First run in 1879 by the Victoria Amateur Turf Club (VATC), the Caulfield Cup is one of racing’s four majors alongside the Melbourne Cup, WS Cox Plate and Golden Slipper. Run over 2,400 metres, the Caulfield Cup was initially contested in the autumn but it wasn’t long until a decision was made to switch it to the spring in 1881. This move saw the race only rise in stature and set the stage for Australia’s coveted Cups double.
The Cup’s early years were marred by what still rates as the worst race fall in Australian history, when 15 runners came down in the 1885 Cup, resulting in the death of jockey Donald Nicholson. On race eve in 1922 the Members’ Stand and other facilities at Caulfield burned down in a suspicious fire, but the race meeting went ahead and Whittier claimed the Cup. Caulfield did lose the Cup, however, to Flemington while the track was donated for use by the Army during World War II. But many greats of the turf have won the Caulfield Cup including the likes of Rising Fast, Tulloch (who won in world record time) and Tobin Bronze. Six horses have won two Caulfield Cups – the most recent Ming Dynasty (1977, 1980) – but no horse has won three.
A total of 11 horses have won the Caulfield Cup and gone on to complete the Melbourne Cup double in the same year. They are Poseidon (1906), The Trump (1937), Rivette (1939), Rising Fast (1954), Even Stevens (1962), Galilee (1966), Gurner’s Lane (1982), Let’s Elope (1991), Doriemus (1995), Might And Power (1997) and Ethereal (2001). The task of completing the double is made all the more difficult with the likelihood of a weight penalty for the winner heading into the Melbourne Cup only 17 days later.
Vintage Crop was the first overseas-trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup in 1993, and five years later Taufan’s Melody created history to become the first to win the Caulfield Cup. But the victory was mired in controversy after winning jockey Ray Cochrane was fined $20,000 and suspended for a month for causing severe interference to Jezabeel (sixth) and Champagne (11th). The two New Zealand mares, however, got their revenge in the Melbourne Cup, finishing one-two, with Taufan’s Melody in fourth.
The influx of overseas-trained gallopers to the Melbourne Cup has also had an effect on the Caulfield Cup. A chance to have a run under Australian conditions before the big race at Flemington is proving valuable to the raiders – not to mention the attraction of $3 million in prize money. As well Taufan’s Meldoy, All The Good (2008) and Dunaden (2012) have walked away with the trophy, while Eye Popper (2005), Delta Blues (2006) and Dandino (2013) have been placed.
Bart Cummings is known as the Cups king for his record 12 Melbourne Cup victories, but he also holds the record for most Caulfield Cup winners with seven – his first in 1966 with Galilee and most recent with Viewed (2009). Fellow Hall of Fame trainers Tommy Smith and Lee Freedman are next with four winners apiece. Lady Herries became the first female trainer to win the Caulfield Cup with Taufan’s Melody in 1998 and was joined by Sheila Laxon (Ethereal, 2001) and Gai Waterhouse (Descarado, 2010).
Damien Oliver (1992, 1994, 1995, 1999) is one win shy of Scobie Breasley’s record five wins for a jockey, while Mick Mallyon, Neville Selwood and Frank Dempsey have ridden three. Oliver’s first victory, aboard the Lee Freedman-trained Mannerism, is best remembered for the ride by Shane Dye aboard the 5-2 favourite Veandercross. Dye searched for better ground on a very wet track and raced extremely wide entering the straight as Oliver cut the corner. Mannerism caught Veandercross in the final strides to win by a short half head. The race is talked about and debated till this day.
Favourites have a good record in the Caulfield Cup. In all, 40 favourites have collected the cash out of 138 runnings. The shortest-priced winner was Tulloch when he won as a three-year-old in 1957 at 6-4 on ($1.67). The only other odds-on favourite to salute was Tobin Bronze 11-8 on ($1.73) in 1966. Five favourites have won since the turn of the century, the latest being Master O’Reilly ($9) in 2007. But that year Master O’Reilly went off as something of a false favourite after Maldivian was sensationally scratched after hitting his head in the barriers. If he had run, Maldivian would have been the shortest-priced favourite in more than 40 years.