LEADING Irish trainer Dermot Weld focused international attention on the Melbourne Cup like never before when he led Vintage Crop to victory in 1993.
Unknown to rank-and-file punters in Australia before the race, Weld's reputation in racing circles ensured the horse was well-supported at 14/1, charging home to beat Te Akau Nick, the first of three runners-up Gai Waterhouse has trained in the race.
Prior to Weld's raid, it was considered virtually impossible for a northern hemisphere horse to make the arduous trip Down Under and recover in time to be competitive in our greatest staying challenge.
Not only did Vintage Crop turn conventional wisdom on its head in, the gelding returned in each of the following two years, running seventh and third with much heavier weights.
Weld also returned in 2002 with the moderately performed Media Puzzle.
Rather than taking part without a lead-up race in Australia, he elected to start Media Puzzle in the Geelong Cup, the galloper duly winning in race record time.
With Damien Oliver in the saddle on the first Tuesday in November, Weld's runner provided one of the most emotional moments in the history of the great race, beating home Mr Prudent and Beekeeper.
Oliver took the ride less than a week after the death of his brother Jason in a trackwork fall in Western Australia - the story was later made into a successful film, The Cup.
Weld doesn't have a runner this year - but he had been aiming to win the race for the third time in 2014 with Irish-bred mare Voleuse De Coeurs.
That won't happen however, because the daughter of Teofilo was sold to Australian interests for $1.7million after winning the Irish St Leger (2800m) at The Curragh on September 15 and transferred to the Victorian stables of Michael Moroney.
And instead of waiting a year to give the horse a Cup shot, Voleuse De Coeurs will be ridden today by Kiwi jockey James McDonald, Moroney impressed with her progress since arriving at the international quarantine centre at Werribee.
"I'm really happy with her. I'm amazed, in all my years travelling with horses, I've never had one that's come in so well from day one," Moroney said. "It's a bit of surprise because she has come a long way, but she hasn't put a foot wrong."
Moroney, who won the Cup in 2000 with Brew, said a top performance in the Cup would boost the mare's value as a breeding proposition for the new owners.
"She will probably go to stud in the northern hemisphere being a Group One winner in Ireland," he said.
"Her stamina will be very attractive to that part of the world, but after running in this year's Melbourne Cup and hopefully next year's as well, she will certainly add to her value."
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