Recollections of the 1985 Melbourne Cup
The Day before the running of the 1985 Melbourne Cup, my Dad and I were at Gowings Restaurant. The torrential rain began around lunchtime and continued throughout the night. With every downpour, came the cry from my father, “Open another bottle of champagne!”….What A Nuisance loved a wet track. Awake at five and abundant with nervous energy, we set out for Flemington around seven that Cup morning. The car park was already awash with muddy puddles and the Heavens were constantly dousing the track. It was going to be a great day.
We nervously watched the bookies set up and waited for their financial appraisal on the probability of What A Nuisance’s chances. Their economic judgment hovered around the 14-1 mark. Pretty good odds for such inclement weather, enough to entice my brother Chris to leave the country soon after with all his winnings. The rain subsided a little and we visited What A Nuisance. We wished him winning vibes as he stood nonchalantly in his stall, looking as if he his race was already run and won.
Soon we were ensconced in the Owners & Trainers stand – the moment had arrived. The race itself was quite a blur – my hand firmly clenched within my Father’s, his eyes half closed, mine shut tight. We could hear the call and What A Nuisance featured prominently. The roar of the crowd as they came around the home turn drowned out any hope of hearing the result. The trainer, Geoff Murphy, was sitting behind us throughout the race. He leant down to my father at the finish and said, “I bet you a thousand bucks your horse has won”. To which my stunned father responded “You’re on!” The happiest bet he ever lost! Next we were flying down the stairs, pirouetting at each turn and onto the mounting yard.
The trophy presented, we were whisked upstairs – it was time to formally meet the Prince & Princess of Wales who where the esteemed guests of the Club on that day. Greetings were exchanged and congratulations offered; yet nothing could ever come close to the exhilaration of what had just occurred – not even the once in a lifetime opportunity of meeting a real Princess.
My Father’s traditional public persona took an unusual turn on that day. There was to be neither car park celebration nor parading of the trophy to the masses and media. He wanted to be private. He insisted I go to the Secretary’s Office to find something to secure the prize for transport. “What no box?” I asked them when they told me they had never been asked for such a thing. With no other option, we clumsily wrapped the Cup in The Age and headed straight for the car, dodging many a well wisher along the way.
Once back in the solace of the Restaurant the party began with friends, family and guests all enjoying a swig of champagne from the hallowed vessel. A tradition which has been enjoyed in our restaurants on Cup day ever since. Throughout the night, a familiar cry could be heard from an exuberant, once orphaned, Cockney lad, “Open another bottle of champagne!”