The Melbourne Cup is among the most prestigious thoroughbred races in the world and one that unites Australian society. The world’s finest stayers congregate to compete at Flemington and it always attracts a phenomenal field.
More fondly known as the “race that stops the nation”, there have been many legendary horses that have prevailed since the race began in 1861 and they have woven themselves into the tapestry of the Melbourne Cup. Here are five of the event’s greatest moments:
Might and Power (1997)
Rated as one of the best stayers in the business, Might and Power claimed a Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup double in 1997 – a feat that only a few great horses have achieved. Might and Power was renowned for his relentless power and crushing the spirit of his rivals from the start of a race.
Although he won by only a slender margin to fend off a challenge from Doriemus, it was one of the most exhilarating races of all time. Might and Power’s skill was undoubted. He won the Caulfield Cup by a staggering seven-and-a-half-lengths and triumphed in the Cox Plate in 1998 and he is still considered one of racing’s immortals.
Media Puzzle (2002)
There are few moments that have stirred up more emotion than the victory of Media Puzzle. Heading into the Melbourne Cup, Media Puzzle was a rung below his Irish stablemate Vinnie Roe and he was an outside chance to win the race.
Just a matter of days before the race, Jason Oliver, brother to champion rider Damien, tragically died after injuries sustained in a track fall in Perth. Damien wore his brother’s riding breeches and was roared home by a vociferous crowd of 102,000 people at Flemington. After crossing the line, Damien pointed to the heavens to salute his late brother in a poignant tribute. Few get to experience the joy of riding a Melbourne Cup winner, but this was Damien’s second triumph.
Makybe Diva (2005)
She may have been carrying the weight of history on her shoulders, but Makybe Diva didn’t seem to be showing it. Makybe Diva had been a doubt before the race because of the firmer track conditions. However, she declared herself available after Flemington officials agreed to water the course. And she didn’t disappoint. The improved conditions gave her the confidence to produce a dominant performance and surge to victory. Her triumph captured the hearts and minds of the Australian public and she was given a standing ovation.
Makybe Diva’s win completed a three-peat after triumphing in 2003 and 2004. Her trainer, Lee Freedman, perfectly encompassed the significance of the achievement.
He said: “Go and find the smallest child on this course, because they will be an example of the only person here that will live long enough to see something like that again.”
The Melbourne Cup and Bart Cummings have gone hand in hand over the years. In 2008, he enjoyed a historic moment and the perfect dozen when he trained his 12th and final Melbourne Cup winner in Viewed. Prior to the race, punters will have had some questions marks over Viewed and will have not rushed to the site www.punter.com.au to place a bet.
But Cummings weaved his magic and Viewed came up trumps, pipping English-trained Bauer to the post, giving jockey Blake Shinn his first Cup success.
The moment wasn’t lost on Cummings as he said after the race: “It’s nice to win a race like this, a race that everyone in Australia likes to win… particularly my owners.
“I do make a habit of winning this race, someone told me – it’s a good habit to get into.”
By this point, a sporting rivalry was flourishing between the northern and southern hemispheres as Europe began to have a stranglehold on the Melbourne Cup. In a heart-stopping race, French stayer Dunaden prevailed by a mere nose in a photo finish to edge out the British-trained Red Cadeaux to win the $6.2million race.
French jockey Christophe Lemaire had been one of the backmarkers, but stormed through the field and beat Red Cadeaux in one of the closest races in living memory. After a few suspenseful minutes, Dunaden was declared the winner and Lemaire pumped his fist in the air with unbridled joy.
Dunaden enjoyed a distinguished career, running 46 times, winning on 10 occasions and placing a further 19 times before passing away in 2019 due to complications following a paddock accident.