The ‘silks’ worn by jockeys create much of the colourful spectacle of races. The jockeys are the athletes responsible for guiding the racehorses to the finish line.
Jockeys must adhere to very controlled diets to maintain their weight and build their strength. Jockeys are weighed prior to commencing the Melbourne Cup race together with their saddles, and it is very important that their weight after the race is the same.
The winning jockeys are weighed at the end of the race, and if the weight is accurate, ‘correct weight’ is declared and the winners announced.
Bobby rode in 33 Melbourne Cups, winning four, and was placed in another five Cup races. His four Melbourne Cup wins on The Victory, 1902; Patrobas, 1915; Artilleryman, 1919; and Trivalve, 1927 gave him the honour of holding the record of the most Cup wins for a jockey, a record he later shared with Harry White. His last win on Trivalve, at the age of 49, is regarded as his biggest achievement as it was in this race that he broke his own race record time. He retired in 1938 after 46 years of riding.
Bobby Lewis, 1900.
Sharing the record of the most Melbourne Cup wins, jockey Harry White was regarded as one of the most successful jockeys of his era. Joining leading trainers such as Bart Cummings and George Hanlon, Harry White produced a remarkable number of race wins over his 35-year riding career.
Harry rode his first winner at Flemington in 1959 and continued to win premium races in the 1960s. But it was the 1970s that proved to be his most successful decade with four Melbourne Cup wins: Think Big, 1974 and 1975; Arwon, 1978; and Hyperno, 1979. Unlike Bobby Lewis who achieved his four Melbourne Cup wins over a period of 25 years, Harry won four out of six consecutive Cups, an amazing achievement.
His success was not limited to racing in Victoria and he won prominent races in many Australian cities including Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston and Sydney. Harry retired to his farm in 1995 together with his old friend, Think Big.
Harry White, 1974.
Roy Higgins is regarded as one of Australia’s most successful and best-loved jockeys and his talent and connection with horses earned him the name ‘The Professor’. His riding career spanned from 1953 to 1984 and during that time he managed to win most of Australia’s premier races, some of them on several occasions. But his two greatest wins were in the Melbourne Cup with Light Fingers in 1965 and Red Handed in 1967. These wins were not only the first Cup wins for Roy but were the first of 12 Cup wins for trainer Bart Cummings. Roy nearly won a third Melbourne Cup, beaten in a photo finish on Salamander by Hyperno in 1979.
Roy Higgins, 1965.
In 1979, female jockeys were granted the right to race against men in thoroughbred races in Australia. From 1973 to 1979, women were only allowed to race against each other and, prior to that, not permitted to ride in professional horse races at all! Now there are no restrictions, and racing is one of the few sports where males and females compete together.
In 1987, New Zealander Maree Lyndon made Cup history by becoming the first woman to ride in a Melbourne Cup on Argonaut Style. While she didn’t win, she paved the way for many other female jockeys who have competed in subsequent Cups.
Following in the footsteps of Maree Lyndon, female jockey Clare Lindop became the first Australian woman to ride in a Melbourne Cup in 2003. Although she finished 19th in the Cup on her ride Debben, being Australia’s first female Melbourne Cup jockey was a victory in itself.
Damien rode in his first Melbourne Cup in 1989. Following his apprenticeship, Damien continued to achieve great results and won four Victorian Jockey Premierships before being invited by Lee Freedman to ride his upcoming stayer Doriemus in the 1995 Melbourne Cup. Through consistent and determined riding, Damien rode Doriemus to victory by an impressive 4 lengths.
Following his Melbourne Cup win, Damien ventured overseas to race at many international racetracks including Hong Kong, England, Ireland and New Zealand. But he loved to return home to race in Australia and did so each year to run in the Cup. A week before Damien was due to race in the 2002 Cup he received the shocking news that his older brother Jason, also a jockey, had fallen in Perth, sustaining what proved to be fatal injuries. Obviously devastated by his brother’s death, it was unclear if Damien would race.
Not only did Damien choose to ride in the Cup, but he declared he would win it for his brother. As the horses raced down the straight in the 2002 Melbourne Cup, almost every spectator at Flemington and millions around Australia were cheering for one horse only or, more accurately, one jockey. At 300 metres before the finishing line, Damien’s ride, Media Puzzle, charged to the lead, beating the second place horse by two lengths.
An enormous amount of determination and passion. It's a 24/7 business.
Trainers have their own unique style and routine for training a horse and will customise a program based on the horse’s breeding, experience, body type and character.
Training may include swimming, sand rolls, grass and turf racing, jumping and muscle strengthening activities.
Australia boasts many of the world’s leading trainers including Bart Cummings, Lee Freedman, Gai Waterhouse, David Hall and David Hayes, as well as renowned trainers from the past including Colin Hayes, Tommy Smith, James Scobie and, in the 1800s, Etienne de Mestre and Walter Hickenbotham.
The ‘Cups King’ Bart Cummings is undoubtedly Australia’s most famous horse trainer, holding the record of 12 Melbourne Cup wins.
