Longreach link to Melbourne Cup

Link between Longreach and 1883 Melbourne Cup revealed

Life & Style
The 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup placed beside the plaque commemorating the Longreach burial place of 1883 winner, Martini-Henry. Picture supplied by Longreach Regional Council.

The 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup placed beside the plaque commemorating the Longreach burial place of 1883 winner, Martini-Henry. Picture supplied by Longreach Regional Council.

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It's a long way from western Queensland to Flemington racecourse but an uncanny link between the two was revealed when the 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup toured the region recently.

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It's a long way from western Queensland to Flemington racecourse but an uncanny link between the two in Australia's racing heritage was revealed when the 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup toured the region recently.

After visiting Longreach's state schools and being feted on a tour of the main street in a replica Cobb and Co coach, the golden icon detoured out to a nearby property, Bexley, to pay homage to one of the great Cup winners.

It was in 1883 that Martini-Henry scored a remarkable double, winning first the Victoria Derby and then the Melbourne Cup, at his first and second starts.

He was owned at the time by one of the most prolific racehorse owners of his time, James White, a NSW politician and one-time chairman of the Australian Jockey Club.

The pastoralist from Scone had some stunning successes on the track, winning no less than two Melbourne Cups, six VRC Derbies and five AJC Derbies.

He is still considered the most successful owner in Australian history, racing 66 winning horses who won 252 races for more than £120,000, a massive amount for the era.

He was leading owner in Australia six times.

White's other Melbourne Cup winner was Chester, who had completed the Victoria Derby-Melbourne Cup double in 1877.

Martini-Henry was by Musket, hence his name, a stallion who was formerly owned by Lord Glasgow and exported to New Zealand.

White purchased Martini-Henri for approximately 1250 guineas from the Auckland Stud Company and gave him to master trainer de Mestre to prepare.

De Mestre had already trained five Melbourne Cup winners, one of them Chester.

He soon established that Martini-Henri had a delicate constitution and therefore turned him out to develop, which meant the colt didn't race as a two-year-old.

When it came time to begin preparing him again, de Mestre had cut back his racing activities and suggested to White that the horse be transferred to Michael Fennelly, who had previously worked under de Mestre.

The transfer turned out to be good luck for Fennelly, who inherited a horse of outstanding ability.

Not content with the two wins in Cup week, Fennelly backed up Martini-Henri on the Saturday to win the one-and-a-quarter mile (2000m) Mares Produce Stakes.

The following autumn he won the VRC St Leger, failed in three other Sydney starts and broke down in the 1884 Caulfield Cup.

Sent to Stud, Martini-Henri proved a success, getting AJC Derby winner Singapore, Caulfield Guineas winner Rudolph and VRC Oaks winner Litigant.

Musket was a most influential stallion, siring Martini-Henri and 1890 Melbourne Cup winner Carbine. He was also the dam-sire of brothers Gaulus and The Grafter, winners of the 1897 and 1898 Melbourne Cups respectively.

Both of White's Melbourne Cup runners served as stallions on his famous Kirkham Stud at Bowral in NSW, before Martini-Henry was sold for approximately 300 guineas to prolific thoroughbred breeder EG Blume, who had the Bexley stud at Longreach.

It's there that he was buried when he died at the age of 24.

The newspaper clipping that noted his passing described him as "one of the finest specimens of the thoroughbred to be seen in Australia" despite being known as "quite scopey in appearance" and suffering from shelly feet, a trait of the Musket breed.

Once the Victorian Racing Club alerted the Longreach Regional Council to the presence of such a famous horse in their district, they arranged to erect a plaque to commemorate the horse's resting place.

Interestingly, Musket's other Melbourne Cup-winning son, Carbine also has connections with western Queensland, being owned by Donald Wallace, a part-owner of Terrick Terrick Station at Blackall at the time.

The story Longreach link to Melbourne Cup first appeared on North Queensland Register.

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