Champion jockey Darren Beadman remembers his three Australian Cup victories, with his win on Lonhro in 2004 not only his favourite, but also one of the most memorable in the race’s long and decorated history.
Darren Beadman can boast that his three Australian Cup wins came on three of the legends of the turf.
Look at the names. Let’s Elope, Saintly and Lonhro. Any racing fan could wax lyrical about that trio.
They are three of the all-time greats and Beadman was lucky enough to win the Australian Cup at Flemington on all of them.
He had strong associations with Lonhro and Saintly but only rode Let’s Elope once in Australia.
His first two winners were on the Bart Cummings-trained champions: Let’s Elope in 1992 and then four years later, on Saintly in 1996.
His last one was on the champion Lonhro, for John Hawkes, in a memorable 2004 Australian Cup.
“I’m proud to say I won three Australian Cups. It’s one of Australia’s greatest weight-for-age races.”
Each winner was at a different stage of their career when he claimed victory on them.
Let’s Elope was dominating, Saintly was starting out and Lonhro was near the end of his career.
Let’s Elope and Saintly both had easy wins in the Australian Cup, winning by three and a half lengths and two and a half lengths respectively.
Lonhro was a different story, though. His winning performance after being blocked in until 150m to go is still regarded as one of the most astonishing wins at Flemington of all time
It’s no surprise that Beadman said it was the most memorable of his Australian Cup wins.
It wasn’t just the get-out-of-jail style of the win that made it special, but also because it was on his favourite horse of all time.
“Going into the race I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. When you ride a horse of that calibre you know every other rider in the race is watching your every move and trying to beat you.”
So it proved, as the other jockeys couldn’t have made it any harder for Beadman and Lonhro to win.
At the 250m mark Lonhro was checked and was involved in another scrimmage as Beadman tried to find galloping room.
Meanwhile, three-year-old Delzao sailed past him and looked set for an easy victory until Beadman finally found space with 150m left and set out after Delzao, grabbing him close to the line.
Beadman wasn’t sure what the outcome was, but also knew he was on a champion who had a remarkable will to win.
“When I’d go for a run they would close up quickly. I thought we were in trouble,” Beadman said.
“When we got out he stretched every muscle to pass him to win. Not many horses could pick up like he did and overcome such difficulties to win."
"There’s no better feeling than to win a race with 20 metres to go. Basically he won in the last few strides and I never used the whip.”
That was Beadman’s tenth Group 1 win on Lonhro, with the horse only having two more starts after that before retiring in April 2004.
“We had a great partnership. It was great riding for Crown Lodge and the Ingham’s and for John Hawkes."
“It was one of the most memorable wins of my career.”
Beadman said Let’s Elope’s win in 1992 displayed class and authority.
It was Let’s Elope’s seventh straight win, with previous wins coming in races such as the Turnbull Stakes, the Caulfield Cup, the Mackinnon Stakes, the Melbourne Cup, the Orr Stakes and St George Stakes with Steven King on board.
“She was such a big horse. It was like riding a colt. Being such a big horse though she had the advantage of carrying a smaller weight because she was a mare.”
Beadman said Saintly’s 1996 Australian Cup win was the first time the horse showed that he could be a champion.
“He’d come off a good spring where he’d shown a lot of promise, but the Australian Cup win was the race where he showed what he would become. That win was unbelievable for a 3yo.
“After that I knew he would win a good race (like the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup) as the ease of it and the class he showed told me he was something special.
"That race stamped him as a horse which could be a potential star and could win something better the following spring.”
History shows that Beadman was correct, as Saintly went on to win the Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup later in the year.
Down memory lane: superstars and epic battles of the Australian Cup
The move from handicap to weight-for-age in 1979 (except between 1983 and 1986)
re-invigorated the Australian Cup, which has had a glittering ‘who’s who’ of the best racehorses over the years. It’s impossible to narrow down its greatest winners, and greatest clashes, without omitting a worthy top-three contender.
Makybe Diva, Northerly, Octagonal, Saintly, Better Loosen Up and Dulcify – who ran down Manikato in an epic – were legendary modern era winners. Standouts, arguably, were Bonecrusher, Vo Rogue and Lonhro.
The most memorable aspect of Bonecrusher’s lunging win over At Talaq in 1987 was the great Bill Collins’s call. He was indeed ‘the accurate one’ labelling Bonecrusher, who dived late, the winner despite most punters fearing the champion had been nosed out.
No horse had stamped itself on the Australian Cup like Vo Rogue, which won back-to-back in 1989 and 1990 and was second in the Dandy Andy ‘boilover’ in 1988, and also to Better Loosen Up in 1991. His relentless front running wins, staving off the likes of Better Loosen Up and Super Impose, made him an immortal.
Lonhro’s win in 2004 was one of the most courageous, picking himself off the canvas at the 200m mark after a bad check to run down three-year-old Delzao. The racecourse was a sea of cerise flags and banners, with the reception for the champion among the warmest in Australian Cup history.
Other memorable and high-class winners of the race include Fiorente (2014), Shocking (2011) and Zipping (2010).
Photography courtesy of Godolphin and Getty Images. Oil paintings Alister Simpson, Victoria Racing Club Collection