Tuesday , 16 July 2019

The Queens of the Cup

The 2013 Melbourne Cup field is yet again dominated by the males. In this years line up only 3 mares will attempt to turn the tables and win the coveted trophy with local favourite Dear Demi, French galloper Verema and Irish stayer Voleuse De Coeurs all in with a live chance.

Despite the lack of representation, history tells us that it is not impossible for the fairer sex to succeed in Australia’s most prestigious race.

Fillies Form remember the 3 fillies and 11 mares who have paved the way with Melbourne Cup victories.

Makybe Diva – 2003, 2004, 2005 

makybedivaAlthough Makybe Diva is a legend of the Australian turf, she was conceived in Ireland and foaled in England, and is classified as one of the nine foreign bred horses to win the Melbourne Cup. She failed to attract a bid at auction in England and was brought to Australia by owner, Tony Santic.

“Go and find the smallest child on the racecourse because he might be the only one to see this happen again” said trainer Lee Freedman after Makybe Diva’s historic third victory in the 2005 Melbourne Cup.” Cups king Bart Cummings put it very simply: “Well, you can’t do better than that.”

Makybe Diva’s rise to the highest pinnacle of Australian racing began modestly, with wins on provincial tracks followed by victory in the 2002 Listed Werribee Cup and the Group 2 Queen Elizabeth Stakes. A year later, after a dashing fourth in the Caulfield Cup, she was not produced again until the Melbourne Cup which she won decisively. Taken to Sydney for the 2004 autumn carnival, she won the Sydney Cup, becoming the first horse since Galilee in 1966-67 to win the Melbourne Cup and the Sydney Cup in the same season.

Makybe Diva’s 2004 spring campaign was highlighted by her narrow half head defeat in the Caulfield Cup and her dramatic winning of the second Melbourne Cup. In doing so she became the fifth horse to win two Melbourne Cups, the fourth horse to win two consecutive Melbourne Cups, and the first mare to accomplish this feat.

2005 was a succession of triumphs for Makybe Diva with wins in the Australian Cup, BMW, Memsie Stakes, Turnbull Stakes, Cox Plate and record breaking third Melbourne Cup. World Thoroughbred Rankings then rated her the best filly/mare in the world, and the best horse of any sex beyond 2,700 metres.

Makybe Diva was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.

Ethereal – 2001


The New Zealand Mare, Ethereal burst onto the Australasian racing scene in 2001, when she produced one of the most phenomenal finishes in memory to take out the Group 1 Queensland Oaks.

Ethereal went on to be the queen of the 2001 Victorian Spring Carnival when she became only the third mare in history to capture the elusive Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup double.

Despite being victorious at Caulfield, her finish in the Caulfield Cup left punters concerned and was sent out as a 10/1 chance in the Melbourne Cup. In the run, jockey Scott Seamer gave the mare a perfect sit and appeared to be travelling beautifully. On the home turn, international stayer Give The Slip did exactly that by hugging the fence and dashing clear. But it had been raining that day, so the fence would have been a touch slower…cue the kiwi mare. 300m out and Give The Slip had at least five, maybe six lengths on Ethereal.  But the kiwi star was in the better going and under the urgings of Seamer the daughter of Rhythm mowed down Give The Slip to win by nearly a length. She became the 11th horse to complete the cups double, and Sheila Laxon created history by becoming the first female to train a Melbourne Cup winner.


1998 – Jezabeel


Jezabeel won the 1998 Melbourne Cup in a fighting display from another fine New Zealand bred mare, Champagne.  In a stirring battle, after being headed in the straight, Jezabeel came again to outstay the younger mare, winning by a neck.  She was ridden by Chris Munce, who also partnered the mare in her unlucky 6th placing in that year’s Caulfield Cup.  Ironically, both Jezabeel and Champagne were put out of the running during the Caulfield Cup by that race’s eventual winner, the UK trained Taufan’s Melody. 1998 would be the second successive year that New Zealand bred horses quinelled our richest race.  Jezabeel was also the winner of the Auckland Cup.


1991 – Let’s Elope


The 16.2 hands chestnut mare had enormous acceleration and a length of stride worthy of Bernborough or Tulloch. Her trainer, Bart Cummings, said Let’s Elope ranks “up there with the greats…at the right distance on the right track, she was unbeatable”.

Bred in New Zealand in 1987 and raced there in her early years, Let’s Elope did not blossom until she crossed the Tasman and was put in the care of Bart Cummings by her new owners.

In the spring of 1991 she began a seven race winning streak with success in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington. Next came a last stride win in the Caulfield Cup, followed by the weight-for-age Mackinnon Stakes, beating Super Impose. In the Melbourne Cup she produced a withering final burst to beat the field by two and half lengths going away. Only Rivette, among the mares, had previously won the big Cups double. Bart Cummings praised her as better than Light Fingers or Leilani.

