Girl power

29 October 2021 Written by VRC

It might be traditionally known as ‘the sport of kings’, but the Melbourne Cup Carnival has seen its fair share of females in the winner’s circle.

2001 Melbourne Cup – Ethereal

In many ways, the success of Ethereal was always on the cards. Not in the history of the Melbourne Cup had a female trained a winner of the Melbourne Cup. Well, not officially. New Zealand trainer, ‘Granny’ McDonald was denied the honour in 1938 when the authorities would not allow females to hold a licence in Victoria. In order to run, Catalogue, the winner, was transferred into the name of her husband, Allan McDonald. Sheila Laxon, in training Ethereal, became the first official female to achieve the feat following her win in the Caulfield Cup some 17 days earlier. Ethereal became the tenth of eleven individual mares to win the Cup with jockey Scott Seamer securing his Cup win at his very first ride in the race.

2003, 2004 and 2005 Melbourne Cup – Makybe Diva

For the 106,000 that witnessed Makybe Diva create history with her third Melbourne Cup, it was a moment not to be forgotten. The race brought the curtain down on an incredible career that also included a Cox Plate, Australian Cup, Sydney Cup and Turnbull Stakes among others. Her jockey Glen Boss described her as having a “beautiful nature who just wanted to please you.”

2007 Stakes – Tears I Cry

The 2007 Stakes was an emotional win for all connections. It was jockey Nikita Berriman’s first Group 1, a milestone win for the young 26-year-old trainer, Ciaron Maher, and a dream come true for the owner and breeder Anne McGrath. Her incredible reaction to seeing the horse win captured hearts and encapsulated the rags to riches story.

2008 Victoria Derby – Rebel Raider

When Clare Lindop piloted Rebel Raider to success in the 2008 Victoria Derby, she also rode into the history books as the first, and so far only, female to win the race. When she competed in the Melbourne Cup days later, she became the first Australian female to ride in the race, paving the way for many after her.

2010 and 2011 Patinack Farm Classic – Black Caviar

Now known as the VRC Sprint Classic, this 1200m sprint down the Flemington straight on Final Day is the premier sprint race of the Spring Carnival. The champion Black Caviar notched up two of her 25 straight wins in two electrifying runs in 2010 and 2011.

2013 Melbourne Cup – Fiorente

In 2013, a horse called Fiorente provided the first lady of racing, Gai Waterhouse with her first Melbourne Cup. After having had come so close with three second-place runners in the race, the win was even sweeter for the trailblazer trainer and a great joy after years of success in most of the biggest races, except for the coveted Melbourne Cup. The moment Gai saw Fiorente she had to have him, commenting, “As soon as I saw him I thought he was an exceptional specimen, he just took my eye.” And the horse that gave her one of the best moments of her career is never far from her thoughts, with her farm named after him.

2015 Melbourne Cup – Prince of Penzance

Michelle Payne’s historic win in the 2015 Melbourne Cup was the stuff of dreams. She was the first female to win the Melbourne Cup, her brother Stevie was the horse’s strapper and the odds were 100/1. What was also remarkable was Michelle’s determination to ride Prince of Penzance, as after riding him in 23 of his previous 24 starts she felt she had an affinity with the horse that more than qualified her to take the ride on that fateful day.