Everyone racehorse owner dreams of winning four races in particular; the Melbourne Cup, the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate and the Golden Slipper. These four races are known as ‘the Grand Slam’ and the three Victorian races make up one of the best Carnivals in world racing. Today we will try and determine the top five wins in the three major spring classics. This is a hard task and completely open to debate. The Melbourne Cup has been going for 153 years, so finding the top five wins was not easy. In regards to the Cox Plate, the top five wins all come from after 1970, as this is the time where this race actually became the Weight For Age championship of Australasia. In the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s the race was worth very little money and was simply a WFA race on the card to support the Moonee Valley Cup. The top five Caulfield Cup wins all come from the 20th century. Unfortunately this rules out Northerly and the 2002 Caulfield Cup, but rest assured our dear readers in Western Australia, Northerly was 6th! So here we go… please enjoy the top five greatest victories in the three biggest races on the spring racing calendar.
Top Five Melbourne Cup wins of All-time.
- Rising Fast 1954
Rising Fast is still the only horse to ever win the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup in the same year. This is an effort that we may never see the likes of again. Northerly had a chance in 2002 but was weighted out of the Melbourne Cup with 60kg. Makybe Diva probably could have done it in 2005 but she did not run in the Caulfield Cup as not to risk a penalty for the Melbourne Cup.
To achieve this feat, a horse has to be an outstanding champion and a very versatile animal. Could Might and Power have won the 2000m Cox Plate in between his two amazing Cup wins in 1997? Maybe, but he would have had to pulled off the most remarkable feat. Rising Fast was the 5/2 favourite ($3.50) in the 1954 Melbourne Cup and won very easily by just under two lengths.
The next year 1955, Rising Fast did the impossible and won the Caulfield Cup again, but then was beaten by the T.J. Smith trained Toparoa in the Melbourne Cup by about two inches. Rising Fast almost won both Cups twice! However, his win in 1954 more than gets him a go in the top five due to the fact that he remains the only horse to have won the big three spring Classics in one year.
- Rain Lover 1969
Only four horses have won successive Melbourne Cups. Peter Pan won two but they were over three years. The successive wins so far are…
Archer 1861 and 1862
Rain Lover 1968 and 1969
Think Big 1974 and 1975
Makybe Diva 2003 and 2004
Makybe Diva 2004 and 2005
After winning one Melbourne Cup, a horse will be expected to carry more weight in a subsequent Cup attempt. Here are the winning weights for successive winners…
Archer 9.7 (60kg) in 1861 and 10.2 (64.5kg) in 1862. An increase of 4.5kg
Think Big 53kg in 1974 and 58.5kg in 1975. An increase of 5.5kg
Makybe Diva 51kg in 2003 and 55.5kg in 2004. An increase of 4.5kg
Makybe Diva 55.5kg in 2004 and 58kg in 2005. An increase of 2.5kg (not sure how they got away with this!)
Apart from Makybe Diva’s weight in her third Cup, the general increase was either 4.5kg or 5.5kg. That is fairly consistent and a good effort by different generations of handicappers. But the difference is Rain Lover.
Rain Lover 8.2 (51.5kg) in 1968 and 9.7 (60.5kg). An increase of 9kg.
That is almost double the average increase the other horses enjoyed. This is a huge increase in weight, and what had to have been a remarkable effort to win with that weight. This is why Rain Lover is in the top five.
3. Galilee 1996
It is simply amazing how fast Galilee sprints at the end of a two mile handicap especially since he was carrying 8.13 (57kg) which was a really big weight for a four-year-old. It can’t be recommended enough to everyone to jump on the internet and watch this win via youtube. Galilee was the 11/2 favourite ($6.50) and beat stable mate Light Fingers as effortlessly as you will ever see. Light Fingers however, was no push over and in fact was a champion mare and Roy Higgins’ favourite all-time horse. The mare had won the previous year’s Melbourne Cup. Galilee’s win in 1966 is rated by Bart Cummings as one of the best he has ever seen, and he definitely rates this win the best of his 12 Melbourne Cups.
