BRIAN MELDRUM recalls the day the roughest of roughies downed the favourite to win the Victoria Derby:
THE OFTEN-USED idiom “laughing all the way to the bank” held real meaning for jockey Clare Lindop as she sailed past the 200 metre mark in the 2008 Victoria Derby.
Riding a 100-1 outsider in a Derby – any Derby – wouldn’t usually give a jockey much optimism, but Lindop had gone into the Flemington classic with some expectation.
So when she found herself with a winning break on a big, strong colt called Rebel Raider, she got a fit of the giggles. “Who’d believe this,” she thought.
Obviously very few, given Rebel Raider became the longest-priced winner in the Victoria Derby’s 155-year history, on a raceday considered by many to be Australia’s best.
The tag is hard to argue with. This coming Derby Day – the first day of the iconic VRC spring racing carnival – boasts a complete card of nine Group races, four of them Group One, and total prizemoney of $5.3 million.
Interestingly though, the first prize for the 2008 Victoria Derby won by Rebel Raider was $1.5 million. On Saturday the 2017 renewal will be worth…$1.5 million.
In hindsight Rebel Raider, trained in Adelaide by one of Australia’s most astute trainers, Leon McDonald, should never have gone around at triple figure odds. As a two-year-old the previous autumn he’d won the SA Sires Produce Stakes, and at his last start before the Derby had come from ninth on the home turn to finish third in the Geelong Derby Trial.
“Going into the Derby I thought he was real chance,” Lindop said, “because I really believed he was a genuine stayer.” That said, she was mindful of the fact that the Mark Kavanagh-trained Whobegotyou was the odds-on favourite for the race.
“In a race like that, where there’s a dominant favourite, you still don’t go out there just to go around. You go out to try and beat the one you think is the biggest danger. My plan was to make it a staying test, and to stay in front of Whobegotyou.”
Her hopes that things might go well for her took a boost when, walking on to the course at around 10.30 on Derby Day morning, she was greeted by the sight of training legend Bart Cummings, up on the big screen, announcing Lindop as the rider for his lightweight chance, Moatize, in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup. “It set the scene,” she said.
Rebel Raider drew the extreme outside in the 15-horse field but some very smart riding from Lindop got him across to be one off the fence beyond mid-field as they headed on a strong pace down the river side of the course, with Whobegotyou three or four lengths behind her.
“I knew I needed to get going before he did,” Lindop said, but she waited until Michel Rodd, on the favourite, had moved up to her hindquarters, at the 500-metre mark, before pushing him wide to get into the clear.
Her belief in Rebel Raider’s staying ability was well founded. The packed stands waited expectantly for the favourite to reel the rank outsider in…and were left waiting. Lindop’s colt powered clear to win by an emphatic two and a half lengths, rounding off a plan that was perfectly executed and was successful, a rare happening indeed.
Those who reckoned Rebel Raider’s win was a fluke were forced to think again the following autumn, when Rebel Raider, after an unsuccessful foray to Sydney, came out and beat the older horses in the Chairman’s Handicap at Morphetville, and at the same track two weeks later, bolted away with SA Derby.
In the early markets for the 2009 Melbourne Cup Rebel Raider was one of the favourites, and the signs were promising when he scored a brilliant first-up win in the 1200 metre Spring Stakes at Morphetville in mid-August.
He had his next start at Flemington, the scene of his greatest triumph, but broke down during the running of the Makybe Diva Stakes and went for a long spell. In fact he had only one more start, in the 2010 Spring Stakes, before suffering a box injury and being retired.
“It was sad he couldn’t run in the Melbourne Cup in 2009,” Lindop said. “I think he would have run a huge race, but as it was we never saw the best of him.”
Oh, and if you’re wondering about Moatize in the 2008 Cup, Lindop rode a pearler of a race to have the Cummings hope challenging for the lead on the home turn. In the end he wasn’t quite good enough and finished sixth.
Not that Bart went home unhappy. He collected the last of his extraordinary 12 Melbourne Cups when Viewed beat the English-trained Bauer by the width of a cigarette paper.
Author: Brian Meldrum
Brian Meldrum has been a racing journalist for more than 47 years, and is a former Managing Editor – Racing, at the Herald Sun.