The People’s Mug

Spring offers the footy fan the chance to recharge and take stock of the season just gone pondering the what ifs and what might have beens had 95% of us supported another team, namely Hawthorn. The trade and upcoming draft offers hope for some, particularly Cats supporters who saw their team defy all the laws of the game and physics to top up their list with a couple of very handy types. The Blues have done me a favour by becoming a subsidiary of GWS negating the need for two memberships. I do feel for the cheer squad however who will spend the majority of summer amending their duffle coats, not to mention the bloke who paints the names on the lockers.

The downtime from footy creates openings for others from near and far although young Jake has managed to keep things ticking over all the same. The spring carnival continues to welcome foreign raiders in greater numbers every year with Fame Game leading the charge at the ridiculous odds of $3.20. The Cup offers many things to once a year punters through to mugs like me who will try to find form lines through 24 horses from seemingly every part of the globe. I’m not sure if the race holds the same charm of begone years where it was seen as the people’s race. Sure the prizemoney is huge but Cup Day is one of the worst punting days on the calendar. The Cup is more about what it represents to racegoers and non-racegoers alike although you get the feeling much of it has been hijacked by the corporates, but what sport hasn’t. The stuff of folklore where some bloke from the bush could bring a nag to town to have a crack at two miles is long gone. I reckon attendees in the bird cage have very different motivations although the historical footage of such men and horses will be rolled out in some misplaced attempt to connect with the past.

Listening to the radio yesterday I came across a wonderful yarn from what feels a distant era. 1999 was another millennium but it feels like another age. It’s hard to see the likes of Rogan Josh winning the Cup again although I hope the story of its owner is replayed over and over. Purchased for $13,000 by Darwin school teacher Wendy Green, the horse was originally bought as a stock horse. In the Cup of 99′ Rogan Josh pulled off an historic Cup victory after winning the Mackinnon Stakes the previous Saturday. Not bad for a stock horse named after an Indian curry that commenced its racing career in Bunbury. Quintessential Australia.

Wendy secured Bart Cummings to prepare the horse. It was the classic rag to riches story with Rogan Josh finishing strongly to beat the Goldolphin trained Central Park, who had several more noughts next to its purchase price. Wendy and her husband drove from Darwin in a beat up Holden and went home the same way despite having an extra $2 million in the top pocket. Just as horses such as Arwon and Makybe Diva had been the the people’s champions, in the people’s race, Rogan Josh represented an ideal that seems far removed from what will play out on Tuesday. There will be office sweeps and stories of fortunes won and lost. However, the story wont the the people other than those much the worse for the drink.

The Greens’ journey back perhaps best illustrates why the Cup has changed so much. Wendy received a request from the local coppers in Coober Pedy to stop near the town to meet a couple of miners. They were not sure that stopping in the middle of nowhere was such a smart idea. And besides, Wendy needed to get back to work in Darwin, as you do when you’ve just won the biggest race in world, not to mention having a gold cup in a place full of treasure-hunters. Reluctantly, the Greens agreed to meet the three men each of whom had migrated to Australia after WW2 looking to make a life after the devastation of the war in the homelands.

The miners had one request and that was to drink from the Cup. Wendy agreed and each sipped VB from the cherished vessel in the central Australian heat. Wendy was fascinated as to why these three migrants would care so much about the Melbourne Cup. Their answers were universal. They had come to Australian in search of freedom and egalitarianism. They relished what Australian had given them and the opportunities that had opened to them. The Cup to them was the symbol of that opportunity and Wendy was proof that everyone could make it.

Wendy continued the long track home stopping in a small aboriginal community where a corroboree was taking place celebrating the recent arrival of a young daughter. Wendy and Rogan Josh’s celebrity had travelled far and wide by this stage. The girl’s mother recognised Wendy from remote education schooling that she conducted some time ago. Again the focus of attention quickly moved to the Cup. The mother wanted Wendy to christen her baby and the Cup was the chosen vase. Wendy said that she was not able to legally christen the child. Not deterred the mother spotted a coach driver, resplendent with epaulettes on each shoulder. That was good enough for the mum and the driver was duly engaged to wet the young girl’s head. The fluid of choice was again VB however Wendy thought an occasion such as this required some thing a little more prestigious. Wendy produced a bottle of Moet from the boot and the young babe was christened with French bubbles in the local park. The driver regaled the virtues of this great land and how Wendy had brought much honour and pride to the people of the Territory and Australia.

The Cup had crossed borders and been embraced by different cultures and races. Perhaps our most recent arrival might be better received by entering the country with a copy of Best Bets tucked under their back pocket wearing Black Caviar caps.

Wendy said that these two meetings were an epiphany. She realised that Rogan Josh’s victory had not only fulfilled her dreams but vicariously fulfilled the dreams of so many others. That is a very powerful thing to achieve, particularly when the instigators are a horse from Bunbury owned by a teacher from Darwin. Hard to picture the Sheik causing such a stir back in the UAE

Good Luck

About Tony Robb

A life long Blues supporter of 49 years who has seen some light at the end of the tunnel that isn't Mick Malthouse driving a train.


  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Great tale Tony . Read it this morning . A wonderful reminder of how simple acts can give such great pleasure to others. Glad we’ve got another great story with today’s winner.

  2. Thanks Pam. It was great to see Michelle win although the bookies wee the one cheering the loudest

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