For many people, the Melbourne Cup conjures up memories of Makybe Diva’s three Cups, of Damien Oliver’s heroic victory aboard Media Puzzle and even of his win last year for Gai Waterhouse on Fiorente.
Of course, go further back and you are looking at heroic champions like Phar Lap and Carbine, and even beaten favourites like Tulloch and Kingston Town.
They are all moments indelibly linked to the great race and are etched into the memory bank forever, but the Melbourne Cups that truly stop the nation are those which are tight and which raise the adrenaline levels to unbearable heights.
These aren’t necessarily the moments that stand out as being the top Melbourne Cup memories, but they are the heartstopping, ribtickling finishes that had the crowd on their feet and sent the entire nation into a frenzy.
Honourable mentions go to the 1979 thriller between Hyperno and Salamander and the Japanese invasion with Delta Blues and Pop Rock in 2006, while a personal favourite is the 2001 epic – it wasn’t close at the finish, but Ethereal did chase down the seemingly uncatchable leader Give The Slip.
What’s your favourite Melbourne Cup finish?
1965 – Light Fingers versus Ziema
More notable for being the first Melbourne Cup victory of a dozen for Bart Cummings – and not only was it a winner, but he trained the quinella too. It was the first of five quinellas for the legendary trainer.
Ziema looked home for all money, but Light Fingers – who had an injury-ravaged preparation and was far from her peak – called on all her courage to level up as the line drew closer.
It was so close that racecaller Bill Collins bleated, in true Aussie style, “Dead ‘eat! A dead ‘eat in the Melbourne Cup, Ziema and Light Fingers.”
The judge disagreed, though, finding a narrow margin to Light Fingers, the mare beloved by the late ‘Professor’ Roy Higgins, who called her Mother.
1988 – Empire Rose versus Natski
Empire Rose was the most popular mare of the 1980s. A giant at over 17 hands, she couldn’t even fit into the barriers properly.
She finished fifth at her first Melbourne Cup attempt in 1986, before finishing second to Kensei in 1987. In 1988, on the back of an upset win in the Mackinnon Stakes, she started equal favourite.
She cruised up to the leaders around the turn and set sail for home, but moving down the outside ominously was the other equal favourite Natski, an import who had won The Metropolitan in Sydney.
In the run, the one and only Bruce McAvaney – calling for Channel Ten – had said he’d need to be Phar Lap to win the race.
And he almost was – his tail was in front of Empire Rose’s tail, his jockey Mick Dittman was in front of Empire Rose’s jockey Tony Allan – but all that counts is the nose, and the giant mare prevailed to the cheers of the crowd.
1997 – Might and Power versus Doriemus
It’s hard to imagine a more exciting finish to a Melbourne Cup.
Might and Power, the seven-length Caulfield Cup winner, was again taken to the front by Jim Cassidy. This time, though, a number of horses threw out challenges mid-race – first, 200/1 shot Crying Game, then Cassidy’s brother Larry strode up on Gai Waterhouse’s Linesman.
Still, he fought on strongly and offered a big kick. And then, out of the pack came Doriemus – the 1995 Caulfield and Melbourne Cup winner looking ominous down the outside.
As the line approached, Doriemus looked certain to overhaul Might and Power. At the line, it looked to the naked eye like Doriemus had got the bob in, and jockey Greg Hall celebrated as if he had won.
But the developed print showed the gutsy Might and Power had held on by a nose.
2008 – Viewed versus Bauer
The master trainer Bart Cummings won his first Melbourne Cup with a photo, so it was only fair for him to bring up the dozen in just as close a manner.
Viewed had won the Brisbane Cup in a canter earlier in the year, but had been out of form in the lead up to the Melbourne Cup – although avid video watchers would have noticed a cracking run in the Caulfield Cup.
However, when the race turned into a test of stamina with three Aidan O’Brien runners setting a torrid pace, the master’s penchant for having a horse primed to the minute came into play.
Blake Shinn allowed Viewed, who had saved every penny, to stride up to the leaders at the 400m and kicked away, knowing he was on a fit horse.
Out of the pack, the Geelong Cup winner Bauer charged down the outside with Corey Brown aboard and looked certain to get past Viewed.
Somehow, despite looking out on his feet, he managed to find enough to just hold on, giving Cummings his 12th win. The crowd erupted.
2011 – Dunaden versus Red Cadeaux
You know it’s desperately tight when the length of time it takes to analyse and judge a photo finish is longer than the race itself.
That was what happened in 2011, with the judge taking almost four months to semaphore the result – Dunaden had just denied Red Cadeaux.
It was a cruel result for the English, who are yet to win the Melbourne Cup.
In what was a rather messy finish, Red Cadeaux raced up on the outside and looked sure to score, but Dunaden poked through on the inside and went with him.
Heads up, heads down, a battle between France and England reminiscent of the Battle of Waterloo. This time, though, Dunaden was able to avenge Napoleon’s defeat, despite the fact Red Cadeaux had his nose in front a stride before and a stride after the line.
Wouldn’t it be fitting for Red Cadeaux, who finished second last year to Fiorente, to finally win the Melbourne Cup this year? He gets his chance at his fourth attempt.
It started as 124 first acceptances, it now lays at 35. With the capacity field size being 24, 11 unlucky horses will drop out of the contention for the 2021 Melbourne Cup on Saturday evening. This year’s race shapes up to be a fascinating edition of the race that stops the nation with dominate Caufield […]