Remember when: Pharaoh’s Mask won the Maturity Classic

Wine Glass 1997

WHEN looking through the honour roll of the winners of the it is perhaps no surprise that future top line sprinters are heavily represented. Only two past winners of the Maturity later developed into champion stayers: namely Pharaoh’s Mask and Northern Legend.

Pharaoh’s Mask was accurately described as an awkward 34.4 kilogram chaser who possessed little early pace but had a huge motor. While the fawn dog, whelped in March 1984 from the mating of Forever Eaton to Roy Trease, possessed enormous ability, that lack of early speed was always going to hamper his efforts to perform at his best in the top echelons of sprinters.

Nonetheless, under the tutelage of Daryl Connor, Pharaoh’s Mask made a name for himself in the sprinting ranks first before embarking on a brief but sensational career over the longer journey.

Pharaoh’s Mask began racing at the age of 18 months, winning his maiden over 520m at Cranbourne on September 19, 1985. After a fifth placing over 513m at , he won again at Cranbourne and then won first-up over 511m at Olympic Park.

The fawn dog contested the Classic series at Olympic Park, winning his heat on December 9 before running third in his semi-final. He won at the track on Silver Chief final night to take his record to five wins from just eight starts.

Connor started Pharaoh’s Mask’s 1986 campaign with an attempt on the Cranbourne Cup in January. He won his heat from box five but could only finish fifth behind Lightning Boy in the final.

A pair of victories followed at Olympic Park and before Pharaoh’s Mask won a heat of the Australian Cup at Olympic Park. He was eliminated from the prestigious event when fourth in his semi-final.

Connor then trekked to for a tilt at the , run over 512m. He won his heat, from box eight, and then ran a respectable third behind Farquhar and Potty’s Gully in the final, beaten just three lengths.

Back at Olympic Park, Pharaoh’s Mask breezed through the Maturity Classic series, winning his heat on April 7 from box seven, then his semi-final and snared the $10,000-to-the-winner final with a three lengths victory over Karen Janet.

Unfortunately, at his next start, his slow beginnings caused him to fall in a race at Sandown Park in mid-May.

He bounced back quickly, winning his next outing, over 520m at Cranbourne, by four and a half lengths. Taken to for their Gold Cup series, he won his heat on June 6 but found Street Kid too good in the final.

After a second and then a win over 511m at Olympic Park, Connor finally gave Pharaoh’s Mask his long-anticipated outing over the ‘half-mile’, running over 718m at Sandown Park on July 17. He did lot supporters down, scoring an easy win from box eight.

Pharaoh’s Mask then rattled off three successive wins over 732m at Olympic Park to confirm his rating as the boom stayer and set up a series of future clashes with the mighty .

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Connor set Pharaoh’s Mask for the Sir John Dillon Memorial, run over the new distance of 716m at Sandown. In his heat on August 28, Pharaoh’s Mask clashed for the first time with Bold Trease. In a sensational race Pharaoh’s Mask held off Bold Trease to score by a head, thereby setting up a magnificent clash for the final.

The Dillon Memorial final proved just as exciting as the heat with Pharaoh’s Mask again proving marginally better, defeating Bold Trease again by a head.

On September 11, the pair clashed for the third time, but Bold Trease emerged the victor while Pharaoh’s Mask could only finish fourth. After the race, Pharaoh’s Mask was found to be injured and was out of racing for six weeks.
When he resumed, in late October, Connor brought Pharaoh’s Mask back slowly, contesting three sprint events, at Sandown (fifth), and Cranbourne (third and second).

Pharaoh’s Mask resumed his distance career on November 10, downing the smart Mystic Hope at Olympic Park. A week later he clashed again with Bold Trease, and took his revenge, relegating his rival to third place, beaten just over a length.

Then, on November 24, Pharaoh’s Mask recorded one of the greatest victories ever witnessed at Olympic Park. From box four he began well and raced away to once more defeat Bold Trease, running 43.09 to smash the track record. Indeed, the time was so good it was still the 732m mark when the course closed down nearly a decade later.

The race also marked the last time Pharaoh’s Mask and Bold Trease would clash, with the former easily winning the matches by four to one.

On December 6, Pharaoh’s Mask won the Cup over 735m at Cranbourne by almost five lengths. He then rounded out the year by scoring over 732m at Olympic Park on December 13.

With 22 wins and five placings from just 32 starts in 1986 it was no surprise when Pharaoh’s Mask was announced as the Victorian .

The champion resumed on January 10, 1987 winning a heat of the 520m Cranbourne Cup. Drawn well in box one for the final, Pharaoh’s Mask struck severe trouble and fell. Found to be severely injured, Connor had no choice but to immediately retire the champion.

From 42 career starts, Pharaoh’s Mask had registered 28 wins, three seconds and three thirds. As a stayer, Pharaoh’s Mask had raced just 12 times for 11 wins and one fourth (injured), remaining undefeated in seven starts over 732m at Olympic Park. That his career ended when he was just 34 months old was a tragedy for what might have been.

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