Blue Diamond Stakes day is one of the best days racing of the Melbourne spring and complements the other big Group 1 days at Caulfield from the spring nicely.
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The 2015 Melbourne Cup is not too far away and I thought I would take this opportunity to look at the horses who have performed with outstanding consistency in multiple attempts in the Great Race.
By multiple attempts, I mean three or more appearances.
I also want to look at the big weights carried by champions in the past, as well as those horses asked to carry big weights successively and still perform admirably.
Of course, we’re familiar with those horses who have won the Melbourne Cup twice. It all began with Archer who won the first two cups in 1861-62, carrying decent weights both times, 9st 7lbs (60.5 kgs) and 10.2 (64.5).
The next horse to win back to back cups was Rain Lover in 1968-69, carrying 9.7 (60.5) in his second win. Think Big then won back to back cups in 1974-75 despite failing to win another race in the intervening 12 months.
Of course, there is a fourth horse who won two cups, Peter Pan, who was successful in 1932 and 1934, carrying 9.10 (61.5) at his second success.
However, Peter Pan was the only dual winner to attempt a third win, in 1935. Asked to carry the massive weight of 10.6 (66), he plodded home in 15th place.
Two of the most outstanding examples of multiple appearances have occurred in recent times, indeed in the past 12 years. Makybe Diva became the first horse to win three successive Melbourne Cups, 2003-04-05.
It’s possible her record may never be equalled. To win three successive cups requires remaining injury-free and being in form at the right time. It also requires sympathetic weights and clear running in the race. That’s a lot of boxes to tick.
The other extraordinary feat concluded only last year when the seemingly ageless warrior Red Cadeaux collected his third second placing in four starts. Red Cadeaux’s amazing sequence of four starts 2011-14 was as follows: second, eighth, second, second.
Will Red Cadeaux have another crack at the ancient racing age of 10?
Before Red Cadeaux, the record of the best performed horse to never win the Cup belonged to Shadow King, whose record is still phenomenal to this day, never finishing worse than sixth.
Between 1929-35, Shadow King started in six of seven cups (missing 1934), and his sequence of runs was as follows: 1929 – sixth; 1930 – third; 1931 – second; 1932 – third; 1933 – second; 1935 – fourth.
Shadow King competed with some of the best horses to race in the Melbourne Cup. The 1929 cup was won by Nightmarch, 1930 by Phar Lap, 1932 by Peter Pan and 1933 by Hall Mark.
Right on he heels of Shadow King came the gallant mare Sarcherie. She ran in four successive cups 1934-37, with the following placings: second, second, tenth, third.
Just as the war years began, another fine performer in Maikai produced successive second placings in 1939-40. Maikai had two more starts, finishing sixth (with 9.6/ 60) in 1941 and fading to 17th in 1942.
Some wonderfully good horses contested the Melbourne Cup during the 1950s, so many good horses carrying good weights. For example, between 1950-54, the top weight won four out of five times. The minimum winning weight of these horses was 9.5 (59.5).
Rising Fast owns one of the best Melbourne Cup records both for consistency and weight-carrying. In 1954-56, Rising Fast ran first, second and fifth. His weights were 9.5 (59.5), 10.0 (63.5) and 10.2 (64.5).
In 1956, incidentally the year I was born, for the only time, two horses started in the Melbourne Cup with 10.0 (63.5) or more. Apart from Rising Fast, the other runner was Redcraze, who finished second with 10.3 (65).
Redcraze ran fourth to Toparoa in 1955, second to Evening Peal in 1956 and eighth to Straight Draw in 1957, carrying 10.2 (64.5). Bot Rising Fast and Redcraze had been New Zealand born, bred, owned and trained horses who were later transferred to Australian trainers.
We now go back to the early part of the 20th century to pick up the story. The well named and well performed Trafalgar raced successively in 1910-11-12, finishing fourth; second and 15th. His weights were 9.1 (57.5); 9.2 (58) and 9.9 (61).
Just a handful or so years later another horse produced a remarkably similar record. Kennaquhair raced successively in 1918-19-20, finishing second, 10th and fifth. His weights were 9.0 (57); 9.5 (59.5) and 9.8 (61).
Another warrior emerged in the late 70s, Hyperno. In fact, he was such a rogue that he possibly cost champion jockey Roy Higgins his third win, who had been his regular rider for some time, developing a love-hate relationship with the horse.
Instead, Hyperno gave Harry White his fourth cup win when they pipped Salamander and Higgins in 1979. Hyperno had four runs 1977-79-80-81. He finished third, first, seventh and sixth, carrying 58.5 in 1980 and 58 in 1981.
Back to more recent times (1990s) and Vintage Crop and Doriemus had three and four starts respectively, that included a win and a place.
This century we saw three outstanding european horses each race three times in the Cup.
Vinnie Roe ran fourth in 2002, second in 2004 and eighth in 2005. Americain won in 2010, was fourth in 2012 and 11th in 2012. Dunaden pipped Red Cadeaux in 2011, was 14th in 2012 and 11th in 2013.
Each of the past five horses mentioned carried a minimum 58 kgs in two of their starts.
The weights horses are being asked to carry has changed significantly. With horse flesh now so expensive, handicappers are reluctant to submit them to the back-breaking weights of yesteryear.
For a comparison, let’s look at Carbine’s year (1890), when he carried a record weight (10.5/ 66) in a record field (39) to the 150th Melbourne Cup of 2010, won by Americain.
In 1890, Carbine was really up against it. He carried 66 kgs, just two other horses carried over 9.0 (57), eight horses carried over 8.0 (51), 17 carried over 7.0 (44), while amazing, 11 horses carried less than 7.0 (44).
In 2010, only one horse carried over 57 kgs, while all the remaining horses were weighted over 51 kgs. Clearly, the Melbourne Cup is today a quality handicap with a compressed weights range.
The five highest weights carried to victory in the Melbourne Cup are: Carbine, 10.5 (66) in 1890; Archer, 10.2 (64.5) in 1862; Poitrel, 10.0 (63.5) in 1920; Phar Lap, 9.12 (62.5) in 1930 and Peter Pan, 9.10 (61.5) in 1934.
The seven highest weights carried into a place (second or third) are: Redcraze, second, 10.3 (65) in 1956; Mormon, second, 10.1 (64) in 1861; Commotion, third, 10.1 in 1883; Panic, second, 10.0 (63.5) in 1865; Carbine, second, 10.0 in 1889; Wakeful, second 10.0 in 1903 and Rising Fast, second, 10.0 in 1955.
Carbine is the only horse to carry in excess of 63.5 kgs into a place in two Melbourne Cups (second in 1889 and won in 1890). Also spare a thought for his daughter, the grand dame Wakeful.
She was probably a better racehorse mare than Maykbe Diva, carrying 10.0 (63.5) into second place in 1903. Makye Diva won her third cup with just 58 kgs by comparison.
The last horse to carry 63.5 kgs or more in the cup was Galilee in 1968, when he finished eighth with 10.1 (64).
The biggest weight carried in the Cup since then was by Battle Heights, who finished seventh in 1974 with 61 kgs. Gunsynd ran a gallant third in 1972 with 60.5 (9.7), while Kingston Town bombed with the same weight in 1981.
Super Impose ran fourth in 1991 with 60 kgs and Vintage Crop seventh in 1994, also with 60 kgs.
Since then no horse has been asked to carry more than 59 kgs: Vinnie Roe in 2002 (4th), Yeats in 2006 (7th) and Dunaden in 2012 (14th).