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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 13:14 GMT
Melbourne Cup: Six of the best
By Scott Heinrich

Archer (1861-62)

The story of Archer, who won the first two Melbourne Cups, is an amazing one.

The Melbourne Cup on parade
The Melbourne Cup is one of racing's most coveted trophies
Folklore has it that for his 1861 victory Archer walked from Nowra in New South Wales to Melbourne with his stablehand - a 550-mile trip.

But shipping documents released some years later, mentioning a thoroughbred horse accompanied by an anonymous male, casts doubts over the validity of that claim.

Archer could have made it a hat-trick of victories but for a monumental blunder by his trainer Etienne de Mestre.

De Mestre was unaware the closing date for nominations for the 1863 renewal fell on a Victorian public holiday.

Victorian Racing Club officials were said to be chuckling in delight in a nearby tavern as Archer's telegram nomination arrived on a non-working day.

The threat of Archer had scared most of the opposition away.

In the defending champion's absence, an all-time low field of five faced the starter with Banker carrying 5st 4lb - another still-standing record - to victory.

Carbine (1889-90)

Some historians regard the New Zealand-bred Carbine as Australasia's greatest pre-war thoroughbred. Judged by his 1890 victory, it is easy to see why.

Carrying a record 10st 5lb after winning the race the year before, Carbine shattered the track record after seeing off 38 rivals, the biggest field to have ever competed in the race.

Carbine would go on to become highly influential at stud, siring three generations of English Derby winners.

Phar Lap (1930)

Phar Lap wins the Agua Caliente Handicap in 1932
Phar Lap proved his worth in the Agua Caliente Handicap in 1932

The most famous horse to race Down Under, Kiwi-bred Phar Lap was a hero to a nation during the Great Depression.

An ordinary juvenile, Phar Lap - meaning Lightning in Thai - matured into an equine superstar, plundering all of Australia's best races over a variety of distances - including the 1930 Melbourne Cup.

Third at even money in 1929, Phar Lap survived a shooting attempt 12 months later before becoming the only horse to have ever started at odds-on (8-11).

Phar Lap's star status took him to North America, where in 1932 he waltzed away with the rich Agua Caliente Handicap. Weeks later, however, he died a mysterious death.

With further race appearances and movie deals in the pipeline, Phar Lap suddenly passed away in the arms of his heart-broken stablehand Tommy Woodcock.

Colic was given as the cause of death, but an autopsy revealing inflamed stomach and intestines suggested deliberate poisoning, and rumours persist to this very day.

Rimfire (1948)

The first year of photo finishes and a highly controversial result.

Rimfire, an 80-1 outsider ridden by a 15-year-old apprentice, prevailed by the shortest of margins from the well-supported 10-1 shot Darke Marne.

Darke Marne's jockey, Jack Thompson, was convinced he had won the race on his strong-finishing mount.

Some time later, the photo finish camera at Flemington was re-aligned after the angle was found to be wrong.

Thompson, a hard-working veteran, never won the race, while Ray Neville, Rimfire's rider, got heavy and won just 10 more races before becoming a taxi driver.

Gurner's Lane (1982)

Mark Johnston
Johnston was not all smiles after the 1982 Cup
Gurner's Lane's victory was as notable for the horse he beat as his own performance.

Kingston Town, Australia's finest post-war horse, was having his second crack at the race after finishing second-last in 1981.

'The King', as he was known to his army of fans, was a weight-for-age champion who was best at around 2000m, the distance of the Cox Plate which he won three times in a row.

Jockey Malcolm Johnston sent the 5-1 favourite, into the lead three furlongs from home, only to be caught on the line by Caulfield Cup-winner Gurner's Lane.

Johnston was roundly vilified for his ride, while Kingston Town, Australia's first $1 million earner, was soon retired with the record of 30 wins from 41 starts.

Vintage Crop (1993)
Vintage Crop
1993 winner Vintage Crop returned to Melbourne in 2000 for a parade

The first European-trained runner to win the race, Ireland's Vintage Crop massacred his opponents under Mick Kinane.

British stayer Drum Taps, ridden by Frankie Dettori, was the foreign horse locals feared most, but it was Vintage Crop who swept past outsider Te Akau Nick to win by three lengths.

It sent the Australian racing industry into a panic, starting with racecaller Dan Milecki who screeched 'Vintage Crop wins the Cup for England' when the giant chestnut crossed the line.

Dermot Weld returned with Vintage Crop in unsuccessful raids the following two years, but was on the mark with Media Puzzle in 2002.







Weld seals Irish success
05 Nov 02  |  Horse Racing
Australia's big day out
01 Nov 01  |  Other Sports

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