Raiders of the (Lost) Cup

by Daryl Sharpen


Last Thursday I came off the island for the first time in ages. Racing did it, or more specifically the Melbourne Cup and the so called raiders. Down in Tassy reports on the raiders are scant and frankly confusing. So I took the bit between my teeth and decided to have a look-see for myself.


Turning left at Tullamarine and heading to Geelong I hoped to be there by nightfall. The Gold DIggers Arms looked like a suitable resting spot, so a few ales and a Western Plains Pork Cutlet later I bedded down for the night.


Up before daylight we headed to the quarantine station at Werribee. Inside the gate we are greeted by Dave from Cruzin’ Coffee who got the heart started with a strong, hot, flat white. “Where’ve you been?” came a shout from Dennis in the stand, “You’ve just missed the Ratki’s!”


There are more in the stand than we get at the races in Tassy these days. An eclectic collection of punters, trainers, owners, clockers, media, gigs, touts, onlookers, cameras (sans men), caterers, egg & bacon rolls, Dennis and the most important ingredient on any racetrack, knowledge.


Next thing (My) Ambivalent strolls past at a fair clip with the postilion clinging on for dear life. “That’s not the normal bloke, on him,” comes a murmur from the gallery. “I reckon that’s the jockey,” someone splutters as egg yolk spills down the front of his “Cox Plate” sponsor-adorned jacket. Dennis explains that the horse is a handful and the pommy bloke that usually rides him gave them the rundown yesterday. Minus a few teeth he had explained “I’m getting too old for this caper. I’ve got grandkids back in the Old Dart and they want me to head to Japan next. Seems if all goes well, she settles and gets a good run, she’s a chance.” My mind reflects. Planets aligning? I think I’ve heard this before.


Seismos appears from the corral looking lean and mean. “There’s not a lot of him,” adds Dennis. Simon hyphen-Smith prods the track with a sharp stick. ” Does it every day,” Dennis adds without question.


A big chestnut canters by about half pace. “And that’s Red Cadeaux.” Then a tall bloke in a red cap arrives and fronts a wall of mikes and cameras. “And that’s Ed Dunlop in the cap,” Dennis informs.


“I’d like to comeback in the Autumn to Sydney with him for the International Challenge. That’s your scoop for today boys,” Dunlop adds, before heading to the stand.


The quarantine lot are a community all their own. Not unlike the Sunday market mob. A gathering, a common goal, camaraderie, nothing really in it, living in hope.


Protectionist ambles by. “He worked pretty solid yesterday,” comes an impromptu from the gallery. He’s a big strong fellow that looks as if there is a bit of Percheron in his veins. I ponder whether he’ll arrive at Flemington with an iron cross or swastika emblazoned on his rump. “Spruiker” tells me “he’s a good horse this bloke. I’ve seen him in Germany and he’s good. And so’s the Jap. The Germans and the Japs have got us beat with their horseflesh these days, their breeding has improved outa sight,” Spruiker adds. “We beat ’em in the war,” I add tongue in cheek. “But they ran a good second,” comes the quick fire reply. OTI and SOD watch intently. Then two of theirs, Au Revoir and Gatewood, test motors. Trackman Les checks his clock clinging to a zip-top satchel crammed with notes as if his life depended on it. As usual, Tony (the King) says nothing.


“I think that’s it boys,” comes a voice as a few drift away. “No, the Godolphins have got to go out yet, they’re always last,” says Paddy. Paddy’s been to every morning of track work leading to the big one since the Raiders have been coming here. “They come out of the barn at the top of the straight,” says Brian the Bloodhound; a student of pedigree and bloodlines. The blue army does little to unravel the conundrum.


Blank looks and confusion reigns. I throw to anyone who’ll listen, “what’ll win it?” “What do YOU think?” comes the quick fire retort. “The one that won at Caulfield looks good to me,” I sheepishly reply. A bellow from the back reveals “the German’ll be hard.” I reflect Oscar Schindler.


I push through a throng of media, seemingly more confused than ever, as they compare notes. “What do ya like?” “What do YOU like,” comes their collective snappy return. “The Jap, The German, and don’t leave out Weiry.”


This time there is no reply, so I head to the gate.


  1. Ripper piece Daryl. Love the way you capture the characters of the track.
    The German horse seems to be gathering momentum with ‘astute’ judges like yourself and GWhateley.
    Do you think the German or Japanese winning would even things up for the Tassie boy’s ‘Narrow Road to the Deep North’ winning the Prix de la Booker?

  2. Daryl Sharpen says

    Peter, FYI helicopters leave Melb with VIP Lexus transfer to main gate for $600 return or $390 one way. A number 57 tram will get you there for $3.90. Good luck to all.

  3. Daryl, Stand7 on Rail. Come up and say g’day.
    I’ve nearly gone to Werribee a few times but didn’t know how it was set up for plebs.
    Your rating and advice for 2015 and beyond?

  4. Daryl Sharpen says

    Crio, on bird back to Tassy this morning. Get my email off JTH so we can talk off line. As Roy Higgins would say, “I like numbers 1,3,5,11,22 & 24. And don’t leave 2 & 8 and for the ladies the old bloke, Red Cadeaux and Johnny Murtagh’s pair look a treat!

  5. Good stuff Daryl.As I haven’t won since 67 nor got a place -getter either I don’t expect much I made a huge blue in 78 when I chose to return home to SA instead of staying in Devonport after a years contract. At least in Tassy you have a Racing Minister that is a horse owner and understands the game

  6. Well snared Daryl. Reading between the lines I thought that the German was your pick. Hope you turned a profit. Personally I broke even (outlay nil; return nil).

  7. Daryl Sharpen says

    Pretty happy with the result, PB. Each way the winner (and also last) got quinella but missed tri (wanted Weiry with Sign Off). But a good day all round. Impressive as the winner was Red Cadeaux absolutely amazes, Bart and Co. were, dare I say it, fantastic but the loss of the two horses really takes the gloss of it for me. Looks like yesterday’s luncheon snared the tri – so well done for what was another good day.

Leave a Comment