The Kiwi Queenslander – Rough Habit

Here is the super record of the Kiwi champion Rough Habit in Queensland. In Queensland only! Rough Habit did have 74 starts  for 29 wins and only 10 of these wins were in Queensland. But year after year Rough Habit was sent to Queensland and that is where he performed his best. He must have liked the sun as compared to the hail and snow  in New Zealand. Less 1994 when Rough Habit was sent to America and missed the Brisbane winter carnival, the Kiwi champ won at least one race in Queensland from 1990 to 1995. Year after year he continued to be sent to Brisbane and year after year he would win. He won a variety of races at distances between 1400m and 2400m on both heavy and dry tracks. Here is the complete Queensland career of Rough Habit.


In 1990, Rough Habit arrived at Doomben with only moderate wraps on him from New Zealand. At his first QLD start he ran  second in the listed Doomben Classic as the 4/1 second favourite and he was beaten only a few inches. Next was the Group Two Grand Prix Stakes over 2244m; Rough Habit was again beaten here by less than a length (he again ran second) as the 7/2 favourite. But then it was the QLD Derby and Rough Habit smashed a good field on a heavy track as the 4/1  favourite by 3 lengths. He was backed up in the Doomben Cup over 2020  but was narrowly beaten by two older horses as the 11/2 favourite.  He still ran third. That was the end of his first QLD campaign. It was successful in that he won the Derby, but the best was still to come.


This year was a stunning year in the history of Queensland racing and in the career of Rough Habit. First up in Queensland in 1991, Rough Habit won the 1400m Byrne Hart and in doing so he beat the QLD local Vo Rouge. Next was the 1800m Listed Sporting Cup at the Gold Coast track. Rough Habit was the 11/8 favourite and smashed champion Vo Rouge and gun Triscay by 2 lengths. Then it was to the 1400m Group One Stradbroke  where Rough Habit was the 6/4 favourite. He won by six lengths in one of the best Stradbroke victories on record. A clear high point in his  career to date. After this stunning win, he again was thrust in the deep end in the 2020m Doomben Cup. He made up for the previous year with stunning 5 length victory as the odds on favourite. His last two starts in QLD in 1991 were two Group One wins by a combined total of  11 lengths.


Rough Habit started his 1992 QLD campaign with a  nice second in the Doomben 10,000. He was the 2/1 favourite and was beaten by about three inches. It was a gun run and he lost no admirers due to his super fighting effort. Next it was the listed Sporting Cup again at the Gold Coast. Rough Habit jumped for this 1800m WFA race as the 3/1 on favourite. He did not let those who took the shorts down, strolling in by 2.5 lengths untouched. Next up it was back to Eagle Farm for the Stradbroke Handicap. Rough Habit had 58.5kg on a 48kg limit and had drawn barrier 18 of 18. He had a lot against him. In fact he probably would have been forgiven had he dropped out to last and stormed home for a good 5th or 6th. But he was a champion and he did what champions do. He won against all the odds. It was one of the best wins in a Queensland race since Bernborough’s Doomben double in 1946. If that wasn’t enough, Rough Habit again backed up in the Doomben Cup and again won. This time by a few inches as the odds on favourite. But he still won!


By 1993 Rough Habit was getting a bit older and had a little less dash. But he still had heart and he still had a will to  win. Sure enough May rolled around and Rough Habit and his trainer John Wheeler turned up in QLD. First up was the 1400m Byrne Hart on a rock  hard track. Rough Habit finished a narrow second as the even money favourite.  This was the first sign that he was not quite himself. Next it was back to the Group One Doomben 10,000, a race that had so far eluded the champ,  and unfortunately it continued to in 1993, with Rough Habit putting in the worst performance of his career with a 19th in the time honoured sprint. Rough Habit was clearly off his game this time in Queensland,  but the connections could not find anything wrong with him so they kept  pushing forward to the Doomben Cup, a race that the champ had won the previous two years. Before the Doomben Cup they ventured down to the Gold Coast for Rough Habit’s usual 1800m race that he had won the  previous two years also. This time, while looking for three in a row, he was beaten into second place, but he was showing signs that while not being 100%, he was getting back to his best slowly. Next it was back to Doomben for an attempt at his third consecutive Doomben Cup.   And he won it for a third year in 1993! He rewarded those who continued to back him week in week out with a great performance beating a class field at the odds of 5/2. He was then aimed at the winning a third consecutive Stradbroke. A task that was not only beyond on Rough Habit but beyond any horse considering he was forced to carry 59.5kg on a 48kg limit and that he had to come back in distance as the race dates had been changed. That is like a horse having to carry 64.5kg now considering most of our big handicap races have a 54kg limit and coming back in distance still to this day is very hard at Group One level. The task was just too great and he ran a game fifth. All the horses that finished in front of him this day carried 53kg or less. Rough Habit had earned a break and he was rested. However, Rough Habit did not make it back to QLD until May 1995. That is two years after this defeat in the Stradbroke.


Yes he was back in QLD in the winter of 1995 as an  eight-year-old. Rough Habit resumed in the Byrne Hart where he ran a fairly average 11th. Next as had been the tradition, was the 1800m race on the Gold Coast where the Kiwi immortal was much improved in finishing third to a good field of up and coming stars. He was old and looking for a more staying trip. He simply could not run the young horses down anymore, especially with the weights he was now forced to carry. It was then on to the Doomben Cup. Remember Rough Habit had won this race the three years previous and had run third the year before the winning streak started. The punters obviously knew their idol could not win a 4th Doomben Cup and Rough Habit ran 8th in the 1995 edition as a 14/1 outsider. Time was almost up for the champ. He was 8 and had nothing left to prove and very little left to give. He was given a goodbye race in the O’Shea Stakes over 2400m. No one, not even his trainer felt he could win. A few loyal punters had a little something on him knowing it was going to be his last Queensland start; but overall he was not fancied and jumped as an 8/1 outsider. But he won. Somehow he got off the canvas and won. He somehow found a little bit of life in those old legs and won a 2400m Group 2 race as an eight-year-old and beat super horse Oppressor in the process. Well the crowd went wild, and as they should of, the then BTC named a bar at Doomben after the champ. ‘The Rough Habit Bar’ still exists and still serves as a reminder of the  greatness this horse enjoyed in the sunshine state.

By Zeb Armstrong

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