Reliving Benjamin John’s feat to make two Melbourne Cups

DESPITE its incredibly long history, the Melbourne Cup has not really been a race where greyhounds domiciled in New South Wales have done well. This is despite the fact NSW racing was arguably far stronger than Victoria from the 1950s though until the 1980s and beyond. The last winner to come from NSW was Go Wild Teddy, in 2000.

While the race is not just tough to win, its conditions make it difficult just to qualify for a final. So it’s no surprise the Melbourne Cup has not had too many greyhounds which have qualified for the final across two consecutive years.

For New South Wales-trained greyhounds, there have only been two who have managed to make it into successive finals.

The first of these was one of the great sprinters of his time, Benjamin John (Take A Bow x Rebel Wayne), who achieved the feat under the tutelage of the great mentor Stan Cleverley in 1968 and again in 1969.

Benjamin John (pictured), a November 1966 whelping, made his first attempt at the Melbourne Cup off the back of just 12 race starts. Benjamin John had scored eight wins and included among them was a narrow success over 507 metres at Dapto, relegating the champion bitch Zoom Top into fourth place, a length and a quarter behind him.

After winning his qualifying heat, Benjamin John exited box seven in his Melbourne Cup semi-final on November 14, and raced away to score a four lengths victory to make the final.

Benjamin John drew poorly in box four for the final and was never a chance, finishing sixth, beaten almost eight lengths by fellow NSW sprinter Mr Spot, who made full use of box one to score a hollow six length win and collect the $3,000 first prize money.

A year later and Benjamin John was now the grizzled veteran of 49 starts and 24 wins. He had already annexed the Hobart Thousand and the Australian Cup in February 1969 and after a three-month spell made the final of the National Sprint Championship (running fourth to Red Zero).

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Benjamin John scored a strong win in his Melbourne Cup semi-final and drew perfectly in box one for the final. Stan Cleverley had also brought the brilliant black dog Milimsimbi with him for the race. Milimsimbi led all the way to win his semi-final and came up with the eight marble for the final, thereby giving Cleverley an almost perfect setup for the $3,000-to-the-winner event.

The final was run on November 20 and Milimsimbi speared out of box eight to take the early lead while Benjamin John basically chased his kennelmate throughout. Milimsimbi went on to score by two lengths in a race record 30.7/16 from Benjamin John with Noelybo four and a half lengths away third. Queensland champion Pied Rebel was fifth.

The only other NSW sprinter to make two consecutive Melbourne Cup finals has been the noted fast beginner Miss Alliance. She did this in 1973 and 1974 and, ironically just like Benjamin John, finished sixth (behind New Mariner) in the first one and second (behind Kwik Metal) in her next attempt.

2016 Group 1 Melbourne Cup – market

1 – Barton Bale -$8
2 – Worm Burner – $7.50
3 – Zambora Brockie – $2.25 with William Hill
4 – Tripum – $12
5 – Ando’s Mac – $9
6 – Outside Pass – $8
7 – Matt Machine – $41
8 – Jesaulenko – $8.50
1st Res – Blazin’ Bomber – $10
2nd Res – Bruce Tycoon – $34

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