The tiny Victorian township of Birchup has been caught up in Melbourne Cup fever for 72 years now.
And every year the residents all either remember or the younger ones, learn that one of them created Melbourne Cup history….72 years ago.
In 1948, aboard the $81 chance RIMFIRE, Birchup teenager Ray Neville landed the Cup in a photo finish – at just his 9th ride in a race.
And the town folk want his face immortalized in a mural on their huge grain silos.
Neville, who died 12 years back of cancer, was and still is, the youngest jockey to ever win the Melbourne Cup.
He was 15 years of age when he booted home Rimfire in true Hollywood style, and only landed the ride on Rimfire the day before the Cup!
Birchip is a town in the middle of the famed Mallee region, on the Sunraysia Highway north of Donald. The town is located in the Shire of Buloke local government area. At the 2016 census, Birchip had a population of 702.
It is located approximately 312 km northwest of Felmington.
The young Neville was booked on Rimfire a day prior to the Melbourne Cup. But his master did not tell him until the morning of the Cup because he wanted him to get a good night sleep, not disturbed by nerves.
The race that year had 30 runners and the favourite was the topweight HOWE who was odds-on.
Neville, who had only gained his licence to ride two months before the Cup, rode a Flemington winner at his second race ride a few weeks earlier.
And it was that win, that convinced Rimfire’s trainer that he could handle his $81 outsider.
Everyone knew Rimfire had talent. But they also knew he had bad legs and had been soundly beaten by Howe the Saturday prior in the Hotham Handicap.
But, on Melbourne Cup day…it was wet.
The great COMIC COURT was in the field this year too and Neville, who drew gate 23, had Rimfire midfield one off the fence at the halfway mark.
Coming to the bend, the horse, who was not feeling his joints on the soft track, had moved himself into the fray and was 7th as they swung.
You Neville went for home and Rimfire responded. Only old Sydney hoop Jack Thompson on Dark Marne gave chase and chase he did. He grabbed Rimfire on the wire. Thommo came back to scale thinking he’d won, cap and hand raised in the air, but the official photo showed that Rimfire had.
Just on 18 months after the Cup, Ray Neville grew big and retired from riding.
Many years later he was lured out of retirement to become a jumps jockey and he stayed that way for 30 years.
Now the town where he learnt both trades wants him honoured on their silos.
Fair enough, I think.