Melbourne Cup Memories

Date: 7 Nov 2023

Melbourne Cup Memories


David writes:


Reflecting back on the "Race That Stops Two Nations," my mind drifts to the year 1993, a time when the Melbourne Cup witnessed a moment that would forever change the face of Australia's most famous horse race. It was the year when Vintage Crop, an extraordinary Irish horse, etched his name in the annals of history by becoming the first European-trained winner of the Melbourne Cup.

Vintage Crop's remarkable journey came to a poignant end in 2014 when he passed away at the age of 27. The memories of his victory still evoke a deep sense of nostalgia for Te Akau Racing and for horse racing enthusiasts worldwide.

Trained by the legendary Irishman Dermot Weld, Vintage Crop's victory was a groundbreaking moment. He paved the way for countless European horses to contest and claim Australia's most iconic race, forever expanding the global footprint of the Melbourne Cup.

In 1993, Vintage Crop was not alone in making history. Te Akau Nick, a horse with an indelible connection to Te Akau Racing, finished as the runner-up that year. It was a testament to the skill and vision of those who recognised his potential.

Te Akau Nick, a Grosvenor colt purchased for $40,000 at the Magic Millions' Sale, was destined for greatness. His debut at the age of four in a two-mile race, winning by a resounding eight lengths, hinted at the remarkable journey that lay ahead. Te Akau Nick's career was a blend of hurdles and flat racing, and it earned him a ticket to the Melbourne Cup with two Irish St Leger wins.

In the 1993 Melbourne Cup, Vintage Crop raced alongside Te Akau Nick, making history for European horses. Vintage Crop would go on to run in two more Melbourne Cups, leaving a legacy that endures. His memory lives on through a life-size statue that overlooks the paddock at the renowned Irish racecourse, The Curragh.

Te Akau Nick, with his unmistakable tangerine connection, also made his mark in the racing world. Under the training of Colin Jillings, he won his first start as a three-year-old, displaying immense promise. As a four-year-old, he was entrusted to the renowned Gai Waterhouse, who guided him to victory in the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap in Sydney in 1992.

But it was in 1993, in the heart of Melbourne, that Te Akau Nick had his "big go." He finished a gallant second in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup, just narrowly missing out on the coveted title. It was a day of triumph and heartbreak, as Vintage Crop, the first European to claim the Melbourne Cup, stood in their way.

Te Akau Nick's career was studded with achievements. He won the Group 3 AJC Chairman's Handicap and the Group 2 AJC St Leger, and he placed second in the Group 1 Sydney Cup. His excellence was acknowledged when he was named Champion NSW Stayer of the Year at the AJC Awards' evening.

The Melbourne Cup has been a recurring chapter in Te Akau Racing's story. Distinctly Secret, a horse that I bred, bravely took on the challenge, finishing sixth in 2002 and seventh in 2003. These performances came from the nightmarish barrier draw of 18, a place that had long been considered a 'curse.'

It was not until recently that this 'curse' was finally broken. In 2022, Verry Elleegant, carrying a weight of 57kg, defied the odds to win from barrier 18, leaving a century-old superstition behind. It was a performance worthy of a true champion, and it brought an end to an enduring myth in the world of horse racing.

As I reflect on these special memories of the Melbourne Cup, one thing is clear: the spirit of Te Akau Racing and the indomitable will to conquer the "Race That Stops Two Nations" remains as strong as ever. The pursuit of victory in this iconic race continues, and with it, the hope for more cherished memories in the years to come.

Today, Karyn and myself will be enjoying the Melbourne Cup trackside at Flemington – we have Skew Wiff lining up in the Group 3 HKJC Stakes for the team at Waikato Stud alongside cheering for our team running at Pukekohe Park on their Melbourne Cup Day event. Bring it on!

Happy Melbourne Cup Day to all!



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