The Caulfield Cup is more than just a horse race. This prestigious event, a 2400m Group 1 handicap, is not only the most crucial lead-up to the Melbourne Cup but also a proud tradition in Australian horse racing.
Held annually at the Caulfield Racecourse, the Caulfield Cup is a spectacle that sees some of the world’s best horses battling it out for $5million in prize money.
But beyond the impressive field and the lucrative purse, what makes this race truly fascinating are the stories it has woven over the years – tales of underdogs triumphing, favourites faltering and records being shattered.
This year’s edition promises to be no different as a new field of champion stayers look to etch their names in the annals of Caulfield Cup folklore.
As we draw closer to the 2023 Caulfield Cup on Saturday, join us as we revisit the top five moments in the history of the race, presented by Daily Mail Australia.
Tulloch: An Underrated Legend of Australian Horse Racing
No three-year-old carrying 48kg has run 2400m on turf faster since Tulloch won the Caulfield Cup back in 1957
The annals of horse racing history are filled with tales of extraordinary equine athletes, and one name that stands out is Tulloch.
Despite not receiving his due recognition as one of the all-time greats, Tulloch’s performances on the track were nothing short of legendary, particularly his triumph in the 1957 Caulfield Cup.
Born in 1954, Tulloch was a New Zealand-bred racehorse who made a monumental impact on Australian horse racing. His three-year-old season was a masterclass in consistency and dominance, beginning with victories in the Rosehill Guineas and AJC Derby. These wins set the stage for his Melbourne campaign, where he clinched the Caulfield Guineas title.
However, it was his performance in the Caulfield Cup that truly set him apart.
Carrying just 48kg, Tulloch didn’t just win the race – he dominated it. His winning time of 2:26.50 for the 2400m turf race remained a record until Diatribe surpassed it in 2000. Yet, even today, no three-year-old carrying that weight has run 2400m on turf faster, a testament to Tulloch’s enduring prowess.
The life of this exceptional racehorse was a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. After his stellar three-year-old season, Tulloch suffered a mysterious illness that kept him off the track for two years. Despite this setback, he made an extraordinary comeback, winning 15 of his 19 starts following his return.
Tulloch retired in 1961 with an impressive record of 36 wins from 53 starts, including 14 Group One victories. His career earnings totaled a then-record £99,166, a staggering amount at the time.
Might and Power dominates ahead of Melbourne Cup in 1997
Might and Power beat Doriemus (left) by seven lengths in the Caulfield Cup, and then pipped the same horse by a nose at the Melbourne Cup in 1997
In the 1997 Caulfield Cup, Jim Cassidy was awarded the opportunity to ride Might and Power, replacing the usual jockey Brian York. Cassidy was eager to maximise this chance.
Cassidy took an assertive approach with the four-year-old horse. He skillfully advanced Might and Power to the front shortly after the race commenced, and the gelding narrowly maintained the lead until near the bend.
Then Cassidy, affectionately known as ‘Pumper,’ allowed his horse to run freely. As Might and Power’s hooves thundered with increasing intensity, he outpaced the competition in the final stretch.
Trained by Jack Denham, the galloping horse eventually claimed victory by a significant seven lengths, leaving Doriemus and Catalan Opening trailing.
Following this triumphant performance, Cassidy and Might and Power narrowly clinched victory in the Melbourne Cup, once again outpacing the swiftly closing Doriemus.
The Drama of 2007: Maldivian and Eskimo Queen Late Scratchings
Maldivian is led back to the stables by strapper Michael Preston at the start of the Caulfield Cup after being bloodied from an unapproved microphone in the starting gates
In 2007, the Caulfield Cup was set for an exciting race. The top contender, Maldivian, was expected to start as the shortest-priced favorite in 41 years. However, just moments before the gates opened, the race took an unexpected turn.
Eskimo Queen, another favorite, was positioned a few gates away from Maldivian. Suddenly, she fell in the gates, thrashing wildly and ending her chances of competing. Her jockey Craig Newitt, was left with a few minor injuries, marking an abrupt end to their race day.
Meanwhile, Mark Kavanagh’s star horse, Maldivian, had grown restless amidst the chaos. He reared up in the barrier, accidentally hitting his head on a clamp attached to an unapproved microphone transmitter and left with blood streaming from his head.
The unfortunate incident resulted in Maldivian being scratched from the race as well, needing 14 stitches for the wound. This mishap prematurely ended his spring campaign, leaving his team devastated.
This unforgettable event led to the heart-wrenching sight of Maldivian being escorted back to the mounting yard, blood streaming down his chest, with his trainer in disbelief at the unfolding scenario.
Despite the pre-race drama, the race continued, with Master O’Reilly ultimately emerging victorious.
A Super Mare’s Meteoric Rise: The Rise of Let’s Elope
Bart Cummings always had a stable of champions and Let’s Elope pulled of one of his greatest wins at the 1991 Caulfield Cup
In 1991, a mare named Let’s Elope, trained by the legendary Bart Cummings, had a rocky start to her spring campaign. Her initial three starts, all on wet tracks, failed to secure a win.
However, as the clouds cleared and dry surfaces took over, so did Let’s Elope’s performances. She embarked on an impressive winning streak, claiming victory in four consecutive races – each more prestigious than the last.
Her first significant win came in the Group Two Turnbull Stakes (2000m), where she left Prince Salieri in her dust, despite him having a substantial nine-kilogram advantage.
Next was the Caulfield Cup, where Let’s Elope carried a meager 48.5kg. Despite starting with 7-1 odds and looking like a longshot with 600 meters remaining – when she was still trailing most of the 17-horse field – she didn’t disappoint.
Jockey Steven King maneuvered her wide at the straight’s top, and Let’s Elope unleashed her signature finishing burst, snatching victory from Ivory Way by a head.
The wins kept rolling in, with a comfortable victory in the Mackinnon Stakes followed by a memorable Melbourne Cup triumph. This win was not without drama, as she survived a protest from Shane Dye, who rode the runner-up, Shiva’s Revenge.
The autumn season saw Let’s Elope maintain her form, securing wins in the Group Two CF Orr Stakes (1400m), Group Two St George Stakes (1800m), and the Group One Australian Cup (2000m) in her only three starts of that preparation.
The Remarkable Journey of Incentivise From Obscurity to Stardom
Incentivise came from the clouds to win the 2021 Caulfield Cup despite Covid restrictions limiting his ability to race overseas and a lack of Group 1 wins in Australia
Few racing stories are as awe-inspiring as the meteoric rise of Incentivise in 2021.
This champion thoroughbred’s journey from an overlooked competitor in Toowoomba maidens to a multiple Group I winner is nothing short of extraordinary.
Incentivise, foaled on October 22, 2016, began his career with little fanfare. Despite his pedigree – his sire being Shamus Award and his grandsire, Snitzel – he struggled to make an impact in his early races. However, within six short months, his fortunes took a dramatic turn that would etch his name in racing history.
The turning point came when Incentivise dominated the Caulfield Cup. His performance was nothing less than spectacular. Despite the lack of international competition due to Covid restrictions, Incentivise’s victory was remarkable. He broke away from the pack before the turn and left his rivals trailing in his wake, recording one of the most dominant wins in the race’s history.
Yet, his journey was not without its challenges. After his triumphant spring season, Incentivise suffered injuries that forced him to bypass the following spring and target the autumn of 2023. However, further setbacks led to the heartbreaking announcement of his retirement. His owners expressed their sadness as they confirmed his retirement after another injury setback.
Despite his premature retirement, Incentivise’s legacy remains intact. His career, albeit short, was full of memorable moments and victories that will keep his name alive in the world of horse racing.