Champion mare Let’s Elope had her favourite paddock at picturesque Lauriston Park, Creighton’s Creek… and her favourite old gum tree.
It was underneath that tree that on Sunday night, aged 29, the Melbourne Cup winner gently passed away during her sleep.
Looked after by Lauriston’s Chris and Kathie Bakker since her return from the United States in 1998, Let’s Elope had for the last decade enjoyed her third career as a nanny. She loved her babies who loved her in return!
“She was always such a kind mare,” Chris Bakker said, remembering the times he had been up in the night to check on weanlings as storms brewed.
“There would be thunder and lightning but she wouldn’t bat an eyelid. She would just stand there with the youngsters crowding around her for comfort.”
“Not once did you see her bite or kick any of them, she was a mare with a sweet disposition.”
Something Leon Corstens, who cared for Let’s Elope during her time with Bart Cummings, knew well.
“She was always a lady, a professional. You would have to go a long way to find a better mare,” he said,
Both Leon and Chris name her five length demolition of a high class field in the 1992 Australian Cup as her finest moment.
“No horse in the world could’ve beaten her on that day,” Bakker said.
“She struck a wet patch passing Chiquita Lodge and I thought she was out of contention. But she picked herself up and flew – it was an exhilarating win,” Corstens recalled,
The winner of 11 of her 26 starts, amassing over $3.3 million in stakes, Let’s Elope campaigned successfully in the United States – first across the line in the Group One Beverly D Stakes only to lose the race on protest.
But she won great international respect with that effort. Stud owners who hand-picked broodmares for their stallions were keen to welcome her. Duly served by Danzig, Storm Cat and Seeking The Gold (believed to be his sole southern hemisphere time service), Let’s Elope fared extremely well at stud.
All six of Let’s Elope’s foals to race were winners, four of them earning black type including the AAMI Vase winner Ustinov and the Adelaide Cup winner Outback Joe.
She produced the latter when she was twenty-years-old. At 21 she was retired from broodmare duties.
Ustinov (Seeking the Gold) now stands as a stallion at Moorookyle Park and has produced stakes winners including a Group 1 winner.
Meanwhile her female progeny have produced good types such as Group 3 winner Let’s Make Adeal (out of Let’s Get Famous) and recent Flemington winner Yulong Baby (out of Paris Tryst) among many others.
Sound and happy right until her death, Let’s Elope was much loved by all who knew her.
“She had an amazing effect on people and led an incredible life,” Bakker said.
“It was 29 years and 29 full ones at that. She travelled the world and took her owners Dennis and Margaret Marks on a wonderful journey.”
“She reached a fantastic age and went out on her own terms. It has been an absolute privilege to look after her, to be associated with such an amazing horse for such a long period of time. My kids grew up with her and she will be much missed.”
As is tradition for great horses, Let’s Elope will be buried standing up facing the morning sun.
Contributed by Kristen Manning