A Moment in Time: November 2, 1993

Profile Picture: Alastair Bull

January 12th, 2018

The Melbourne Cup goes international

Most people in Thoroughbred racing around the world knew about the Melbourne Cup before 1993. But it was anything but international.

True, horses bred or trained in one foreign country – nearby New Zealand – had contested the race often. The majority of Melbourne Cups after World War II until 1993 were won by New Zealand-breds; indeed, Melbourne Cup training king Bart Cummings had won eight of his nine Melbourne Cups to that point with NZ-breds.

A few northern hemisphere-bred horses had begun to find their way to Australia, and they won three of the previous 13 cups. But no horses trained in the northern hemisphere had started until 1993.

Irish trainer Dermot Weld, who won the Belmont Stakes in a hit-and-run mission in 1990 with Go and Go, wanted to do the same with the Melbourne Cup with Vintage Crop. The horse was entered for the race in 1992, but instead stayed at home and won the Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket instead.

After the Cesarewitch, Weld said he wanted to take Vintage Crop to the Melbourne Cup, but that Australian quarantine rules were too restrictive. Word got down to Australia, and after some negotiations, the rules were amended.

The changes attracted both Vintage Crop, who won the Irish St Leger Sept. 18 before heading out, and Drum Taps, who beat Vintage Crop in the Ascot Gold Cup earlier in the year.

Locals believed horses needed to be race-hardened to be ready for two miles at Flemington on Cup day. Cummings believed in having a horse race over a combined distance of 10,000 meters (about 6 ¼ miles) in the preceding three months, and that they needed to race on Victoria Derby day, three days before the Cup.

Many thought the foreigners, who hadn’t raced for six weeks, weren’t conditioned enough. However, Drum Taps started favorite, while Vintage Crop was kept safe in the market at 14-1.

Vintage Crop settled about eighth in the 23-horse field as the Gai Waterhouse-trained New Zealand-bred Te Akau Nick led. Jockey Michael Kinane had a little trouble extricating Vintage Crop into the clear near the final turn, as Te Akau Nick slipped away. But showing acceleration that few of the locals had seen in the Cup, Vintage Crop overhauled Te Akau Nick in the final furlong and won by three lengths.

Vintage Crop’s victory heralded big changes. Northern hemisphere-trained horses have come out every year afterwards; though they didn’t win again until Weld brought Media Puzzle to win in 2002, they have won five more times since 2002. Their success convinced Australians of the staying ability of European horses, and many now look to buy proven horses in the north rather than yearlings in New Zealand for Cup horses; the majority of Cup runners are now northern hemisphere-breds.

The victory also dispelled the myth about the need for 10,000m of racing and a run on Derby Day. Even the locals now give their Cups horse fewer lead-ups, and no winner since 2009 raced on Derby Day. It was truly a win that changed the Melbourne Cup forever.