Chasing history: Cup kings out to equal record
CHAMPION jockeys Kerrin McEvoy and Damien Oliver can equal one of racing's oldest riding records if either can win the $8 million Melbourne Cup at Flemington.
McEvoy, who is riding Finche, is aiming for a fourth win in the race that stops the nation. Oliver, also a three-time Cup winning jockey, has the mount on Mustajeer.
If either rider can win another Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, they will find themselves in very elite company.
Stream over 50 sports Live & On-Demand with KAYO SPORTS on your TV, computer, mobile or tablet. Just $25/month, no lock-in contract. Get your 14-day free trial and start streaming instantly >
Bobbie Lewis rode four Melbourne Cup winners on The Victory (1902), Patrobas (1915), Artilleryman (1919) and Trivalve (1927), establishing a record that has now stood for more than a century.
The Lewis record has been equalled by only one other jockey - Harry White on Think Big (1974-75), Arwon (1978) and Hyperno (1979).
But Lewis should have won a fifth Melbourne Cup. He is remembered almost as much for a losing ride as he is for his outstanding achievements in the saddle.
As McEvoy and Oliver ride for history on Tuesday, it coincides with the 90th anniversary of Lewis's controversial losing ride on the legendary Phar Lap in the 1929 Melbourne Cup.
Lewis was called on to ride the then-three-year-old Phar Lap in the Melbourne Cup as regular rider Jim Pike could not make the young stayer's 47kg impost.
Phar Lap had risen from virtual obscurity that spring. He had won just one race in his first 10 starts but then became an overnight sensation, reeling off runaway wins in the Rosehill Guineas, AJC Derby, Craven Plate and Victoria Derby in quick succession.
The Melbourne Cup field had only 14 runners that year, the smallest field since Banker won in 1863, and Phar Lap was sent out the shortest favourite in the race's history at even money.
Trainer Harry Telford instructed 50-year-old Lewis not to lead on Phar Lap under any circumstances.
"What if they walk,'' Lewis said, querying the tactics.
"You walk, too,'' was said to be Telford's reply.
Lewis tried to ride to instruction. Phar Lap was no worse than second in the running but the young stayer resented being restrained. The pace was slow and the three-year-old wasted energy fighting for his head.
Phar Lap's aura of invincibility was shattered that day as he tired to run third behind Nightmarch but it was Lewis who was criticised most for the loss.
There was plenty of unfounded rumour and innuendo after the race as Lewis was known to be a personal friend of big punter Eric Connolly, who was managing the Australian racing program of Nightmarch for his New Zealand connections.
Lewis only ever got to ride in one more Melbourne Cup, finishing unplaced on Prince Dayton in 1931. Ironically, Lewis finished in front of Phar Lap in that race as the legendary champion struggled under a massive 10st 10lbs (68kg) and finished only eighth.
At Flemington on Tuesday, McEvoy or Oliver can provide reason to remember Lewis if either can equal his Melbourne Cup riding record.
McEvoy's first Group 1 win came in the 2000 Melbourne Cup on Brew. He has won the race again with Almandin (2016) and Cross Counter (2018). Oliver's three Melbourne Cup wins have been on Doriemus (1995), Media Puzzle (2002) and Fiorente (2013).
"If either Damien or I can the Melbourne Cup's all-time winning list it would be a fantastic achievement,'' McEvoy said. "But I'm just concentrating on the race - the rest will take care of itself.''
McEvoy's mount, Finche, comes off a very good fifth in the Caulfield Cup, finishing just one place ahead of the Oliver-ridden Mustajeer.
"Finche has impressed me all the way through his spring preparation, even though I haven't been on the horse his last two starts,'' McEvoy said.
"I won the Kingston Town Stakes on him earlier in the spring and he appealed to me then as a horse that would run well in the Melbourne Cup.
"His Caulfield Cup run was very good, as was the run of Mustajeer. 'Ollie's' horse was running on well in a close finish.
"So, I think this Melbourne Cu could be a 'game of inches'.''
Finche did contest the Melbourne Cup last year, running fourth to Cross Counter, but McEvoy said the stayer is a more complete racehorse this spring.
"The 12 months Finche has had with Chris Waller is no doubt going to help the horse's chances,'' McEvoy said. "I think gelding him as been the right move, the horse has developed into a big, strong horse now.
"I've always thought Chris (Waller) would win a Melbourne Cup one day, I hope it is (today).
"He has won so many other big races and we know he does such a good job with his stayers, I feel a Melbourne Cup is just around the corner.''
McEvoy reiterated it seems a very open Melbourne Cup this year but narrowed down the dangers to Mer De Glace, Southern France and Master Of Reality.
"You always have to respect Caulfield Cup form and Mer De Glace was very impressive winning that race,'' McEvoy said.
"The 3200m is the question mark but he has such a good turn of foot so if he gets the right run, he will be hard to beat.
"I have a lot of time for Master Of Reality, I think Frankie (Dettori) can give him a good ride from barrier one.
"Southern France is another horse I think can run very well.
"But I'm happy to be on Finche. His work since the Caulfield Cup has been nice and the Melbourne Cup has always been the main goal. I'm really looking forward to the race.''