By Nicholas Godfrey
Australia: Subzero, the 1992 Melbourne Cup winner who became Australian racing’s ‘greatest ambassador’ according to the Sydney Morning Herald, has been put down at the age of 32.
News of the grey gelding’s death on Saturday comes just two months after his great mate, handler Graham Salisbury, who looked after him at his Bendigo property, passed away from cancer.
Racing VIctoria issued a statement to acknowledge the passing of what they described as of “one of Australia’s most famous and popular racehorses”.
After a bout of ill-health in recent days, Subzero was put down by vets at the Bendigo Equine Hospital.
RV chief executive Giles Thompson said: “This is another incredibly sad day for all within the Victorian racing industry as we learn of the passing of everyone’s favourite horse, Subzero.
“Subbie’s contribution to the sport on and off the track was incredible and thoroughbred racing will forever be indebted to a horse that touched the hearts of both racing fans and everyday Australians.”
Trained by Lee Freedman, Subzero was partnered by Greg Hall when he beat Veandercross by a length and three-quarters to win the Melbourne Cup on heavy ground in 1992, when he also won the Adelaide Cup and South Australian Derby.
When he was retired, near-white Subzero became a clerk of the course’s horse for Salisbury, alongside whom the horse became a hugely familiar figure visiting schools and attending charity functions together on behalf of the racing industry in his designated role as racing’s ambassador.
Known to everyone as ‘Subbie’, he was renowned as the ‘People’s Horse’; he had turned 32 on August 1.
“As a Melbourne Cup winner, he became a household name, but it was his work in retirement that earned him legendary status,” added Thompson.
“Subbie was racing’s most famous equine ambassador and we were privileged to have had him headline our ‘Subzero Goes to School’ program for many years travelling to every corner of the state and beyond.
“Many youngsters have grown up having only had the chance to meet and pat one horse. That horse was Subbie and the laughter that emanated from those kids when Subbie nodded his head to a question of whether he had a girlfriend is something that will live long with many of us.”