Winning the Melbourne Cup is an experience that will stay with Nick Moraitis forever. Winning a second is something he finds hard to imagine.
In 1997, Might And Power won the race in a heart-stopping finish that tricked Greg Hall on runner-up Doriemus into a premature victory salute.
Jim Cassidy remained calm, concentrating on pulling the big horse up as he kept striding around the back even after leading all the way over the gruelling 3200 metres.
Once the result was confirmed, Moraitis and his trainer, the late Jack Denham, made their way to the enclosure almost in disbelief.
“It was unbelievable,” Moraitis said.
“It seems like yesterday and the feeling has stayed with me.
“Everyone dreams of winning a Melbourne Cup and now I have a second chance to do it again.”
This year it will be Maluckyday who carries Cassidy in the pink and grey silks, the horse punters believe has the best chance to repel the European invasion.
Like Might And Power, he is by champion producer Zabeel, and like Might And Power he has had his share of problems.
The most serious was a near-fatal battle with pneumonia last spring which took a year out of his racing career and meant he could not run in the Melbourne Cup in which he had been second to Americain in 2010 at just his ninth start.
“We nearly lost him,” Moraitis said.
“I thank God and Johnnie Hawkes we have got him back.”
Hall of Fame trainer Hawkes, now in partnership with his sons Michael and Wayne after many years at the helm of the Inghams’ Crown Lodge in Sydney, is seeking his first win in the Melbourne Cup.
Maluckyday sits fifth in markets on Tuesday’s Cup behind Americain, 2011 winner Dunaden, Mount Athos and last year’s runner-up Red Cadeaux.
He got into the 2010 Melbourne Cup by winning the Lexus three days earlier but with his efforts of two years ago qualifying him for this year’s race, Maluckyday goes into the race at the fifth start of his campaign, the past two when somewhat unlucky.
The six-year-old finished second in the Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington on October 6 when he was unable to get a clear run at a vital stage and was slow out of the gates when a close fifth in the Geelong Cup (2400m).
“He is going as good as he ever has,” Wayne Hawkes said.
“He is one of the best I’ve ever touched. He is right up there with Octagonal.”
A multiple Group One winner and champion of the 1995/96 season, Octagonal in turn produced another champion in Lonhro when the Hawkes family worked for the Inghams.
Octagonal was also by Zabeel, the colonial sire upholding his end of the bargain against the Europeans with four runners in this year’s Cup.