RACING ROYALTY: Vintage Crop’s winning Melbourne Cup jockey of 1993, Michael Kinane (centre), with The Morning Bulletin’s racing writer Tony McMahon and wife Jean at a function at The Curragh racecourse in Ireland in August.
RACING ROYALTY: Vintage Crop’s winning Melbourne Cup jockey of 1993, Michael Kinane (centre), with The Morning Bulletin’s racing writer Tony McMahon and wife Jean at a function at The Curragh racecourse in Ireland in August. Supplied By Wendy Mulry Travel

The Melbourne Cup field’s foreign invasion

WHO would ever have imagined that the Melbourne Cup, undoubtedly one of the world's great horse races, would become so dominated by international competitors.

Today's $6 million Cup includes visiting fly-in horses from Japan (1); England (6); Germany (1): Ireland (2); France (1) - while another 12 of the 24 acceptors are internationally bred.

Just one horse TAB 3 Fawkner (Reset-Dame Bella) can lay claim to being all Australian bred; trained and owned.

That is nothing short of amazing as once the Melbourne Cup was akin to the Bledisloe Cup in Rugby - an Aussie and Kiwi (New Zealand) clash.

Not so any more and while the Dermot Weld-trained, Irish-trained Vintage Crop ridden by Ireland's Michael Kinane was the first international stayer that flew in to win the Cup in 1993, technically speaking, other foreigners had won before him.

Records reveal that the 1910 winner Comedy King was the result of the importation of his mother Tragedy Queen with her Persimmon colt Comedy King being the foal at foot.

First run in 1861, the colonial Australians dominated winning all the Melbourne Cups until Kiwi- bred Martini-Henry knocked the sails out of them by winning in 1883.

Of course Northern Hemisphere-bred Melbourne Cup winners preceded Vintage Crop with Backwood (1924); Belldale Ball (1980); At Talaq (1986) and Juene (1994) were international winners before claiming the Cup.

However, there was one huge difference they had been purchased and raced in Australia for some considerable time before lining-up in the Cup.

That all changed 21 years ago today. There is no doubt that Vintage Crop's audacious win after jetting 17,760 km from his base at The Curragh in Ireland to Melbourne changed the landscape of the Melbourne Cup forever.

Typically it was the Irish who proved a Northern Hemisphere stayer could handle all the variances and come Down Under and win the Melbourne Cup.

On a recent racing tour I led to Ireland, I caught-up with Vintage Crop's former champion Irish jockey Michael Kinane at a race meeting at The Curragh.

He took time off from his managerial training duties at the races that day to mingle with our group of Central Queenslanders.

"Never forget the thrill of winning that Melbourne Cup on Vintage Crop. Really speaking it was and has been since the talk of Irish racing and even non-racing folk. It was grand and the Aussies are so very special people. That's why I love taking time out to meet racing groups of Aussies like yours Tony," Kinane said.

In 1990 and 1992, The Morning Bulletin flew me to Melbourne to exclusively cover the Melbourne Cup and Oaks race days for them at Flemington.

American-bred Kingston Rule ridden by Darren Beadman and trained by Bart Cummings won the 1990 Cup and I was in awe of being part of the media throng in the Flemington enclosure.

In 1992, Lee Freedman's grey Subzero (Greg Hall) won before my eyes live and again I was on cloud nine until I came back to earth after mistakenly sitting on a leading Melbourne racing writer's press chair.

Last year on a racing tour to Dubai, I was part of a group of about 400 Australians who attended a Melbourne Cup function in the grounds of a 5-star hotel which was transformed into a mini-Flemington racecourse.

Don't kid yourself, the Melbourne Cup is the now the most internationally dominated and acclaimed handicap horse race in the world.

The best tip I can give you about selecting the winner of the Melbourne Cup is to follow your own intuition.

I'm a fan of TAB 24 Signoff (IRE) more so because of the rider Joao Moreira.

I had the good fortune to see this jockeying genius ride five winners one night in Kranji, Singapore before he went over to conquer Hong Kong racing.

It's inexplicable really after watching him win on horses under extreme pressure as far as 1000 metres from home, yet this Brazilian whiz gets them to win.

In Singapore the racing made public on-course chant - Moreira; Moreira; Moreira; Moreira all the way down the straight.

No race is beyond the winning scope of Jao Moreira's horses and mediocre ones at that find another level under his unorthodox persuasion.

For what it's worth I'm selecting TAB 24 Signoff (IRE) to win from Johnny Murtagh Irish horse, TAB 11 Mutual Regard (IURE) with Aussie TAB 3 Fawkner for third and Japanese TAB 1 Admire Rakti (JAP) for fourth.

By the way if ever you get the chance, then place attending a Melbourne Cup at Flemington high on your bucket list, as that is certainly the case with racing folk the world wide.



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