Tuesday, 16 October 2007
: October 18, 1997. The big crowd that flocked to Caulfield that afternoon had no idea about what was to unfold.
| Photo by Bronwen Healy |
The Caulfield Cup seldom fails to excite, but this year was going to produce something quite extraordinary.
Many expected the superb records of Damien Oliver and Lee Freedman in Australia's most noted 2400m handicap to be further enhanced, with the Nassipour gelding Marble Halls sent out as favourite.
Sydney galloper Might And Power came into the frame with a surprise first up win in the Show County Quality, but defeats in the Tramway, Shannon and finally an unplaced Epsom run saw him fall out of favour a touch.
The son of Zabeel was sent out an 8/1 chance in the Cup with his supporters pointing to a luckless AJC Derby run and six length Frank Packer Plate romp as pointers to a likely improvement up to the mile and a half this time.
But even his most ardent fans couldn't have predicted what transpired from the 800m point in the Cup.
With Jim Cassidy sending him straight to the front, 'The Pumper' quickened the tempo from that point and his chasers had no answer.
Might And Power kept carving out amazing sectionals and by the time they straightened, the hopes of those pursuing were forlorn.
With each bound the aptly named gelding opened up a bigger margin and on the line he had outdone his Packer Plate winning margin, with seven and a half lengths to spare over runner-up and previous winner Doriemus.
A new superstar of Australian racing had announced his arrival.
With Might And Power carrying an additional three and a half kilos, Doriemus reduced the gap to a short half head in the Melbourne Cup, as the Jack Denham trained runner entered history as a dual Cups winner and one of the few horses to win on the First Tuesday in November 'wire to wire'.
His career continued to blossom, with winning margins in the Mercedes Classic and Queen Elizabeth of five and 10 and a half lengths respectively the following autumn.
Wins in the G2 Hollindale and G1 Doomben Cup – in record time no less – put the icing on a wonderful season where he was a unanimous winner of Australian Horse of the Year.
He returned in the spring of 1998 to win the Yalumba and then the race that Denham craved most – the Cox Plate – sealing his entry into the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame in 2003.
A product of New Zealand's Windsor Park Stud, Might And Power's final career win came in the VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes of 1998, where he fittingly posted a winning margin of seven lengths, as his career earnings ballooned to $5.2million.
Next month marks the 10th anniversary of that breathtaking Caulfield Cup victory.
But it remains fresh in the mind and the now 14-year-old is the star attraction at Living Legends, the property set up as a retirement home for champion racehorses, which had its grand opening last spring.
Living Legends CEO Dr Andrew Clarke said Might And Power and Doriemus delved into a little history of their own soon after arriving.
“He buddied up with Doriemus in the beginning and they got on well,” Dr Clarke said.
“In fact, on their first day together they re-ran the Melbourne Cup out in the paddock and I must say, Might And Power won again.
“He is a major drawcard. I would say he and Saintly are the most popular horses we have at Living Legends. All of the horses have a unique following, but people's links with Might And Power are very special.”
Dr Clarke marvels at the personality that still exudes from the dual Horse of the Year and says he remains the ultimate professional.
“He is a fascinating horse,” Dr Clarke said.
“There are two sides to him. If we take him to a parade or the races, he wants to do what used to be his business … drag people around and want to get out and race.
“But he is never happier than when he is back on the farm and he has kids around him.
“He is friendly to most people, but he really switches off when he's around children.
“We have one regular young visitor who has muscular dystrophy and Might And Power just loves him – he comes up and nuzzles him and plays with his cap – he has a wonderful nature.”
Might And Power was very nearly lost to this world when he contracted colic a couple of years back.
Fortunately, those worrying times has passed and he is as happy as ever.
“We are very careful about his diet and there hasn't been any indication of a re-occurrence at all,” Dr Clarke said.
“He is a very content horse now, but he's still got that strong personality that you see in all of the really good horses.
“He's a real Zabeel horse – there's a bit of mischief in him,” Dr Clarke says.
“When the ute comes through the paddock he will idle up and try and pinch whatever he can from the back.
“He is now in the same paddock as Sky Heights and they are a great mix – both being by Zabeel – but Might And Power is still the boss!”
Living Legends is home to some of the best racehorses to grace the Australian turf in the past 20 years.
It was opened last year and is situated at Woodlands Historic Park, near the Tullamarine Airport base just a short drive out of Melbourne.
It is open to the public and is modeled on the Home of Reds for Horses in the United Kingdom.
Living Legends is currently home to 12 former champs, including Hong Kong idol Silent Witness, who became the latest addition earlier this year.
Together, the 12 gallopers won more than $48million between them.
They include 5 Melbourne Cup winners; 4 Cox Plate winners; and 4 Caulfield Cup winners.
From top to bottom, the list is: Better Loosen Up, Bomber Bill, Brew, Doriemus, Fields Of Omagh, Might And Power, Paris Lane, Regal Roller, Rogan Josh, Saintly, Silent Witness and Sky Heights.
“You can never beat being up close and personal with a champion racehorse,” Dr Clarke said.
“It's been an amazing first year for us.
“One of the biggest surprises is the number of people who come out and have never patted a horse before.
“With something like this, you realise how deeply in the psyche horses are with Australians.
“It's very common for our visitors to remark how they link these horses and major races to key events in their lives.”
Just like next month, when many race fans will rekindle memories of that October day in 1997 when Might And Power scored one of the all time great wins.