It was one of Tasmanian racing’s great rivalries, and in 2001 it literally came to a head in the final of the Devonport Cup.
Black Caleb and Stylish Doctor, two of the best Tasmanian sprinters of the first decade of the 21st century, were drawn to meet each other in the Devonport Cup final on October 23, and it would be their fifth meeting.
Black Caleb (Malawi’s Prince x Diamond Lillie) and Stylish Doctor (Stylish Teddy x Kenny’s Best Pal) had started their careers in August 2000 and their first clash was the final of the 2000 Devonport Puppy Championship, run over 452 metres on September 29.
Stylish Doctor had won his heat the previous week by four lengths in 25.93 while Black Caleb had also scored by four lengths, but in a slower 26.11.
From box five, Stylish Doctor held the fence from Black Caleb (box eight) and went on to record his third win in five career starts, downing Black Caleb by two lengths in a best-of-the-meeting 25.97.
Six days later the pair met for the second time, on this occasion over 457m at Hobart. Despite both being well drawn, they were both unplaced, Stylish Doctor running fourth and Black Caleb only seventh (although he was found to be injured after the event).
Their third meeting took place on November 24, over 452m at Devonport. Once again Stylish Doctor had the best of the run, scoring by three-quarters of a length from Lucky Pitstop with Black Caleb eight-and-a-half lengths further back in third place.
The pair did not meet again on the racetrack for almost nine months.
In between they had both continued to make a name for themselves across Tasmania. Stylish Doctor had won nine of his next 17 starts, while Black Caleb had raced a further 25 times for 12 wins.
On August 7, 2001, the pair clashed for the fourth time, and the third occasion over the 452m trip at Devonport. Black Caleb (box four) finally turned the tables on his rival, downing Stylish Doctor (box five) by a length-and-a-half in 25.83.
Set for the 2001 Devonport Cup series, Black Caleb was in good form having won his two outings before October 16 heats. Stylish Doctor was resuming from a seven-week spell.
Black Caleb overcame box five to win his heat by five-and-a-half lengths in a quick 25.94 while Stylish Doctor made his way through to the final by making full use of box one to win in a slow 26.24.
In the Devonport Cup final, Stylish Doctor again came up with the cherry, while Black Caleb was also well served, exiting box three. In a close-fought contest the pair had the race to themselves with Black Caleb finishing too strongly for Stylish Doctor to get the judge’s decision by a mere head in a slick 25.85.
The pair met for a sixth and last time on November 20. Once again the venue was Devonport and once more Black Caleb drew box three, while Stylish Doctor was out in box seven. Black Caleb continued his winning streak, notching his sixth successive victory by again defeating Stylish Doctor by just a head.
So, in six clashes, Black Caleb had scored three wins to Stylish Doctor’s two.
Black Caleb went on to win the Hobart Thousand a few weeks later and was then retired having won his last nine on end and overall winning 29 of his 50 career outings (17 placings).
Stylish Doctor’s career continued into 2003, and the veteran made the final of the 2003 Devonport Cup – which had been moved to a January date – and scored his 41st race win, in 79 starts. He went on to race 114 times for 50 wins, 26 seconds and 12 thirds, earning $77,642 in prizemoney.