This race, the richest, or equal richest, in the country at times, is awash with history. This year will mark its 13th running over 525 metres at the Meadows, and it’s 56th overall. It’s also interesting to see what alleys have provided the most winners of the event since the move to the Meadows.
The first Australian Cup set the template for the prestige of the event. Run in 1958 as a handicap event over 675 yards (617 metres) at North Melbourne, the winner was the great Rookie Rebel, owned and trained by Wally Hooper. Rookie Rebel was the backmarker, off eight yards, and short-priced favourite. Despite a severe check at one point in the race, Rookie Rebel stormed home to defeat the smart NSW racer Magic Babe by three lengths in 36. 2/16ths, the fastest time registered in a handicap. He earned £800 ($1,600) for the victory.
The Australian Cup was run over 675 yards (617 metres) at North Melbourne as a handicap from 1958 to 1962. No race was held in 1963 when the move was made to Olympic Park. The new distance was 560 yards (511 metres) and it remained a handicap in 1964 and 1965. From 1966 to 1995 it was run at Olympic Park. When that track closed, the Cup took place over 515 metres at Sandown Park from 1996 to 1998. In 1999 it moved to the Meadows and was contested over 518 metres until 2001. Since 2002 it has been run over 525 metres at the Meadows.
When Is The Race Run
The first Australian Cup was held on 31 March 1958, and has been held either in late February or March through most of its history. The exceptions have been when it was run in May from 1995 to 1997 and again in 2002, and January in 1998 and 2000.
Only the one: China Trip, in 1992 and 1993.
Only Reserves to Win
Biggest Winning Margins
Eaglehawk Star won by seven and a half lengths in 1985; Brett Lee blitzed the 2001 field by seven lengths in the last Cup contested over 518 metres; South Australian speedster Ginger won by six and a quarter lengths in 1989; NSW champion Benjamin John scored by six lengths in 1969 and Listowel Sue won by five and a half lengths in 1977.
Closest Winning Margins
The dead-heat in 2003 between Blackjack Tom and Most Awesome is obviously the closest of all time. Old Tops won in 1964 by half a head, becoming the first winner of the race at Olympic Park and also the first from NSW. Regal Post downed Dundalk Star by a head in 1987. China Trip won both her Australian Cups, in 1992 and 1993, by a head. Black Diro won by half a neck in 1971.
Most Successful Trainers
Queensland mentor Jim Coleman was the first to train dual winners, in successive years with Ungwilla Lad (1975) and Odious (1976). Then Garry Ball trained China Trip to win two in a row. Darren McDonald prepared Brett Lee in 2001 and Pure Octane in 2005; Robert Britton put the polish on Isa Brown (2002) and Tasman Queen (2008); Andrea Dailly has scored with Dyna Lachlan (2010) and Spud Regis (2013), and Graeme Bate has one and a half winners: he prepared Blackjack Tom in 2003 (who dead heated) and Velocette in 2009.
Idle Mate (third 1958, second 1959), Cheltenham Lass (second 1966 & 1967), Fawn Nulla (third 1966, Won 1967), Ungwilla Lad (Won 1975, third 1976), Count D’Argent (fourth 1977, Won 1978), Tangaloa (second 1979, Won 1980), Franklin Deano (eighth 1990, Won 1991), China Trip (Won 1992 & 1993), Bomber Gleeson (third 1992 & 1993), Super Impact (seventh 1994, sixth 1995), El Galo (second 2008 & 2009), and High Earner (fell 2010, second 2011).
Some Beaten Stars
Magic Babe (second 1958), Shan’s View (sixth 1960), Dennis Direct (second 1961), Tamaroo (seventh 1962), The Stripper (second 1964), Takiri (eighth 1965), Cheltenham Lass (second 1966 & 1967), Kinta’s Son (fifth 1966), Miram Miss (sixth 1968), Petite Panther (second 1971), Milo’s Charm (second 1972), Bristol Miss (fifth 1972), Miss Baines (second 1973), Tempix (second 1980), Acclaim Star (sixth 1980), White Panther (eighth 1980), Chariot Supreme (sixth 1984), Acacia Park (eighth 1984), Legendary Kid (third 1986), True To Do (second 1993), Hotshot (fourth 1998), Reggemite (seventh 1999), Go Wild Teddy (second 2001), Dutchy’s Angel (third 2001), Cyrus The Virus (fifth 2003), Monster’s Inc (second 2004), Paua To Burn (seventh 2006), Train A Journey (second 2007), and Glen Gallon (seventh 2013).
Meadow Vale (1960) was the first Tasmanian to win the Cup, defeating Fair’s Orders and thereby giving trainer Peter Reid the quinella.
Dennis Direct, the runner-up to Copeland in 1961, later went to the United States to race.
Take A Bow, who won in 1962 to take his record to eight wins from just 11 starts, including the Sandown track record, was the sire of 1969 winner Benjamin John.
Busy’s Warrior, third to Pete’s Advice in 1981, was later disqualified for a positive swab, and Hotshow Vintage, second to Arvo’s Express in 2000, was another who was later disqualified.
Apart from the 2003 dead-heat for first, there was a dead-heat for third, in 1987, between Fernando Prince and Shining Chariot.
The Australian Cup was the richest race in the country between 1960 (when it was worth £1,400 to the winner) and 1962 and from 1964 to 1979 (that year it shared equal billing with the Melbourne Cup, both races being worth $30,000 to the winner). In 1983 it was worth $50,000 and again became the richest race, until 1989. Since then, it has shared top billing in 1996, and 1998 to 2000.
Since the move to the Meadows and the 525-metre distance, winners have come out of six boxes, but the majority, perhaps not surprisingly, have exited box one (four winners). Box two has provided one success (St Pierre) and box three one and a half. No winner has worn the blue rug or the green. In fact, the last winner to come from box six was Brett Lee and I am fairly sure the last winner to come from box four was Franklin Deano in 1991.