Galilee also won Caulfield Cup in 1966. In winning this race Galilee had defeated Tobin Bronze who was the 11/8 on favourite. 11/8 on ($1.72) is only slightly longer than the shortest price horse ever in the Caulfield Cup, which was Tulloch at 6/4 on ($1.66) in 1957. However, it is the sheer ease of the victory in the Melbourne Cup in 1966 that gets Galilee in the top 5. His last furlong was the fastest recorded for the entire 1966 Melbourne Cup carnival. Amazing, considering he had already run almost 2 miles!
- Carbine 1890.
Since 1879 only three horses have been handicapped near 11 stone for the Melbourne Cup. Carbine 10.12 in 1891, Phar Lap 10.10 in 1931 and Bernborough 10.9 in 1946. None of these three champions ran in the great race with these weights. However the year before he was given 10.12, the great Carbine won the Melbourne Cup with 10.5 which is just under 66kg. This is the highest weight ever carried to victory in the Melbourne Cup, and it will never be beaten. In a field of 40, yes 40 without starting gates, Carbine carried 10.5 to win in great time by 3 lengths. In 1890 there was of course no head on cameras, so it was not unusual for jockeys to all but jump on each other’s horses to try and stop them from winning. Jockeys were not the clean cut, honest athletes they are today. Jockeys were small men who loved to drink, fight and punt (maybe there are still a few around today!). The other 39 jockeys no doubt had a decent crack at stopping Carbine, because he was the pinup horse and the natural race favourite. Carbine in fact may well have been the best horse Australia has ever seen. He was definitely the best horse of the 19th century, and this win was the best win on any track in Australia in the 19th century.
An interesting thing to ponder is the fact that the last person who saw this win and remembers it died in 1968, and there is no footage and only a few sparse pictures. Yet, the win was so great, that the story has been told over and over again, and we today 124 years later, can almost imagine what it must have been like to be there. It is important to note that the attendance on this first Tuesday in November 1890 was 85,000. That was out of a Melbourne population of 460,000 or 18.5% of the city’s population. If 18.5% turn up this year there will be over 800,000 there! That would sure make it hard to get a bet on or get a beer.
- Peter Pan 1934
Here is why Peter Pan’s 1934 Cup win is the best ever (in my humble opinion).
He is the only horse to date to win Melbourne Cups with a year in between.
Peter Pan carried 7.6 (46kg) as a three-year-old to victory in 1932 and 9.10 (61.5kg) in 1934. That is an increase of 16.5kg. Makybe Diva carried 51.5kg in her first Cup win and 58kg in her third. Leaving out the second Cup, the Diva can be compared with Peter Pan as the only horse to win multiple Cups over three years. However the champion mare only rose 6.5kg over the three years and she of course did win another Cup in the middle of this period. That is a rise in the weights of 10kg less than Peter Pan over the same amount of years with one extra Cup win.
The track on the first Tuesday in November 1934 was extremely heavy. So heavy that Peter Pan’s winning time of 3.40 was over 17 seconds slower than the next years winning time and one of the slowest ever recorded. Peter Pan did not enjoy wet tracks, but still won untouched by four lengths. In the field was the 1933 Cup winner Hall Mark who had 8 pounds less than Peter Pan. Marabou was also on the field; this horse went onto win the 1935 Melbourne Cup. Peter Pan conceded Marabou 17kg. Rogilla was also in the field. This gelding won 12 what would now be Group One races. This was one of the strongest Melbourne Cup fields ever. Peter Pan drew the outside barrier and missed the start! The clear best Melbourne Cup win of all-time for mine.
Top five Caulfield Cup wins of all-time.
- Might and Power 1997
We have all seen the footage of four-year-old Might and Power leading the field to the turn in the 1997 Caulfield Cup and bursting to a (at first) four length margin, then 5, then 6 and finally winning by 7 and a half lengths easing up. Might and Power’s time of 2.26.2 was in 1997, the fastest ever time for the Caulfield Cup since the metric system was introduced to Australia. And the 7.5 length margin was a modern day record. It also has to be pointed out that Might and Power was jumping from 1600m to 2400m and he defeated (at that stage) Australia’s best stayer Doriemus. This was a great win, and a win that really did announce Might and Power to be Australia’s best horse. His narrow win a couple of weeks later in the Melbourne Cup confirmed his new and deserved status.
- Tobin Bronze 1967.