Let’s Elope was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of fame in 2012.


1988 – Empire Rose

Empire Rose

Foaled in NZ and trained by Laurie Laxon, Empire Rose was a towering mare with a great heart to match. One of the most popular mares of her time, she showed promise when fifth in 1986 Melbourne Cup and was second in a bumpy finish to the cup in 1987.

In 1988, Empire Rose won the Mackinnon Stakes on Saturday 29 October, then made her third attempt at the “two-miler” on the following Tuesday. Young rider Tony Allan had the mare handily placed all the way and she led the big field around the home turn. Despite a flashing finish from Natski, Empire Rose refused to give in, winning by a short head on the line. Interestingly, Natski’s rump was actually ahead of hers, highlighting her large size. She was given a rousing reception for her win, given it was the first time a mare had won the race in 23 years – the last being the New Zealander Light Fingers.

During her racing career, Empire Rose was often ridden in training work by Sheila Laxon, the then wife of trainer Laurie Laxon. Sheila Laxon went on to become a successful licensed trainer in her own right, training Ethereal to win the 2001 Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double.


1965  – Light Fingers

Light Fingers

It would be a chestnut champion from New Zealand who would open the Melbourne Cup innings of the master, Bart Cummings. Light Fingers produced one of the most dramatic wins in Cup history when she pipped stable mate and Cup favourite Ziema, on the winning post.

On a visit to New Zealand, Cummings had tried to buy the filly, but was unsuccessful. He did however manage to lease the horse, which would go on to carry the greatest weight to victory, by a mare, to that date.

The highly esteemed Roy Higgins rode Light Fingers in the majority of her big wins and considered her one of his favourite horses (the jockey called her “mother’).

Going into the Cup Light Fingers was found to be carrying a serious injury and would need a cortisone injection to take her place in the race. She was also hampered by a virus and carrying a hefty 52.5kg. Ziema was looking a sure thing.

That Cup was two miles of incessant jousting and bumping. Higgins had Light  Fingers in the front half of the field with the plan of following Ziema, who was ridden by the Perth jockey John Miller … about 1000m from home Matloch clipped  another runner’s heels and went straight to the turf bringing down Bore Head and  River Seine. Higgins had Light Fingers ahead of the ruck and took her into the  home turn in fifth place.
Slowly slowly she crept up on Ziema and two strides from home Light Fingers stuck her neck out as far as it would go.

Roy “the professor” Higgins was quoted as saying after her Melbourne Cup victory, that as Light fingers and her stable mate Ziema worked together leading up to the 65 Cup, Higgins felt that when the mare ranged up alongside the big striding Ziema, he seemed to take a look at her and turn it up.

Although Ziema took two lengths off Light Fingers in the last furlong of the Melbourne Cup, he couldn’t pass the mare. Higgins went on to state. “In the last few strides, however, she seemed to sense that something extra was needed. I could feel her gathering herself and she fairly dived for the winning post. I only had to wave the whip at her. I didn’t want to hit her. She was giving all she had.”

Following her Melbourne Cup win, Light Fingers ran second to stable mate Galilee, one of the great stayers of the decade, in that race the following year.


1960 – Hi Jinx


Sports Illustrated’s 14 November 1960 article “Upset in the Cup,” tells the story of Hi Jinx, as a 100,000-strong crowd saw her winning the centenary cup. “Favourites do not often finish first in this race, so tradition was served when the 50-to-1 shot became the 77th dark horse to win in 100th running of the Cup. Out in front, Hi Jinx high-tailed it down the stretch, leading Howsie on the centre and Ilumquh on the inside. Trapped in a slow-starting field, she was back in 18th place at nine furlongs, when Jockey WA Smith saw a hole and took her through.”


1956 – Evening Peal

Evening Peel

Evening Peal’s 1956 Cup win sealed all kinds of records. With jockey George “Georgie Porgie” Podmore aboard, she became the first mare to win the Melbourne Cup since Rainbird, and was the first to have an Oaks-Cup double victory in successive years. Second place getter Redcraze carried the greatest weight to a placing since 1890, and put up a fight against Evening Peal who won by only a neck.





1945 – Rainbird


Between 1942-43 racing was prohibited in South Australia due to financial pressures of the war.

Rainbird was purchased by South Australian breeder Mr C.A Reid and was left to begin her racing career in Melbourne.

As a 2 year old Rainbird made little impression on the race track failing to register a win, but as a three year old she began to blossom and would develop excellent ability over distance trips. Rainbird would take victory in the SAJC St Leger and be entered in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. She would run a gutsy second in the Caulfield Cup but then produced a dismal performance in the Mooney Valley Cup. Trainer Sam Evans would remain confident about her chance in the Melbourne Cup. The four year old chestnut carrying the light weight of 7st Ib would breeze to an easy victory, defeating favourite Silver Link by 2 1/2 lengths. Rainbird would be the first horse to claim the Melbourne Cup in the name of South Australia.


