When champion sprinter Gold Grotto streaked away to score a sensational race record victory in the 1972 Melbourne Cup he completed a unique double for his veteran trainer, Ed Tucker.
G. Bate (three times), D. McDonald, P. Hogan, and A. Ludlow (all twice) are the four trainers who have managed to train the winner of the ‘modern’ Melbourne Cup on two or more occasions.
Yet Ed Tucker, aged 62 when Gold Grotto scored, is the only one to have won the race twice on two different courses and distances, 18 years apart.
The ‘modern’ Melbourne Cup was inaugurated in 1956, and run over 565 yards (516 metres) at Sandown Park on grass, and as a handicap. It was worth a substantial £500 ($1,000) to the winner (Rockateer) in those days.
Yet the Melbourne Cup was actually being run for far longer. In September 1933 the Napier Park greyhound track opened in Essendon. Races were run on grass up the straight over 300 (274 metres) and 400 yards (366 metres) and 340 yards (311 metres) on the circle.
Two months later, Napier Park ran what it called the Melbourne Gold Cup, up the 400 yards straight. That first Melbourne Cup was won by Footlight Flashes, from New South Wales.
Move forward 21 years and the 1954 Melbourne Gold Cup would be the last to take place at Napier Park.
Ed Tucker, then 44, a professional dress-maker and part-time trainer, entered Wanalta Chief. Eight heats were run on 23 November and Wanalta Chief, starting a 5/2 ($3.50) favourite scored by just three-quarters of a length in 20.12/16ths.
Wanalta Chief had box three for the final but went out at 10/1 ($11.00), but in a close-fought finish defeated Murray Bay by a head in 20.9/16ths.
In October 1955 Napier Park went into voluntary liquidation and a year later the ‘modern’ Melbourne Cup was born at Sandown Park.
Almost two decades later and Ed Tucker was enjoying probably the most successful period of his long career. In the period from 1 August 1971 to 31 July 1972, Ed Tucker had won 63 races, 60 of them at either Sandown or Olympic Park, with the likes of Gold Grotto (the standout in the kennel), his litter-brother Court Honour, sprinter Vensarre, and hurdler Pol’s Duke. At the time he was training almost 60 greyhounds on his property at Lyndhurst.
The now retired dress-maker entered Gold Grotto for the 1972 Melbourne Cup. The fawn dog had been out injured for almost two months, and raced just once prior to the Cup semi-finals.
Tucker produced Gold Grotto in fine form to take out his event by a massive nine and a half lengths in a strong 30.5/16ths, the fastest of the semi-finals.
Gold Grotto drew perfectly in box one for the final against a field which is often considered one of the best, if not the best, to have lined up for a Melbourne Cup.
It included the brilliant local sprinters Half Your Luck and Miss Baines, the all-distance star Roman Copy, and NSW speedster Benny McGrath.
Gold Grotto began brilliantly and led into the first turn from Benny McGrath. The usual scrimmaging took place and, sadly, Miss Baines fell. Gold Grotto kept going and went on to down Benny McGrath by three lengths with Half Your Luck running on to take third. Gold Grotto went on to win 30 races, all of them on Melbourne’s city tracks.
It’s doubtful if Ed Tucker realised the significance of his training feat; but then he’d probably be amazed that the race which earned him $8,000 first prize back then is today worth a staggering $350,000 to the winner.