Tobin Bronze was one of the best horses of the 1960s. The champ won a VRC Derby, an Underwood, two Turnbull Stakes’, a Doncaster, two Cox Plates, a Toorak, a Mackinnon and the Caulfield Cup. He started 11/8 ($1.72) on in the 1966 Caulfield Cup but unfortunately ran into Galilee at the height of his powers.
The 1967 Caulfield Cup was the last feature race Tobin Bronze won in Australia, and as such, he had the huge weight of 9.10 (62kg approx). This weight was equal to the weight Rising Fast carried to victory in 1955 (keep reading for details of this race), and only 3 pounds less than Redcraze carried in his record effort in 1956.
In the home straight a horse named Red Handed, trained by Bart Cummings almost got past Tobin Bronze. Red Handed went on to win the Melbourne Cup two weeks later. This shows that Red Handed was a great stayer, and it was therefore it was a mighty effort by Tobin Bronze to hold on considering he was conceding over two stone or 13kg to Red Handed. A super win based on the weight and the quality of the opposition.
The top three Caulfield Cup wins happened in three consecutive years; 1955, 1956 and 1957. It would have been a great time to be an adult living in Melbourne watching the races. The 1950s is potentially the best decade of racing in Australia’s history. The 1990s and the 1920s are the other two decades that stand out as a time of champions.
- Rising Fast 1955.
In 1954 Rising Fast won the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup all in the one year. And he is still the only horse to do so. But the next year, 1955, Rising Fast bounced up again and won the Caulfield Cup with 9.10 (61.5kg). He also ran second in the Melbourne Cup this year with 10.0. To win the three spring Classics in one year, then back up the following year and win the Caulfield Cup, is something that will probably never be done again. It is simply an outstanding effort. Rising Fast is listed as having won just under 67,000 pounds and using the reserve bank’s inflation calculator, that converts to just over 2 million dollars in today’s economic climate. However, if Rising fast won the races he won over the last few years instead of during the early to mid-1950s, he would have won more than 15 million which would be an Australian record and almost a million more than Makybe Diva won.
- Redcraze 1956.
Redcraze won the 1956 Caulfield Cup by four lengths, while carrying the still record weight of 9.13 (63kg). Redcraze won despite conceding almost 3 stone (close to 19kg) to the runner up Evening Pearl, who as it turns out, won the Melbourne Cup that year. Can you imagine if this year a horse was to win the Caulfield Cup with 63kg by four lengths and the runner up carried just 44kg? The spread of weights this year will most likely be from a top weight of 58kg to a bottom weight of 53kg. A spread of just 5kg is a long way from a spread of 19kg. In winning the Caulfield Cup by four lengths with the biggest weight ever carried to victory in the race, Redcraze more than deserves second spot and he is unlucky to not grab the gold.
- Tulloch 1957.
Tulloch (then a three-year-old) won the 1957 Caulfield Cup very easily. But this win was far far greater than a simple 4 lengths romp as it looked. Here are some facts and figures that show exactly how great this win was…
- A three-year-old had not won the Caulfield Cup for 22 years before Tulloch in 1957. Only 5 have won since.
- Tulloch’s 7.8 is the greatest ever weight carried to victory by a three-year-old in the history of the Caulfield Cup.
- Tulloch at 6/4 on ($1.66), jumped as the shortest priced favourite ever in the Caulfiled Cup.
- Tulloch’s time of 2.26.9 for the 12 furlong race was not only a race and track record, it was also the fastest 12 furlong race ever recorded in Australia (imperial era) and the fastest 12 furlong run ever recorded in the world on a grass track.
- Tulloch was at one stage of the race, forced back to last in a field of 17 hard, older handicappers. In working through the field, Tulloch suffered three bad checks; as we all know from backing horses over the years, one bad check is usually enough to end a horse’s chances. So to win after three bad checks is a truly remarkable feat. It is also important to note that the second and third place getters, that Tulloch rushed by, were two really good horses. Mac’s Amber won a Toorak Handicap and a Chipping Norton Stakes and Sailors Guide once beat Rising Fast in New Zealand as well as winning a VRC Derby, Sydney Cup and a Mackinnon. Tulloch gave these two great horses a cold when he went past them!
The top five greatest Cox Plate wins since 1972.
