The 1986/87 Ascot summer of racing provided dramatic and lifelong memories for those who saw it.
In the background, Alan Bond’s America’s Cup defense was being played out off Fremantle, while at the races the powerhouse team of Laurie Connell and Brian ‘Buster’ O’Malley were sweeping all before them.
A few weeks after the Perth Cup, an uplifting and uniquely historic moment occurred with thoroughbred and champion jockey Mark Sestich.
Sestich had just returned to Perth following a productive stint in Singapore, where he had won the 1986 Singapore Gold Cup.
Back at home, he was snapped up as number one rider for Connell/O’Malley and as such became the regular pilot of their brilliant up-and-comer, Fair Sir.
A son of legendary sire, Sir Tristram, Fair Sir was one of the favourites for WAs inaugural $1million horse race, The Australasian, and cleverly steered by Sestich, he would win the race comfortably in front of a huge crowd.
Fair Sir and Sestich combined to go close in several other Group races, falling just short against some tremendous talent in Victoria.
In the 1987 WS Cox Plate they finished third behind Rubiton – ran second to Rubiton in the Underwood Stakes, second to sensational frontrunner, Vo Rogue, in the Turnbull Stakes and second to Drought in the Caulfield Stakes.
A couple of years on, Mark Sestich won the second million dollar race in the West, when he guided speedy filly Paklani to glory in the Million Dollar Thriller. He also claimed a Lee Steere Classic on that filly.
Around those years, the late Eighties into the early Nineties, Mark Sestich was the dominant rider in Western Australia, landing four successive Perth jockey premierships from 1988/89 to 1991/92.
Huge-name owners fought for his services during this period, with Sestich capturing numerous feature events not just for Laurie Connell but for Heytesbury Stud proprietor Robert
Holmes a Court and former WA Turf Club chairman and noted breeder Sir Ernest Lee Steere.
For Holmes a Court, Sestich won a $500,000 Burswood Breeders on Carry A Smile, as well as a Lee Steere, Winterbottom and Prince of Wales Stakes with that same headline sprinter.
He won Karrakatta Plates for Holmes a Court with Hold That Smile and Lady Kariba, a WA Guineas with So Dashing, Sires Stakes with Send A Sign, and Champion Fillies courtesy of Another Omen.
For Sir Ernest, Sestich sat aboard two of the mightiest grey gallopers to have raced in the West, winning both the WA and Australian Derbies on Heroicity and a WA Derby and St. Leger on Belele.
Due to a suspension, Sestich missed the victorious ride on Heroicity in the rich Group 1 BMW in Sydney, in 1992.
In the early 80s, Sestich was the jockey for another gifted stayer, Rare Flyer, who won not only a WA Derby, but the WA Guineas as well, and finished third in the Kingston Town Classic that season. Sestich scored a fifth WA Derby success on Hot Jules, in 1997. Aside from the Derbies, the Karrakattas and The Australasian, Sestich won an eighth Group 1 race, on Zamlight, who took out the 1991 Perth Cup.
At Group 2 and 3 level, Mark Sestich won 37 times, including four victories in the WA Guineas and Champion Fillies Stakes, and two in the Winterbottom Stakes.
He also eclipsed 60 races at listed level and well over a thousand in lesser events.
Mark Sestich would have attained even greater heights if not for injury. He made a successful return, however in 2002 another bad tumble saw him call it a day.
Now though, Mark Sestich can look back in pride at a wonderful career from the lofty viewpoint of the WA Racing Industry’s Hall of Fame.
GROUP & LISTED RACE WINS
WA Derby: Hot Jules (1997), Australian Derby: Heroicity (1991),
Karrakatta Plate: Lady Kariba (1991), Perth Cup: Zamlight (1991),
Karrakatta Plate: Hold That Smile (1988), The Australasian: Fair Sir
(1987), WA Derby: Rare Flyer (1982)
WA Guineas: Rare Flyer (1982), WA Guineas: Devilish Dealer
(1999), WA Oaks: Matriculate (1998), Champion Fillies: Zabanella
(1994), WA Guineas: El Cordero (1993), WA Derby: Heroicity
(1992), Winterbottom Stakes: Century God (1990), WA Guineas
(So Dashing (1990), Lee Steere Stakes: Carry A Smile (1989),
Winterbottom Stakes: Carry A Smile (1989), WA Derby: Belele
(1989), Sires Produce Stakes: Send A Sign (1989), Champion Fillies
Stakes: Lady Of Battle (1989), Sires Produce Stakes: Deluxe Model
(1988), Champion Fillies Stakes: Another Omen (1987), Champion
Fillies Stakes: All There Is (1981)
Belmont Sprint: Tangiers (1980), Easter Cup: Great Cat (1979),
Hyperion Stakes: Devilish Dealer (2000), Roma Cup: Red Eye
Special (1996), Roberts Stakes: El Cordero (1993), WATC Stakes:
Vows (1992), Strickland stakes: Lincoln’s Court (1992), Belmont
Sprint: Blonde Jev (1992), Sir Ernest Lee-Steere Classic: Paklani
(1991) Millionaire’s Sires Stakes: Wonder Dancer (1988) Queen’s
Plate: Hold That Smile (1988), Easter Cup: Part Pago (1988), Helena
Vale Cup: Original Sin (1990), Roma Cup: Century God (1990)