Some memorable Melbourne Cups
Some memorable Melbourne Cups.-
KAVANAGH’S SHOCKING SPRING
Trainer Mark Kavanagh had to endure a spring from hell prior to the 2009 Melbourne Cup.
His 2008 Cox Plate winner Maldivian had suffered a campaign-ending injury earlier in the spring while Whobegotyou was the unplaced favourite in the 2009 Cox Plate and illness had ruled pre-post Victoria Derby favourite Shamoline Warrior out on race morning.
But his shocking run of bad luck came to an emphatic end on the first Tuesday in November when Corey Brown drove Shocking to a three-quarters of a length win over Godolphin’s Crime Scene in the Melbourne Cup.
Brown avenged his agonisingly narrow defeat by Viewed on Bauer in the 2008 Cup while Kavanagh was remarkably restrained.
“Good things happen in racing, bad things happen,” he said.
“You can win races, you can have no luck.
“You’ve got to keep getting up and keep focused.
“It hasn’t hit me, I’ve won a Melbourne Cup. It’s every trainer’s dream.”
THE CUPS KING
Bart Cummings first experienced the thrill of a Melbourne Cup win at 23 years of age when he strapped Comic Court for his father Jim in 1950.
In 1965 he earned his own place in Australian racing folklore when Light Fingers won the race that stops a nation.
The rest is history.
James Bartholomew Cummings has now trained 12 Cup winners, the latest Viewed’s heart-stopping victory in 2008, and snagged the quinella five times, hence his sobriquet of the Cups King.
Viewed kept the Europeans at bay but only just, beating the English raider Bauer by a nose in the closest Melbourne Cup ever seen.
Once Cummings started collecting the Cup, he didn’t stop.
Hot on the heels of his Light Fingers-Ziema quinella, Cummings provided the Cup one-two the following year with Galilee beating Light Fingers and made it a hat-trick when Red Handed scored in 1967.
Cummings had to wait seven years for his next Cup which came courtesy of Think Big who gave the master trainer his fifth success when making it back-to-back victories in 1975 – both times relegating stablemates Leilani and Holiday Waggon respectively to second.
Gold And Black was the next Cup winner off Cummings’ production line in 1977 and Hyperno did the trick in 1979.
Cummings then endured his longest “drought” in the Cup, having to wait 11 years until Kingston Rule brought up win number eight.
He was quickly followed by the mighty mare Let’s Elope in 1991.
Saintly scored in 1996 and Rogan Josh in 1999 before Viewed brought up his dozen.
A SHEILA SALUTES
It seems quintessentially Australian that a “Sheila” was the first woman to train the Melbourne Cup winner.
But the sheila was from New Zealand.
Sheila Laxon burst into prominence in Australia on the strength of the performances of her outstanding three-year-old filly Ethereal during the Brisbane winter carnival in 2001.
Ethereal’s hit-and-run visit was an outstanding success as she won the Listed Doomben Roses and Group One Queensland Oaks at her only two starts for local jockey Scott Seamer.
But the best was yet to come.
After a couple of lead-up races in New Zealand, Laxon brought Ethereal to Melbourne that spring.
She showed her potential with a fast-finishing third to Northerly in the Group One Yalumba Stakes (2000m) which earned her equal favouritism for the Caulfield Cup.
Again with macadamia nut farmer Seamer in the saddle she duly delivered, coming from worse than midfield of the 18 runners at the 800m of the 2400m feature to claim Sky Heights by just a nose.
But it was on the first Tuesday in November that Laxon achieved her crowning glory when the mare by Rhythm stormed home again to beat the international raiders Give The Slip and Persian Punch in the Melbourne Cup.
Before the big European stables turned their attention to the Melbourne Cup 20 years ago, it was the New Zealanders who were the bane of the local trainers.
They hit hard – and often – in Australia’s greatest race, most notably when Blarney Kiss gelding Kiwi stole the show in 1983 with his unbelievable finishing burst from last of 24 runners to claim the Cup with a youthful Jim Cassidy in the saddle.
