Zac Purton’s ride on Admire Rakti in the 2014 Caulfield Cup didn’t look too pretty but it was effective.
Zac Purton had the Japanese horse three-wide in clear air for most of the race and when he asked him for a finishing sprint, he put on a display of sustained speed that had racegoers gasping.
Purton rode Admire Rakti as he would have had he been in Japan and the big horse wore down Rising Romance to win by s long neck.
Hong Kong-based Australian Purton went to Japan in the off-season to try to secure a Cups ride.
The Caulfield Cup win was a first for Japan and Admire Rakti was favourite to give the country a second Melbourne Cup.
But after leading the Melbourne Cup field, Admire Rakti dropped back through the pack in some distress.
He later collapsed and died in his stall.
His ashes are interred in a special place at the Living Legends retirement home in Melbourne.
When jockeys are criticised for a big-race ride, comparisons are invariably drawn between their perceived inadequacy on the day and Shane Dye’s unforgettable navigation aboard Veandercross in the 1992 Caulfield Cup.
Punters who backed the New Zealander from 3-1 to 5-2 favouritism were aghast when Dye took off from near the rear of the field at the 800m and went extremely wide in search of better going on the slow track rounding the home turn.
While Dye was doing his best impression of the early explorers, Damien Oliver on the Lee Freedman-trained mare Mannerism saved every centimetre on the inside rounding the turn and prevailed by a short half-head, to the howls of favourite backers, after a titanic tussle with Veandercross down the running.
To this day Dye believes his tactics on Veandercross were right for the circumstances – he is still in the minority.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
They never knew what hit them.
Might And Power had 17 rivals in the 1997 Caulfield Cup but it was simply a case of him first, daylight second.
The champion Zabeel gelding gave Jim Cassidy an armchair ride and broke the hearts of some of Australia’s best gallopers with a breathtaking, all-the-way 7-1/2 length romp in Australian record time.
And it’s not as if he donkey-licked a team of no-hopers – second was Doriemus who had won the Cups double two years earlier and who had to settle for second again to Might And Power in the 1997 Melbourne Cup while third-placed Catalan Opening went on to win the Hong Kong Bowl and Doncaster Handicap later that season.
For sheer drama, it is hard to go past the 2007 Caulfield Cup when all the pre-race hype concerning the two favourites Maldivian and Eskimo Queen was literally turned on its head in an incredible couple of minutes before the start.
Trainer Mike Moroney’s Queensland Oaks winner Eskimo Queen had already suffered at the hands of fate when she dislodged jockey Greg Childs mid-race when favourite for the Queensland Derby in the winter.
However, her encouraging spring form had her well fancied for her clash with short-priced favourite Maldivian in the Cup.
But the anticipated duel was not to be.
First, Eskimo Queen threw herself down in the gates and got caught under the barrier stalls, prompting Maldivian to “go off” as well.
The Mark Kavanagh-trained Maldivian, the shortest Cup favourite in 40 years, became so fractious he reared and struck his head on a piece of television equipment on the top of the stalls.
The Caulfield crowd was dumbfounded as the two late scratchings were led from the scene, Maldivian with blood streaming from the nasty cut inflicted by the camera gear.
The race had lost its lustre for most but not Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien who minutes later was savouring the euphoria of leading in the Cup quinella after Vlad Duric’s mount Master O’Reilly, the 8-1 favourite after the shock scratchings, came with a late burst to cut down stablemate Douro Valley to win by 2-1/4 lengths.
The Bart Cummings-trained super mare Let’s Elope did not win in her first three starts in the spring of 1991, all on wet tracks.
Then she reeled off four successive victories on dry surfaces – and what a quartet it was.
Let’s Elope made a one-act affair of the Group Two Turnbull Stakes (2000m), donkey-licking Prince Salieri who had to give her a whopping nine kilograms.
Then came the Caulfield Cup in which Let’s Elope had the postage stamp weight of 48.5kg.
She started at 7-1 but looked 100-1 with 600 metres to go when she still had most of the 17-strong field behind her.
Jockey Steven King pulled her wide at the top of the straight and Let’s Elope produced her trademark finishing burst to reel in the leaders and beat Ivory Way by a head.
Then came a soft win in the Mackinnon Stakes before her famous victory in the Melbourne Cup after surviving a protest from Shane Dye on runner-up Shiva’s Revenge.
Let’s Elope came back in the autumn to win the Group Two CF Orr Stakes (1400m), Group Two St George Stakes (1800m) and Group One Australian Cup (2000m) at her only three starts that preparation.
You don’t get many better three-year-old seasons than the one the Tommy Smith-trained legend Tulloch blazed in 1957.
The colt had 16 starts that season for 14 wins and two placings – all against the best in the land.
His win in the Caulfield Guineas resulted in him starting 4-6 favourite for the Caulfield Cup with only 7st 8lb (48kg) and Neville Sellwood on his back.
Tulloch treated his older Cup rivals with the disdain with which he had dispatched his own generation, scoring by two lengths despite the disadvantage of barrier 17.
Second was Mac’s Amber and third another length away was Sailor’s Guide who later won the Washington International Stakes in the US.
Tulloch was controversially withdrawn from the 1957 Melbourne Cup but earned the distinction of being original topweight in the next four runnings of the race that stops a nation – 1958 10st 1lb (64kg), 1959 10st 3lb (65kg), 1960 10st 1lb, 1961 10st 1lb.
In 1998, the trainer of the Caulfield Cup winner arguably had better breeding than the winner himself.
Taufan’s Melody, rated a second or even third-tier European stayer, came to Australia on the back of a Listed race win over 3200m in Germany six weeks before the Caulfield Cup.
His trainer was Lady Herries, wife of former English cricket captain Colin Cowdrey, whose appetite for Australian racing had been whetted when her Harbour Dues finished fourth to Might And Power in the previous year’s Melbourne Cup with Englishman Ray Cochrane in the saddle.
Cochrane was to ride himself into history, and Australian racing infamy, for his Caulfield Cup effort on Taufan’s Melody.
Throwing caution to the wind on the 70-1 outsider, Cochrane made no bones about crossing sharply from barrier nine in the field of 17 in search of the lead – to the detriment of those on his inside.
Taufan’s Melody, whose inclusion in the field at the expense of Our Unicorn led to howls of protests from local trainers, proceeded to lead all the way and hold on for a short neck victory over Lisa’s Game.
Stewards, to the disbelief of most, allowed Taufan’s Melody to keep the race but hit Cochrane with a two-month suspension and relieved him of $20,000 of his winning percentage by way of a fine.
Leviathan owner Lloyd Williams is a man who travels the world in search of horses who can win Australia’s biggest races.
He did not have to go far afield to find Fawkner, a son of Williams’ homebred unbeaten Group One winner Reset.
Under the owner’s godson Nick Hall, Fawkner scored one of the most convincing Caulfield Cup wins for many years in 2013 when he powered away from a high class international field.
No Australian has bought more foreign horses than Williams with a figure of around 200 an accepted total. Of the 10 he originally entered for the Caulfield Cup, eight were imported.
Fawkner only remained in Williams’ name because a prospective buyer failed to pay up almost a year earlier.
“After he finished second in the Emirates Stakes last year someone rang up and wanted to buy him,” Williams’ son and Fawkner’s part-owner Nick Williams, said.
“When the sale didn’t go through Dad said he was glad the bloke didn’t pay.
“He said `I’ve being thinking about it, we’re going to win the Caulfield Cup with this horse’.”
And so it was to be with Fawkner giving the retired businessman his first Caulfield Cup to sit alongside his four Melbourne Cups.