Melbourne Cup: Horses for courses
Great Kiwi First. People and Events that shape a nation.
Across the Tasman, Kiwis are jokingly taken to task over their sheep and their racehorses.
The Melbourne Cup has become flat racing’s equivalent of the America’s Cup; and much to the chagrin of Australia, NZ’s owners have caressed it many times since the late 1800s.
A former Victorian Racing Club official once remarked: “The Melbourne Cup belongs to every Australian and New Zealander.
From Broome to Brisbane, from Auckland to Dunedin, the ears and eyes of two nations are turned towards Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day.
The first New Zealand horse to run in a Melbourne Cup was a five-year-old mare named Lurline in 1874. Ridden by Dick Mason, Lurline finished twelfth in a field of eighteen. She later went on to win two major WFA races -- the Australian Cup and Adelaide Cup.
In 1883 the Auckland-bred bay colt, Martini-Henri outstripped a field of 29 to become the first NZ horse to win the Melbourne Cup. From the moment he arrived in Sydney, it was reported, Martini-Henri “immediately set the tongues of the track-watchers wagging”.
After winning the Victoria Derby first up, Martini-Henri became an instant idol. A record crowd flocked to the Cup to watch this unique colt blitz the field.
According to racing buffs “a colourful horse always attracts a large crowd”.
Carbine, the horse that’s been hailed as “possibly the greatest ever to grace the Australasian turf”, is recognised as NZ’s first internationally successful racehorse; and the horse to give the NZ thoroughbred industry “its first claim to fame”.
Carbine, the “best” son of Musket, missed out on the 1899 Melbourne cup by a length to Bravo. But the champion made amends the following year by winning easily, and the “crowd went wild with joy”.
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Johnny Devlin: Time to rock ‘n’ roll
The first gold record award in NZ was for the Lawdy Miss Clawdy sung in an Elvis Presley style by the flamboyant hip-shaking rocker Johnny Devlin in the late 1950s.
Born in Wanganui, Devlin was determined to follow in his parents’ footsteps; they had been well known country and western entertainers. From age 12, he started paying off a guitar at fifty cents a week. The gold record was the springboard to success.
Devlin began to tour the north and south islands with his band, The Devils. He came to the attention of Australian promoters and was an immediate sensation. Because of his stage gear he was tagged the “Satin Satan”.
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Elizabeth Guard: Settlers and scholars
Elizabeth Guard, wife of a London-born trader, was the first white woman to settle in the South Island.
Elizabeth accompanied her husband John in his search for whales in the Cook Strait in the early 1830s.
Their barque foundered off the Taranaki coast. After a melee with the Maoris they made it to the South Island.
Kate Evans, who graduated a BA at the Auckland campus of the University of New Zealand, was the first woman to do so not only in NZ, but perhaps in the British Empire.
She died in 1935, aged 47.
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