’s transition to motherhood was almost seamless. She was in foal during her last two campaigns and delivered a colt by Bluebird in August 1989. Named Strong, he was the first of Special’s nine winners, which included the stakeswinners Specialize (Bluebird) and Stavka (Xaar) as well as Lady Special who foaled G1 winner Bomber Bill. Another daughter, Special Sal left the G3 winner Demographic.
In 18 years at stud, 12 of them in Arrowfield’s ownership, Special missed only three times, and her final foaling in 2007 at the age of 24 was straightforward. That foal, Dashing Dunlop (Not A Single Doubt), is a three-time winner still racing in Queensland.
Though her racing and breeding days are over, Special is still living up to her name. She is enjoying a third career as a cherished nanny mare at Arrowfield, where she has just taken charge of a new group of weanlings.
“During the season she was mum to three nurse mare foals that were reared on the bucket,” Arrowfield’s Sam Fairgray said. “She is now in with a group of 10 weanlings that were separated from their mothers last week.
“She’s the kindest natured horse you can find, but she doesn’t take any bad behaviour from her kids. She keeps them in line and is a great nanny mare. She is Special by name and nature.”