More than 100,000 punters watched agog as Prince of Penzance defied odds of 100/1 to win the biggest race of the year in 2015. Fame Game, Trip To Paris and Red Cadeaux were the heavily backed favourites and widely tipped to battle it out for Melbourne Cup glory, while Prince of Penzance was considered a mere also-ran. He had never secured a top class victory, but delivered on the big day in devastating fashion. The sport had not seen the likes of it for decades, and it gives hope to anyone dreaming of a huge win at massive odds in the race that stops a nation. Here are five massive outsiders that have upset the odds and seized the Melbourne Cup:
The Pearl, 1871
The Melbourne Cup began life in 1861, when Archer outstripped his rivals by six lengths and claimed a prize of £710 and a gold watch for his owner. The race had to wait a decade for its first 100/1 ($101) winner, The Pearl, who battled to an unlikely victory in 1871. Owner and trainer John Trait had two runners in the race, Phyrrus and The Pearl, and placed a bet on Phyrrus thanks to his strong form heading into the contest. Jockey J Cavanagh said Trait was “so sweet on Phyrrus” that he led the stable to believe no runner in the race could touch that horse, and he was disappointed not to be given the mount. But instead he went aboard The Pearl and pulled off a win that even shocked the horse’s owner. There was a scrimmage at the halfway point, which The Pearl avoided, and took a lead of two lengths, which he never relinquished, winning 1,110 gold sovereigns.
We had to wait 65 years for another $101 horse to win the Melbourne Cup, when Wotan delivered a hammer blow to punters across the nation. “The calculations of thousands of backers were upset yesterday when the 100 to 1 chance, Wotan, won the Melbourne Cup at Flemington racecourse,” reported the West Australian the following morning. “The result was one of the most surprising ever recorded in the history of the race.” Not only did Wotan win, he set an Australasian record for the fastest ever two-mile race finishing time. He only won three wins in his entire career, and one came in the biggest race in the world, showing that anything can happen in the Melbourne Cup.
Old Rowley, 1940
Old Rowley was described by his first trainer, Bayley Payten, as “the slowest two-year-old I’ve ever had in my stables”. He was so cumbersome that Payten would invite his friends round to point and laugh at him as he lolloped around the paddock. But Old Rowley had the last laugh after transferring to the stable of Jack Scully, as he went on to win the most famous race of all. It was a remarkable renewal in 1940 because criminals broke into the stables in a bid to take out favourite Beau Vite. The bungling criminals got the wrong horse, however, and shot sprinter El Golea in each hind leg instead. The unscathed Beau Vite, that year’s Cox Plate Champion, went off as 7/4 favourite ($2.75), but turned out to be no match for Old Rowley, who prevailed by three-quarters of a length. You could call him a late bloomer, and Payten must have been shaking his head in disbelief.
There have been many fairy-tale victories during the 15 decades of the Melbourne Cup, but it is hard to top the remarkable feat achieved by Ray Neville. He was just 15 years old and only had eight previous races under his belt when he climbed aboard 80/1 no-hoper Rimfire in the 1948 renewal of the race that stops a nation. W. A. Smith, scheduled to ride Rimfire, must have regretted his decision to switch mounts the day before the race, as that allowed Neville to step in and claim glory. Trainer Stan Boydon did not tell Neville he would be riding in the Melbourne Cup to ensure the boy got a good night’s sleep and the strategy paid off as he delivered a rousing victory.
Prince of Penzance, 2015
Huge outsiders winning the Melbourne Cup had become a thing of the past by the time we reached 2015, when the most common winning price was $10. That makes Prince of Penzance’s feat all the more amazing. Michelle Payne became the first female jockey to ever win the race and later said chauvinists in the sport can “get stuffed”. She delivered a beautiful ride, ensuring Prince of Penzance burst out of midfield to gain the initiative with 100m to go. Frankie Detorri and Max Dynamite gave pursuit in a thrilling final furlong, but Prince of Penzance held on to win by a half-length and spark disbelief among punters.
Will we get another big priced winner at the Melbourne Cup 2018? Only time will tell, but be sure to check out all the latest Melbourne Cup odds at Oddschecker before the big race in November.