1939 –  Rivette


The story of Rivette is part of the folklore of the Australian turf – the romance of the ‘little battler’ and his horse who made good in the face of overwhelming odds.

Rivette was bred, owned and trained by Harry Bamber. Bamber was a former lighthorseman from the Great War, a part time pony and thoroughbred trainer in the 1920s, and a victim of the depression in the 1930s when he was reduced to milking cows on a dairy farm to support himself and his sole horse. She was a mare named Riv, but Bamber lacked the money to pay a service fee for her. On Derby Day, 1932, he went to Flemington with £2 in his pocket which he put on Peter Pan to win the Mackinnon Stakes and then the Melbourne Cup. Peter Pan duly obliged, and with his winnings of £20 he was able to pay the service fee for the stallion Ronsard. The result of the union was Rivette.

Rivette did not race as a two-year-old, and at three had just two wins at provincial tracks from 11 starts. At four she had four wins and three placings from eight starts, and Bamber believed she had the makings of a fine stayer. In 1938 she showed consistent form and Bamber backed her to win £15,000, for a bet of £5, in the Caulfield/Melbourne Cup double. Disaster struck, however, when Rivette gashed her hoof at Mordialloc beach and had to be scratched from all future engagements.

With great patience Bamber nursed her back to health, and she returned to the track in June 1939. She won or was placed in her next eight races, followed by an effortless win in the Caulfield Cup. Starting favourite for the Melbourne Cup, she carried a 10lb. penalty as a result of her Caulfield Cup win, but again had no trouble in leading the field home. In doing so she became only the third horse and the first mare to win the two Cups double. As Harry Bamber later said: Rivette “set me up for life”.

Rivette was retired after the race.


1921 – Sister Olive


Sister Olive was originally trained by Jack Williams to be a sprinter, but it  wasn’t until jockey Edward O’Sullivan took her out for a test that her true potential was discovered. After running her, O’Sullivan informed Williams he was training Sister Olive for the wrong races. According to O’Sullivan she was a natural stayer.

At the 1921 Melbourne Cup, Sister Olive began the race approaching the leading group of three and O’Sullivan nursed her through all the way. As the 16/1 chance raced around the bend for home, O’Sullivan urged the filly along to gain three  lengths over Amazonia and win the race. She raced home in a time of three minutes 27.75 seconds.  Nine years later the Cup was won in exactly the same time, the horse – Phar Lap.


1904 – Acrasia


1904 Melbourne Cup winner Acrasia was owned by bookmaker Humphrey Oxenham who had wagered and lost his mare in a poker game to John Mayo (owner of 1903 Melbourne Cup winner Lord Cardigan). Mayo kindly allowed the canny Oxenham to purchase his horse back for a hefty sum on Caulfield Cup day. In an amazing turn of events Oxenham would turn his financial woes around with Acrasia defeating Lord Cardigan in the Melbourne cup.

Carrying only 7st, Acrasia would just hold out Lord Cardigan, winning by 3/4 of a length. Tragically Mayo’s beloved runner up would break down in the final metres. Mayo’s lingering grief for his star horse would be tempered with another of his horses Lord Nolan winning the cup in 1908.

1895 – Auraria.


In 1895 a three year old filly would surprise all, winning the Cup at 33/1.

Auraria had previously won staying trips including the South Australian Derby, but was overlooked by the punters as a genuine Cup chance after her lacklustre run in the Victoria Derby.

With John Stevenson in the saddle, Auraria charged down the outside late to defeat the fancied Hova by a neck.

Auraria would join champion filly Briseis as only the second female to win the Cup.


1876 Briseis


The name Briseis means little to the modern racegoer, but she can lay claim to be the greatest filly ever to race in Australia and the first to win the Melbourne Cup. Bred at the famous St Albans Stud near Geelong, and trained and raced by its owner, James Wilson, Briseis in 1876 created a record which is unlikely ever to be equalled.

In 1876 Wilson took the 2-year-old Briseis to Sydney to contest open class events. At that time 2-year-olds could run in open events in Sydney but not in Melbourne. Carrying 5st 7lbs (35 kg), and ridden by Peter St Albans, she started equal favourite in the Doncaster Handicap, and beat the other equal favourite, Wrangler, by “a short length”. Three days later, with Tom Hales in the saddle. Briseis won the Flying Stakes, and the following day the All-Aged Stakes.

In Melbourne in the spring of 1876, and having her first start for 6 months, Briseis ran away with the Victoria Derby, defeating Queen’s Head by 3 lengths in Australian record time. In the Melbourne Cup, 11 year-old Peter St Albans replaced Tom Hales who could not make the weight of 6st 4lb (40 kg). Again Briseis made light of the opposition, winning the Cup comfortably from Sibyl and Timothy. Two days later she made it a unique treble by her victory in the VRC Oaks.

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