Special Memories of the Melbourne Cup

Date: 31 Oct 2022

Special Memories of the Melbourne Cup


David writes:

Reflecting back on the “Race That Stops Two Nations” and the death of Vintage Crop in recent years reignite a lot of nostalgic feelings for Te Akau Racing

Vintage Crop, winner of the 1993 Melbourne Cup, died at the age of 27 in 2014. He undoubtedly changed the face of Australia's most famous race when he became the first European-trained winner for Irishman Dermot Weld. The first of many Europeans to contest, and claim, Australia's most iconic race.

Of course that year the runner up was Te Akau Nick.

Vintage Crop had died at the Irish National Stud where he lived in retirement. He made his debut at four in a two-mile (3200m) race, winning by eight lengths. His races were then mixed between hurdles and the flat. He earned the trip to Australia with the first of his two Irish St Leger wins.

Ridden by Mick Kinane, he broke new ground for the Europeans who now target the race in numbers each spring. Vintage Crop ran in the next two Melbourne Cups, finishing seventh to Jeune in 1994 and third to Doriemus in 1995, after which he was retired with a record of 16 wins from 28 starts. He is commemorated by a life-size statue that overlooks the paddock at the famous Irish racecourse, The Curragh.

However - back to Te Akau Nick - and the tangerine connection!

In 1989 I went to the Magic Millions' Sale staged in those days at Trentham in competition with Wrightson Bloodstock (who staged its last sale there in 1987 before its move to Karaka).

Before the sale, I was really taken with a Grosvenor colt who was, I think, Lot 5. He was being sold by Ollie Goodwin who had a successful stud in Masterton. This Grosvenor colt was scopey, a little light in condition but had a good deep girth and I was really attracted to him as a staying type of colt.

I bought him for $40,000 and named him Te Akau Nick. Isn't it extraordinary that you can remember some things as clearly as if they were yesterday, yet other things you forget so quickly? However I can remember everything about this horse as if I bought him last year.

Anyway back to Te Akau Stud he came, back to the farm and in May we broke him in and I gave him to my very good friend Colin Jillings to train.

He only trialled at two and in August he had his first start as a three year old. It was over 1200m at Te Rapa and he bolted in, ridden by Bob Vance. That season he won both the Derby trials and was third in the Group 1 NZ Derby before going out for a spell.

As a four year old, I sent Te Akau Nick to Gai Waterhouse to be trained and he presented Gai with her first ever Group 1 victory when he won the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap in Sydney in October. That was in 1992.

The following year was his “big go” - finishing second in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup on 2 November 1993. I was on course and watched the race with my good friend Peter Grieve and he said to me before the turn “Dave you are going to get some of this”.

Well we did - we received $400,000 for running second which was a huge sum of money in those days - only being denied by Vintage Crop - the first European to head “down under”.

In the autumn, this great staying horse won the Group 3 AJC Chairman's Handicap and the Group 2 AJC St Leger and was second in the Group 1 Sydney Cup. He was named Champion NSW Stayer of the Year at the AJC Awards' evening.

I am going to buy another Te Akau Nick if it is the last thing I do - we have some unfinished business with the race that stops two nations that's for sure!

A horse that I bred called Distinctly Secret was 6th in the Melbourne Cup in 2002 and 7th in 2003 - both times starting from the nightmare draw of 18.

I believe it was only last year that the 18 'curse' was broken when Verry Elleegant won from that draw - she carried 57kg, winning by four lengths in the 5th fastest Cup in history, a performance worthy of a true champion.

Up until then, barrier 18 was the only gate that had never produced a Melbourne Cup winner putting to bed a 'curse' that was more than a century old ... enjoy the story from last year ...


The Wallabies at Eden Park. Batsmen stranded in the 90s. Barrier 18 at Flemington.

Everyone's a sucker for a good sporting curse. But now the myth that you can't win the Melbourne Cup from Barrier 18 has been vanquished.

Verry Elegant pulled up to the gate with 160 years of results riding against it. But a miracle run saw the Chris Waller-trained mare trump Cup favourite Incentivise in the race that stops the nation, becoming the first entrant in the event's history to win from the cursed position.

Before today, Barrier 18 was the only position never to have produced a winner.

The victory gave Waller his first ever Melbourne Cup after jockey James McDonald piloted the six-year-old mare to a perfect position before exploding down the final straight to blow the field away.

“I just can't believe what's just happened,” an emotional McDonald said after the race.

It is an astonishing 10th Group 1 career victory for the Kiwi horse. The connections of the horse are now celebrating a staggering $4.4 million payday and trophies worth a combined $250,000.

The race unfolded with a series of dramatic shuffles at the front of the field.

James Mcdonald riding #4 Verry Elleegant celebrates winning race 7, the Lexus Melbourne Cup.

James Mcdonald riding #4 Verry Elleegant celebrates winning race 7, the Lexus Melbourne Cup.

Incentivise, who was a red-hot, short-priced favourite, was six-deep as they crossed the post for the first time, but pushed up into second behind Persan on the back straight.

Incentivise was in front as they turned onto the straight, but Verry Elleegant was positioned perfectly to make her run past the grandstand and shot ahead of the race favourite with more than 300m to run.

Incentivise finished a very distant second with Verry Elleegant humiliating the rest of the field as she left them in her wake.

Spanish Mission finished third, with Floating Artist fourth.

Incentivise jumped as one of the shortest-priced favourites in the history of the race ($2.80) and had briefly been the shortest-priced runner in the Melbourne Cup since legend Phar Lap 80 years ago.

Only 10 previous runners started the race with a price less than $3.

Barrier 18 has finally netted a win.

Barrier 18 finally netted a win.



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