At the age of 23, Bart worked as the strapper for his father’s horse Comic Court that won the 1950 Melbourne Cup. This experience stirred great passion in Bart and, in 1953, he secured his training licence and set up his own stables in South Australia.
In 1958, he raced his first horse in the Melbourne Cup without success. But over the course of more than 50 years, he would race over 78 horses in Melbourne Cups and produce 12 winners up to 2009. His first Melbourne Cup winner was Light Fingers in 1965 and he also won many premier races around Australia including the Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Caulfield Cups.
Not only has Bart produced 12 Melbourne Cup winners but on five occasions – in 1965, 1966, 1974, 1975 and 1991 – he trained both the first and second place horses. He also holds the record for the fastest Melbourne Cup time (3 min 16.3 sec) set by Kingston Rule in 1990.
As a result of his achievements, Bart Cummings has been inducted into the Australian Sporting and Racing Halls of Fame, appeared on a series of Australian legends stamps, been awarded the Order of Australia and has carried the Sydney Olympic torch.
Etienne de Mestre is regarded as the most famous early trainer due to his success in the Melbourne Cup and his contribution to defining the racing landscape of a growing nation.
In 1861, he brought his horse Archer from Nowra to Melbourne by steamship and kept him hidden away from the public until his race in the first Melbourne Cup. At that time, there was a lot of rivalry between the colonies and, despite winning seven consecutive races in New South Wales prior to coming to Melbourne, neither Archer nor Etienne were considered serious contenders for the inaugural Melbourne Cup. But history would prove otherwise, with Archer beating the seventeen starters in the race in 1861 and again in the Cup of 1862. By that time, Etienne was regarded as a leading trainer.
He trained three more Melbourne Cup winners and held the record for the most Melbourne Cup wins for a trainer for nearly 100 years until his record was beaten by Bart Cummings.
Etienne de Mestre, 1861.
In 1938, New Zealand female trainer Hedwick ‘Granny’ McDonald was not recognised as the trainer of her Melbourne Cup contender, Catalogue. Despite having been registered as a trainer in New Zealand for several years, women could not be registered as trainers in Victoria so Catalogue was registered under the name of her husband, Mr Allan McDonald.
The eight-year-old Catalogue was not considered a good chance to win the 1938 Melbourne Cup because of his age. But he managed to beat the field of runners by a staggering three lengths. Although Mrs McDonald was never formally recognised as the trainer, the owner of the horse, Mrs Jamieson, stated in her acceptance speech that Mrs McDonald should be receiving the credit for Catalogue’s win.
TJ ‘Tommy’ Smith’s story is about an Aussie battler who, after a tough beginning and very little schooling or normal childhood, was forced to work from the age of seven. He overcame adversity to become one of Australia’s most loved and successful trainers.
At the age of 13, he left home and went to work in stables in Melbourne and Sydney in an attempt to get work as a jockey. Unfortunately, he weighed too much to compete in flat races and, after a fall, was no longer able to compete as a jockey. So he turned his hand to the training of thoroughbreds.
Tommy’s first horse Bragger set him up with many wins over many years and he was able to establish himself as a reputable trainer. In 1955, he entered a horse named Toparoa into the Melbourne Cup. The horse was regarded as quite ordinary but due to Tommy’s magic touch, he reached his true potential, beating Rising Fast to the finish line. For Tommy this was an early triumph in what would become hundreds of premier race victories in Australia during a period that spanned more than 30 years. His next great champion was Tulloch, a racing legend who missed out on winning a Melbourne Cup.
In 1981, 26 years after his first Cup win, Tommy returned with two runners, the champion Kingston Town and the less favoured Just a Dash. But it was Just a Dash who proved to be stronger on the day giving Tommy his second and last Melbourne Cup win.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, Tommy trained over 7,000 winners including 279 Group 1 wins. His expertise, work ethic and persistence were recognised when he won 33 consecutive Sydney Trainers’ Premierships between 1952 and 1985, a record that still holds to this day.
Tommy died in 1998 but his legacy lives on. His daughter Gai Waterhouse registered to become a trainer and took over Tommy’s training stables, Tulloch Lodge, aptly named after his champion thoroughbred. Gai is now regarded as Australia’s leading female trainer and has won numerous Sydney Trainers’ Premierships over the years.
Tommy Smith and Gai Waterhouse.
Based in Adelaide, Colin Hayes started off as an amateur rider before purchasing stables for training and breeding horses. He set up a racing dynasty when he moved his stables to a country mansion named Lindsay Park in 1965. From the early 1970s through the 80s, Colin trained a host of successful champions including two Melbourne Cup winners: Beldale Ball in 1980 and At Talaq in 1986.
Colin trained over 5,300 winners during his career and was awarded with 28 Adelaide and 13 Melbourne Trainers' Premierships.