It is important to note that from 1971 – 1972 the prize money for the Cox Plate increased by 50% from $30,000 to $45,000. It was at this point that the Cox Plate became a true spring classic. It is also important to apologies to the connections of Super Impose and Bonecrusher. Both these horses narrowly missed out on the top five despite both being very famous victors.
- Dulcify 1979.
Dulcify beat Shivaree by 7 lengths. Shivaree beat the rest of the field by about 4. Shivaree was a really good horse who won multiple Group Ones, so it is very clear that based on the quality of opposition, Dulcify’s win was outstanding. Dulcify’s winning margin of 7 lengths is the equal biggest winning margin in the history of the race. The time was also in the top five fastest of the modern era. It was a simply breathtaking win that unfortunately was the second last of Dulcify’s brilliant career.
- Kingston Town 1982.
The story of Kingston Town’s third Cox Plate win has been told and retold since the moments after the victory. But for all the first time readers, here are the quick facts…
- Kingston Town is the only horse to ever win three Cox Plates.
- Kingston Town was declared by racecaller Bill Collins to be unable to win from where he was in the run, but he did.
- In winning the race, Kingston Town became the first millionaire racehorse in Australia.
- The third win was the fastest of the King’s three and it was also against the best field. Grosvenor that ran second had previously won the Caulfield Guineas and the VRC Derby. The field also included Gurner’s Lane who won that year’s Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
However, the main reason this win makes it into our top five is because of its historical significance. No other horse has ever won three Cox Plates but plenty have tried. Lloyd Williams, who had no connection with the King, rates Kingston Town the equal of any horse he has ever seen, including Tulloch.
- Surround 1976.
Surround remains the only three-year-old filly to ever win the Cox Plate.
Many really really good three year old fillies have attempted to win the Cox Plate in their three-year-old year, including recently Samantha Miss and Miss Finland, but none are yet to match Surround’s brilliant win in 1976. Surround beat a quality field in great time. But the fact she is the only three-year-old filly to ever win the Cox Plate is astonishing. A quick study of the race reveals that about 40 have tried and these 40 are the best of the best three-year-old fillies to ever race in Australia. Three-year-old fillies have to carry 47.5kg in the Cox Plate while five-year-old and above horses have to carry 59kg. That is a big difference. But it does show that despite the weight relief, it is almost impossible for a three-year-old filly to win the Cox Plate. A great win by Surround, and well entitled to a spot in the top three!
- Sunline 2000.
Sunline won her second Cox Plate by 7 lengths equalling the record set by Dulcify 21 years earlier. Everyone has seen this win. Sunline leads easily then kicks clear to win pulling up by 7 lengths. The time was not flash, but what was great was the company she beat so easily. The field included Caulfield Cup winners Sky Heights and Diatribe, all time Sydney champion Tie the Knot, multiple group one winners Shogun Lodge and Show a Heart and the super sire Testa Rossa. It was a great field that were absolutely flogged by the champion mare.
But the biggest factor that gets Sunline to the silver metal spot is the margin. Since 1972, Kingston Town, Sunline, Northerly and So You Think have all won multiple Cox Plates. Yet, Kingston Town won his second by a length, Northerly battled to a one length win in his second and So You Think fell in after a tough run in his second. So it is therefore much harder to win a second Cox Plate than a first. But Sunline won her second by 7 lengths! Case closed.
- Makybe Diva 2005.
The Diva’s Cox Plate win was extraordinary. It was extraordinary for the following reasons…
- She was being trained for the Cup, No matter what anyone says, the great mare was being trained for her third Melbourne Cup because her connections knew she was a moral over 3200m with just 58kg. As we saw with Fiorente, it is hard to win a Cox Plate when the Melbourne Cup is your Grand Final.
- The field that she beat in the Cox Plate was one of the best ever. It included Desert War (6 Group One wins), Lotteria, (2 Group One wins), Fields of Omaha (2x winner of the Cox Plate) and Xcellent (4 Group One wins.)
- Glen Boss rode her like a moral. He was probably a bit confident, but in the end it did not matter.
- The entire field ganged up on her and made her work really hard. The footage shows how before the turn, the field spread really wide, forcing the Diva to cover lots of extra ground. It is lucky she was being trained for the two miles because otherwise she may not have been strong enough to win.
Good luck and stay tuned.