By Paul Montague (aka The Spotter).
The Melbourne Cup. The magnificent race. 3,200 metres of the most exquisite equine excitement this side of the equator. Its ability to captivate is simply unique- name another type of local race event in the known sporting world that enthrals so many in a whole nation (not to mention plenty also in a neighbouring one) as much as the Cup does?…Thought so; you’re struggling for a comparison like I am…
The Melbourne Cup. From Carbine to Phar Lap to Rising Fast to Might and Power to Makybe Diva; these are the top rank of equine immortals that have helped make the three o’clock race on the Flemington course on the first Tuesday in November the legend that it is.
The Melbourne Cup. November 1, 1983. Jimmy Cassidy. Snow Lupton…and a 6 year-old chestnut from Waverley in the Taranaki. The late, great Bill Collins called it as my Nan almost fell off the end of the couch in excitement: …”and Kiwi’s come from last in a phenomenal performance!”
Kiwi’s victory that day for me ranks in the top ten of iconic New Zealand sporting moments and for those New Zealanders lucky enough to have been there on course watching, it must surely rank as one of the greatest things they have ever seen.
Other vivid Cup memories include What a Nuisance by a nose edging out Koiro Corrie May, ridden by a young Lance O’Sullivan in the first $1 million Cup in 1985. And then the news following that race about the obscene trifecta win to the tune of around $77,000 at the NZ TAB by an incredibly lucky Wellingtonian on a single bet (though I do stand to be corrected on that).
I’ll also not forget the Laurie Laxon-trained giant of a mare, Empire Rose holding off the imported stayer Natski in a thrilling finish in 1988. Or another down to the wire finish in 1998, when the two New Zealanders Jezebeel and Champagne battled neck-and-neck for about the last 350-400 metres, with Jezebeel just prevailing.
The 2001 Caulfield and Melbourne Cup double victory by Ethereal was a spellbinding and emotional performance. Ethereal being only the third mare since 1861 to achieve that feat, with the courageous Sheila Laxon (wife of Laurie Laxon) becoming the first woman trainer to capture the cup and in the bargain become the only husband-wife combination ever in Cup history to have trained two separate winners. (And by the way, I feel Sheila Laxon never really got the accolades she deserved from the wider New Zealand sporting community for her incredible effort-all the more so because she almost perished in a terrible fall several years before).
And it goes without saying that Makybe Diva’s 2003, ‘04 and ‘05 hat-trick of victories was, well, incomparable; especially with the extra weight she had to endure in ‘05.
The Melbourne Cup. Tuesday at 5pm Kiwi time. Enjoy the colour, the passion, the unexpected. And good luck in the office sweepstake or on that once-a-year flutter.