Trained by sheep farmer Snow Lupton and owned by him and his wife Anne, Kiwi was bought as a yearling for only $NZ1,000 – Anne liked the Blarney Kiss breed and wanted a chestnut.
Lupton rounded up the sheep on his farm on Kiwi between races and after he won the Wellington Cup (3200m) in January 1983 the Luptons targeted the Melbourne Cup over the same distance.
They turned heads when they only brought him over for the Cup six days before the race after he had won the Egmont Cup (2100m) on October 19.
Thirteen days later they were the toast of Australasian racing after Kiwi dropped out to last and was still there, some 25 or 30 lengths off the lead, at the 800m.
Cassidy began to weave a passage through the field on the 9-1 chance but victory still looked a forlorn hope until Kiwi went whoosh in the final 100 metres.
So fast did he come that he beat Noble Comment, who was being hailed the winner at the 50 metres, by a widening 1-3/4 lengths.
“I was mentally preparing my acceptance speech until Kiwi came along,” Noble Comment’s trainer George Hanlon said.
THE WETTEST CUP
“What’s this one, it could be Reckless,” the beleaguered race commentator said as the 1976 Cup field ploughed through mud deep enough in the home straight to make Flemington resemble a paddy field.
Visibility was reduced to a couple of hundred metres so it was no surprise race-callers could not pick up the runners until the closing stages of the race.
But the horse powering down the outside and surging away to triumph was not Reckless but a New Zealand raider called Van Der Hum.
With Bob Skelton in the saddle, Van Der Hum continued New Zealand’s dominance of the race in the 1970s during which five of the 10 winners were bred in the Land Of The Long White Cloud.
Some patrons were aptly attired in flippers and snorkel and seen skidding along the Flemington lawns as the heavens opened like never before on Cup day.
The race most certainly would not have been run under those conditions in the modern day for health and safety reasons.
“I nearly went down going out of the straight the first time – Battle Heights had been bandaged behind and the bandages started unravelling … Van Der Hum got on to one of the bandages and it nearly pulled his legs from under him … they were like streamers,” Skelton later said.
Eighty years on and he is still revered as the greatest thoroughbred to grace the Australian turf.
Phar Lap’s never-to-be-repeated spring of 1930 inspired an Australia in desperate need of heroes at the height of the Great Depression.
After strolling home by four lengths in the Cox Plate – at 1-7 – Phar Lap famously survived a shooting attempt on his life on Derby Day just hours before he easily won the Melbourne Stakes.
Three days later the nation was held in thrall as the “Red Terror”, burdened with a record weight for a four-year-old of 9st 12lb (62.5kg), became the first and still the only odds-on favourite to triumph in the race that stops a nation – the Melbourne Cup.
Phar Lap did what will never be done again by winning on all four days of the Cup carnival – over different distances.
Two years later Phar Lap went off to conquer the world and started by winning the then world’s richest race in Mexico on March 20, 1932.
Just 16 days later he died in mysterious circumstances in America and Australia mourned as one.
The big horse was gone but the legend had just begun.
For raw emotion it is impossible to go past Media Puzzle’s success in the Cup of 2002.
The image of Damien Oliver raising his eyes to the heavens and flourishing his whip skywards as he crossed the line is indelibly etched into Cup history.
Just the week before, Oliver’s jockey brother Jason died after a fall in Western Australia and the Cup winner’s grief was there for the whole country to see – and share.
“I’d give it all back right now to have my brother back,” he said.
Media Puzzle’s victory also confirmed the legendary status of Irish training wizard Dermot Weld who was the first, with Vintage Crop in 1993, and is still the only, European conditioner to claim the Cup.
Few gallopers of the modern era have captured racegoers’ hearts as the mighty mare Makybe Diva.
Conceived in Ireland and born in England, Makybe Diva was brought to Australia by her tuna fisherman owner Tony Santic when she was unwanted at auction overseas.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Trained by David Hall and ridden by big-race specialist Glen Boss, Makybe Diva unleashed a whirlwind finish to win the 2003 Cup running away.
