Best-ever Caulfield Cup field
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This weekend will see the 134th running of the Caulfield Cup, and according to the pundits this will be one of the best, if not the best field to ever contest the race.
This year’s edition already has one amazing record – it is the oldest field ever assembled, with an average age of 6.33 years. I for one, welcome the news that so many ‘oldies’ will be partaking.
If there’s one thing that sticks in my craw (among many others), it’s the fact so many potentially outstanding racehorses are rushed off to stud after their two, three or four year old season, and thus race fans are deprived of seeing champions race each other at four years through to about six or seven.
So to see many older horses contesting this Caulfield Cup is good news as far as I’m concerned. I will leave it to those better qualified than myself to offer predictions and tips on who will win this year.
I prefer to look at the wonderful history associated with this great race and share some of the odd facts, figures and intrigue of the race.
If the Melbourne Cup is our greatest horse race and the Caulfield Cup is certainly as challenging a handicap staying race, perhaps even more challenging with the speed more constant, then the argument is reasonable that the Caulfield Cup should be close to the Melbourne Cup in prize money.
The W.S. Cox Plate, being a weight-for-age race, is technically our best race and deserves to be included among the top three.
The Caulfield Cup was first run in 1879, 18 years after the first running of the Melbourne Cup. As with the Melbourne Cup, many of the great horses of the Australian and New Zealand turf have won this race – Poseidon (1906/07), Eurythmic (1920), Purser (1924), Manfred (1926), Amounis (1930), Rising Fast (1954/55), Redcraze (1956), Tulloch (1957), Galilee (1966), Tobin Bronze (1967), Might And Power (1997) and Northerly (2002) are among the better horses to have won this great race.
My entry point into the Caulfield Cup was 1966 (when I was all of 10 years old) and I was very lucky straight-up to see two great champions win this race back to back. In 1966, the legendary Bart Cummings trained Galilee became the sixth of 11 horses to date to win the Caulfield-Melbourne Cups double.
The next year, the mighty Tobin Bronze lumped 9st 10 lbs (61.5kgs) to victory. This weight equalled that carried by Rising Fast in 1955, while only one other horse has carried more weight to victory and that was Redcraze in 1956 with 9.13, or 63 kgs.
Seven horses have won this race more than once, compared with just five horses in the Melbourne Cup. The dual winners are – Paris 1892 and 94, Hymettus 1898 and 1901, Poseidon 1906/07, Uncle Sam 1912 and 14, Whittier 1922 and 25, Rising Fast 1954/55 and Ming Dynasty 1977 and 80.
The amazing Arthur ‘Scobie’ Breasley, one of five jockeys inducted into the inaugural racing hall of fame, won this race an incredible five times, including four on the trot. His winners were – Tranquil Star (1942), Skipton (1943), Counsel (1944), St. Fairy (1945) and Peshawar (1952). Breasley must have used up all his luck in the Caulfield Cup because he never won a Melbourne Cup (two seconds and one third).
Damien Oliver, currently under a potential betting scandal inquiry, has ridden four winners – Mannerism (1992), Paris Lane (1994), Doriemus (1995) and Sky Heights (1999).
It probably comes as no surprise to learn Bart Cummings also holds the record for most Caulfield Cup wins as a trainer, with seven – Galilee (1966), Big Philou (1969, on protest), Leilani (1974), Ming Dynasty (1977 and 80), Let’s Elope (1991) and Viewed (2009).
Lee Freedman and Tommy Smith have each trained four winners.
The mighty Bernborough (and he had to be mighty) because he was asked to carry the back-breaking weight of 10.10 (68 kgs) in 1946. This Saturday Americain and Dunaden will ONLY have to carry 58 kgs each! In any case, Bernborough’s jockey Athol Mulley was vilified for not winning. Yet looking back over 66 years, Bernborough’s fifth, that’s right – fifth – under this massive impost, was a stupendous achievement.
The magnificent Tulloch played with the 1957 field, winning easily by three lengths in the electrifying time of 2.26.9. This was the fastest time in the world then for one and a half miles on turf and is still the third fastest time today – 55 years later.
With Tulloch’s time converted to the shorter 2400 metres metric, still only one horse has won in a faster time – Diatribe in 2000 in 2.25.3.
There are many more stats to offer, but let’s get back to the nitty-gritty.
Follow the Caulfield very closely this weekend, because it remains the most powerful guide to determining the Melbourne Cup winner.
11 horses have won the Caulfield-Melbourne Cup double – 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).
But it doesn’t end here. Another 16 horses who finished either second or third in the Caulfield Cup went on the win the Melbourne Cup. So that’s 27 horses which finished first, second or third in the Caulfield and went on to win the Melbourne Cup.
And just to show how reliable a guide the Caulfield Cup really is, 11 horses were placed in the Melbourne Cup after winning the Caulfield, while another 12 were placed in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups in the same year.
And it doesn’t even have to be a horse that finishes in the top three or four that you should keep an eye out for. Back in 1998, Jezabeel was nearly knocked to the ground not once, but twice while running for home.
Keen racegoers told anyone willing to listen that her sixth place in the Caulfield was the best Melbourne Cup guide that year. And so it proved when she won the Melbourne Cup.
So watch this Saturday’s Caulfield Cup very closely. It’s very likely the Melbourne Cup winner will be in the first four or five horses home.
And enjoy one of our greatest races while you’re at it!
For more Sheek see http://sheekabout.com.au/
I used to think I was a pretty good rugby lock, but now realise I was deluded. My nickname is a truncation of my surname, so I'm not Arabic - phew! However, sometimes I imagine myself as a Beau Geste in the French Foreign Legion, fighting evil, righting wrongs, promoting good and rescuing damsels in distress.
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