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The 1985 Melbourne Cup was significant for a couple of reasons. It was the first sponsored Melbourne Cup, with Foster’s taking the Melbourne Cup into a new era. Through sponsorship, the prize pool was raised to $1 million, making it one of the richest races in the world.

The presence of the fairytale royal couple, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, also added to the sense of occasion. There was no doubt that the Foster’s Melbourne Cup was moving towards becoming one of the world’s premier races.

The Early Betting

When betting opened in mid August, the early favourite was Perth Cup winner Phizam. However, he was withdrawn at the first declaration stage, and the new favourite was 1983 Melbourne Cup winner Kiwi. Throughout betting, a number of horses were near the top – most notably, Mapperley Heights, Our Sophia and 1984 winner Black Knight.

The Lead Up Races

The traditional lead up races were dominated by a select group of horses, with Tristarc, Lacka Reason, Our Sophia and Rising Prince dominating the spring.

The Caulfield Cup was won by Ross McDonald’s mare Tristarc, who won from Kiwi mare Our Sophia and Lacka Reason. Our Sophia’s run was good enough to elevate her to favouritism for the Melbourne Cup.

Tristarc was in good form that spring, who a week before the Caulfield Cup won the Caulfield Stakes by a length and a half from Lacka Reason.

Lacka Reason had won the Turnbull Stakes at the beginning of October, defeating Our Sophia.

Also in good form was gelding Rising Prince, who followed a dominant win in the Cox Plate with an easy win in the Mackinnon Stakes.

Coming through different form lines, the lightly weighted Butternut scored a narrow victory in the Moonee Valley Cup, from Rocky Rullah and Pekamagess, while Spritely Native beat Foxseal in The Metropolitan at Randwick.


Our Sophia was expected to continue her consistent spring with a victory in the Melbourne Cup, being sent out a 9/2 favourite.

Also under double figures were 1983 winner Kiwi, 1984 placegetter Mapperley Heights and Caulfield Cup winner Tristarc.

9/2 fav                  Our Sophia

8/1                         Kiwi, Mapperley Heights

9/1                         Tristarc

10/1                       Koiro Corrie May

14/1                       Black Knight

15/1                       What A Nuisance

16/1                       Imaprince, Late Show

20/1                       Our Boyfriend, Rising Prince, Foxseal

25/1                       Lacka Reason

33/1                       Tripsacum, Fil de Roi

40/1                       Butternut, Silver Award

66/1                       Dusky Legend, Duanette’s Girl, Under Oath

80/1                       Hayai

100/1                     Spritely Native, Sir Zephyr

The Replay

The Winner

What A Nuisance had a promising career early, and was held in high regard as a stayer. With four straight wins in the autumn of 1984, including victories in the Duke of Norfolk Stakes (now the Andrew Ramsden Stakes, 3200m) over the Melbourne Cup track and distance and the Chairman’s Handicap (2600m) at Randwick, he was set to open as one of the early favourites for the 1984 Melbourne Cup. However, a severe leg injury suffered in the Sydney Cup when running 6th as favourite hampered him for the rest of his career.

He had a short preparation in the spring of 1984, before having a long spell in preparation for the Melbourne Cup of 1985.

What A Nuisance had one of the earliest starts to a Melbourne Cup preparation on record. He was first seen at a midweek meeting at Bendigo in late June, running 8th in a welter over 1300m. He had three more sprint starts before stepping up to 1600m, once again at Bendigo, in mid September. That day, he won the Bendigo Handicap by 3L as a $1.90 favourite. Next start, he stepped up to 2020m at Moonee Valley, running 2nd to 1984 Melbourne Cup winner Black Knight, and then finished 2nd by a nose in the Navy Day Handicap (now The Bart Cummings) over 2500m on Turnbull Stakes Day. He stepped up to Group racing in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes over 2000m, finishing 6th but beaten only two lengths. A slashing 4th in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2600m), followed by an even 5th in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m), set him up for the Melbourne Cup.

Ridden by Pat Hyland, he started at 15/1 but he had his favoured wet conditions to suit. He was produced at just the right time in the straight to claim a nose victory over the Kiwi grey mare Koiro Corrie May. Tripsacum finished third, with Fil de Roi fourth.

What A Nuisance is also memorable as the second win for owner Lloyd Williams. Having had a share in 1981 winner Just A Dash, Williams has made a considerable effort to win the Melbourne Cup in recent years. In 2007, striking grey Efficient produced a magnificent finishing burst to overcome international Purple Moon and win. This year, Williams appears to have a very strong hand for the race, with locals Efficient, C’est La Guerre, Zipping, Linton and Rundle, and imports Alandi, Mourayan and Grand Ducal, likely to be aimed at the race that stops a nation.

Written by Andrew Hawkins

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