Blog

Celebrating the Great Northern | The history-making dead heat - WATCH

A history-making dead heat occurred in the 2001 Great Northern Steeplechase between Michelle Hopkins aboard Smart Hunter and Wayne Hillis aboard Sir Avion.

A dead heat in racing is incredibly unusual, but even more so in a race that's run over 6,400 metres - with this one at Ellerslie being the first in the race's 117 year (at that point) history.


Skip to about 8.50 in the video below to see the infamous moment and keep scrolling to see a few photos from that historic day and get an insight into Michelle and Wayne's careers.

Michelle Strawbridge (nee Hopkins) had 117 jumping wins in New Zealand, a record for a woman rider and an achievement that put her 20th on the country's overall list.


Of those wins, 103 were for Ann and Ken Browne & 41 were at Ellerslie.

2001 was a big year for the jock and Smart Hunter - just two days prior to the Great Northern Steeplechase they won the Great Northern Hurdle (a race Sir Avion won in 1998) - which, when combined with her dead heat in the steeples, saw her become the first woman to complete the famous jumps double.


Following her 2001 Great Northern Steeplechase win, Michelle won the big race again in 2004 aboard Wanderlust.

Wayne Hillis, who first rode over jumps in 1978, had a career that saw him have 1,170 jumping rides in New Zealand - making him one of only a handful of jockeys to reach the 1000 ride mark.


Recording the most wins by any jumps jockey in 1988 (13), his 145 wins puts him eighth on the all-time New Zealand list.


He had 33 wins at Ellerslie from 1983 until his retirement in 2002, of which 16 were steeplechases.


His other Great Northern Steeplechase win was in his boom year of 1988 when he steered Heddawin to victory.


The current COVID-19 alert level in Auckland has meant Great Northern Day, on Sunday 3 October, has been relocated to Te Aroha Racecourse. To read NZTR's press release regarding this move, click here.



30 views