When Hall headed to Hong Kong, champion trainer Lee Freedman took over her preparation and promptly sent her on a mission which had never before been successfully completed – a mare winning back-to-back Melbourne Cups.
But the almost unbelievable best was yet to come.
Lumbered with topweight of 58kg and then a seven-year-old mare, most of whom are usually at stud, Makybe Diva did the virtually impossible and won an unprecedented third successive Cup.
She had nothing left to prove and was immediately retired.
Now a broodmare and being served by some of the nation’s foremost stallions, who’s to say she won’t have a hand in another piece of Cup history by foaling a winner of Australia’s most famous race?
The locals said he couldn’t win – they didn’t know how good he was.
Bart Cummings wandered around Flemington in the days before the 1993 Melbourne Cup saying the Pommy horses couldn’t win.
David Hayes was more circumspect but couldn’t bring himself to take the visitors altogether seriously.
Lee Freedman didn’t think they’d be competitive and another prominent local trainer, John Meagher, reckoned Vintage Crop and his travelling mate Drum Taps were obviously good horses, “but it’s different over here”.
He was closest to the mark.
Vintage Crop was obviously good and his win ensured the Melbourne Cup would be very different from that day on.
The breakthrough victory for the Dermot Weld-trained Vintage Crop was the first time the Cup had not been won by Bart Cummings, or any other Australian or New Zealand trainer, and changed the shape of Australia’s most famous race forever.
His win opened the floodgates for the overseas raiders. Weld would come back in 2002 and do the deed again with Media Puzzle, further whetting the appetites of the international brigade to the extent that these days their numbers in the big race almost match the Australasian representation.
THE JAPANESE QUINELLA
One knock-on effect of Weld’s Cup double was the spread of the Melbourne Cup’s appeal throughout the thoroughbred racing world.
The magnificent Makybe Diva won the hearts of Australia with her unprecedented, probably never to be seen again “three-peat” in the Cup in 2003-04-05.
With no Diva in 2006, it was left to Japanese trainer Katsuhiko Sumii to shake Australian racing to the core when his pair of Delta Blues and Pop Rock streeted the locals to claim an historic quinella in the big race.
Jockey Yasunari Iwata, riding away from Japan for the first time, turned in an inspired performance to just pip his stablemate and equal favourite Pop Rock in a photo-finish, with Maybe Better the best of the Aussies a distant 4-1/2 lengths away third.
Australian pride was restored in 2007 with the win of the Lloyd Williams-owned Efficient over Luca Cumani’s Purple Moon from England.
Robert Holmes a Court is not a name synonymous with bargain basement prices.
But the renowned businessman paid only $600 for a mare called Brenta and bred her to 1971 Melbourne Cup winner Silver Knight who he had purchased to stand at stud in Western Australia.
The result was Black Knight who came from relative obscurity to emulate his sire by taking out the 1984 Cup.
The early signs from the horse were far from auspicious – at his first four starts he finished ninth at Werribee, eighth at Sandown, ninth at Moonee Valley and 11th of 12 at Geelong.
But Black Knight gradually came into his own when stepped up in distance and earned support for the 1984 Cup after winning the Lord Mayor’s Plate (2000m) at Flemington in September of that year.
His Cup stocks nosedived when Black Knight could finish only seventh of eight over 2050m at Moe in October, just three runs before the Melbourne Cup.
He regained some caste when a luckless third in The Dalgety (2500m) at Flemington at his last run before the Cup and was backed from 12-1 to 10-1 on race day to win the big race.
He won like an odds-on shot.
Peter Cook had the George Hanlon-trained Black Knight prominent all the way despite his barrier 11 in the field of 19 and he was poised in third place behind Rocky Rullah and Chagemar coming to the home turn.
Cook eased around the leaders at the 250m and the Melbourne Cup was over in a twinkling, Black Knight charging away to beat Chagemar, who had been his conqueror in The Dalgety and Geelong Cup, by 2-1/2 lengths.