Following in their father’s footsteps, sons Peter and David Hayes became registered trainers early in their careers. Colin handed over the management of the Lindsay Park stud and training stables to David with immediate success, including a win in the 1994 Melbourne Cup with the horse Jeune. Then, while David was training in Hong Kong, Peter took over and the stable continued to produce outstanding champions under his leadership. When Peter died in a tragic accident in 2001, David Hayes returned to Australia to once again take over Lindsay Park where he continued the family’s outstanding training record, producing over 1,290 wins. He has since transferred most of his training activities to Victoria.
David has set many records including the world record for the most Group wins in one day: 10; the Australian record for the most winners in one racing season: 300; and the record for the highest prize money earnings in one racing season in Australia. David continues to be one of Australia’s leading trainers and has won 18 Trainers’ Premierships in Melbourne, Adelaide and Hong Kong. His reputation is acknowledged around the world where the family name of ‘Hayes’ is regarded as a powerhouse in global training and breeding.
Lee Freedman was born in 1956 and grew up in a racing family. His father trained and bred horses, and his great-grandfather, Midge McLachlan, worked as a professional jockey and won three Melbourne Cups. In 1970, Lee’s father bought a stud in Yass in New South Wales and Lee’s passion for racing grew as successful thoroughbreds emerged from their stables.
In 1983, Lee secured his owner-trainer licence and began what is an amazing racing career. He moved first to Warwick Farm in Sydney but was unable to secure stables so decided to try his luck in Melbourne. Lee Freedman’s story has also been one of family partnership as he trained horses with the help of three of his brothers, Michael, Richard and Anthony.
Lee won his first Group 1 race in 1986 and ran his first horse in a Melbourne Cup in 1988. It wasn’t until the following year in 1989 that Tawriffic, the same horse that he ran a year earlier, would give him his first Melbourne Cup win, and he also trained the second placegetter Super Impose. But his most satisfying Cup win is his win with Makybe Diva’s record-breaking third consecutive Cup victory in 2005. To date, Lee has won five Melbourne Cups, the same number as Etienne de Mestre and second only to legendary Cup trainer Bart Cummings.
It was not until the 1960s that the Victoria Racing Club agreed to award training licences to women – a slow start to an equitable field for male and female trainers. Sheila Laxon was the first woman to officially train a Melbourne Cup winner in 2001 with New Zealand mare Ethereal. Not only did Ethereal win the Melbourne Cup, but a few weeks earlier she won the Caulfield Cup achieving the ‘Cups Double’, only the third time in history this had been achieved by a mare.
Sheila Laxon was born in Wales and moved to New Zealand in 1980. During training, she preferred to ride horses herself but in 1991 suffered a bad fall which required years of rehabilitation. However, with great determination she returned to training and entered the history books after Ethereal beat the field by a ¾ length. Sheila now runs a thoroughbred training facility in Seymour, Victoria and continues to strive for another Melbourne Cup win.
Scott Seamer and Sheila Laxton.
THE RACE CALLERS
Race callers describe the events of the race in detail, including the position of the horses, the stage of the race and the distance the horses have travelled.
They also describe sudden moves, position changes in the race and when horses overtake each other.
Race callers are required not only to memorise the horses in the race but the horses that have been scratched (withdrawn), and the names of the jockeys, the colours of their silks and other interesting
facts about each entrant.
It is amazing to listen to a good race caller and hear the speed at which the caller
describes the events of a race.
Among the most famous race callers of our times was Bill Collins who, finishing in 1987, called a total of 34 Melbourne Cups.
Bill Collins was born in 1928 in Moe, Victoria and, like many young Australian boys, was mad about sport. He grew up in the era before television when radio was finding its way into all Australian homes. As a young boy, he tried to emulate the race-calling technique of his idols Eric Welch and Jim Carroll, and was known to race matchsticks in water running down a gutter so that he could practise his race-calling skills.
Bill possessed a rare combination of skills: a nimble mind, an unusually retentive memory and quick eye-to-voice coordination. These qualities made him a great caller, but it was his imagination and character that enabled him to entertain a crowd and become a very popular racing identity. Many later callers based themselves on the Collins style.
Known as the ‘voice of Australian racing’, Greg Miles still feels a little nervous as the first Tuesday in November approaches, despite having called 29 Melbourne Cups. Greg will call the 160th running of the Melbourne Cup – not only does he have the pressure of ensuring that he calls the race correctly, but he knows that millions of people in Australia and around the world will hold their breath for those three minutes, hanging on to his every word.
Greg initially had ambitions of becoming a jockey but was too heavy to pursue that career. Like his idol Bill Collins, he decided to become a race caller at an early age. He would go out to the track and practise calling races into a tape recorder and send the tapes to local radio stations for review. In 1978, he called his first race, a steeplechase event in Yarra Glen in Victoria.
Greg called his first Melbourne Cup for the ABC in 1981 and in the same year at Flemington became the chief race caller of the Cup. While Greg’s most memorable race was Damien Oliver’s winning ride in the 2002 Melbourne Cup on Media Puzzle following the death of his brother, his most famous was the 2005 Melbourne Cup when Makybe Diva broke the record by winning three consecutive Melbourne Cups.