For over 150 years, the Melbourne Cup has been the race at which horses establish themselves among the elite.
From Phar Lap to Makybe Diva, virtually all of Australia and New Zealand’s best ever stayers have had some success at the event, so let’s take a look at the most recognised Melbourne Cup horses in history.
1. Makybe Diva
Is there any other horse with which this list could have started? In 160 editions of the Melbourne Cup, only five horses have ever managed to win it on multiple occasions, and for four of those horses that win count stopped at two.
Makybe Diva won it three times in three years. The first came in 2003, when she jumped at $8 and ran out a comfortable winner with Glen Boss aboard. The next year she jumped as a $3.60 favourite and promptly won again, before she etched her name into the record books in 2005 with yet another comfortable win, upgrading herself into legend status according to the famous call of Greg Miles.
2. Phar Lap
Phar Lap may not have been able to join the illustrious group of multiple Melbourne Cup winners, but the champion thoroughbred certainly had his reasons.
One of the most celebrated racehorses in history, Phar Lap first took out the Melbourne Cup in 1930 during a stretch of his career in which he won 32 of the 35 races he entered. One of those that he lost was the 1931 Melbourne Cup, but given he was forced to carry an enormous 68 kilograms, the eighth-place finish was probably just as impressive as the win the year prior.
Tragically Phar Lap died early the next year and his 1930 victory at the Melbourne Cup would remain his only one at the event, but he is nonetheless one of the best-known horses to ever take out the event.
3. Think Big
Some athletes, both human and equine, save their best for the biggest occasions, and Think Big was certainly one of those. The Bart Cummings trained gelding first won the Melbourne Cup in 1974 when he ran down his more favoured stablemate, Leilani, to record a famous win.
In the 12 months between that win and the next Melbourne Cup, he didn’t win a solitary race, and that lack of form saw him jump at the juicy odds of $33 as a result.
He promptly proved the bookmakers wrong, becoming just the fourth horse to win the race on multiple occasions and the third to do so in consecutive years prior to Makybe Diva’s feat three decades later.
Archer was the horse with whom it all started. A huge stallion renowned for his idiosyncratic gait, he was the first ever winner of the Melbourne Cup, having taken it out by a huge six lengths way back in 1861.
The following year, he did it even more easily, winning the second incarnation of the event by eight lengths – a record which stood alone until it was equalled over 100 years later by Rain Lover.
The following year he was denied entry to the race because the delivery of his acceptance into it was delayed by a public holiday and arrived too late as a result, but nonetheless his two wins have him viewed as one of the best Melbourne Cup horses in history, even over 150 years later.
Plenty of other horses have made names for themselves at the Melbourne Cup – the likes of Rain Lover and Peter Pan, both of whom won it on two occasions, and Kingston Town, who won it in record time, to name just a few.
The above four, however, are among the most recognised names in racing for a reason, and go down as the most legendary horses to win the Melbourne Cup.