It has been a long time since a Victorian bred horse won the world’s greatest staying handicap, the Melbourne Cup. Far too long.
In fact, it is 43 years since Gala Supreme saluted at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November.
Today, the mighty Caulfield Cup winning mare Jameka, bred at Nagambie’s hallowed Gilgai Farm may end that extraordinary long run of outs.
43 Years Ago
Gala Supreme was bred by Pat Curtain, a horse ‘barber’, who owned Huntly Lodge on the western outskirts of Sunbury.
On the day after the Cup of 1973, The Age headline exclaimed “Cup winner was lucky to be born”.
The ‘lucky’ part was a reference to him being a test mating between his dam Smoke Fairy and his sire Gala Crest. Gala Crest was a quality stayer who pulled up lame in a race in 1968 and subsequently spelled.
During that spelling period (he did race again) Mr Curtain decided to “test the horse’s capabilities as a stallion” reported renowned racing scribe Tony Bourke in The Age on November 7, 1973 (below).
Of course, from that mating was born Gala Supreme in 1969.
He would be the sire’s only major winner of note during a stud career that was uncommercial and only mildly re-energised following his son’s Melbourne Cup win.
Huntly Lodge too, would not enjoy much success beyond Gala Supreme. In fact, just two years later, Pat Curtain’s lease of the property ended.
In 1986, it was re-opened by Tony Cavanagh as Huntly Lodge. Then in 1989 it was purchased by trainer John Meagher who still uses it today (although it has been sold recently for future residential development).
Jameka, bred at Rick Jamieson’s Gilgai Farm – also the nursery of Black Caviar – won the Caulfield Cup in convincing fashion and is current second favourite for the big race.
“It’s just a dream, a dream you think would never come true,” says Jamieson.
There have been a few media personalities indicate that Jameka doesn’t have a stayers’ pedigree behind her to win the big race, but Rick bristles at such views.
“I think there are some naive ways of looking at pedigrees (and discounting Jameka),” he says.
“I’ve got my own way of dissecting a pedigree and that starts every time by looking at the mares and regarding all stallions evenly (no matter their commerciality, reputation or price).”
Mine Game, the dam of Jameka was a yearling buy for Rick.
Much like one of Rick’s other star broodmares, Helsinge (dam of Black Caviar and All Too Hard), she was a very talented filly but injury issues curtailed her racing career.
“Mine Game was a really good filly and had the potential to run in Oaks races.”
Victoria’s ‘staying future’
Rick was mildly surprised at the fact that Jameka could be the first Victorian bred cup winner in 43 years and is forlorn about the breeding of stayers in Australia.
“I’m a bit angry about the lack of Australian bred stayers in such a big race.”
It is certainly true to say though that there is great promise in the Victorian breeding industry when it comes to the future production of quality staying types.
It is not just token efforts though. Stallion farms and breeders are putting their money where it matters.
Highly commercial Victorian studs are taking on staying type stallions and have attracted big numbers of broodmares from Victorian breeders as well as interstate.
Swettenham Stud’s Americain and Sun Stud’s Fiorente have attracted an average in excess of 130 mares a year. This gives them every opportunity to succeed as commercial stallions as their progeny hit the track.
But the Victorian staying story extends well beyond those two Melbourne Cup winners.
Derby winning son of Reset, Rebel Raider (standing at Wyndholm Park, Ballarat), already has progeny succeeding at stakes level and his biggest and best crops are still to come.
Then you have relatively new sires Dandino (Bombora Downs, Bittern), Lucas Cranach (Bullarook Park, Avenel), Polanski (Ducks Crossing, Tyabb) and Puissance De Lune (Swettenham Stud, Nagambie) who will give every opportunity for staying minded breeders.
And, of course, Victoria is home to proven sires Reset (Darley, Northwood) and Desert King (Lauriston Park, Euroa), both of whom have sired multiple Group 1 winners over staying distances such as Makybe Diva, Fawkner and Set Square.
The financial incentives are also plentiful. To start with, prizemoney has increased in many of the staying features leading up to the Melbourne Cup.
Secondly, Racing Victoria is increasingly using the successful VOBIS (Victorian Owners & Breeders Incentive Scheme) scheme to sufficiently rewards staying types and older horses.
In addition, sales company Inglis has, in recent years, added the Blue Riband section to its Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale – and prices for lots in this section are attracting premium prices.
“Breeders know they have to be patient if they want a quality staying type. But the rewards, particularly in Victoria, are very significant” said TBV PResident Jame’s O’Brien.
Likely, there will never be another 43 year wait for Victoria to breed the winners of the world’s richest handicap over two miles.