Deni gets its hands on the cup

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Barrier 14 in the world famous Melbourne Cup race belongs to Deniliquin and district.

If the Cup-winning horse comes from that barrier on race day, $50,000 will be awarded to an eligible community project.

The barrier draw was part of the inaugural Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour National Sweep, and was conducted by Edward River Council Deputy Mayor Pat Fogarty at a gala reception during the cup tour on Friday night.

Each of the 24 regional Australian towns the cup will visit before Cup Day in November will be allocated a barrier.

Friday evening’s reception at the Deniliquin & District Historical Society Museum was a chance to see the $200,000, 18-carat gold Lexus Melbourne Cup up close for about 70 people, and was also a great chance to honour Melbourne Cup winning jockey Roy Higgins, who grew up in Deniliquin.

The tribute to Higgins continued at Koondrook, his birth place in 1938, where a red gum statue of him was unveiled during the cup’s visit there on Sunday.

Attending both celebrations was Higgins’ sister Elsie Trotter, and other members of his family.

Higgins was also the topic of the day when the cup visited Orana Aged Care on Friday morning, when residents Louise Begg and Frank May shared their own personal encounters with the famed sportsman.

While Mrs Begg knew a young Higgins through school, Mr May was one of the first to offer him insurance for his riding.

Mr May recalls his success came quickly, saying it was not too long before he was helping the jockey insure a house he purchased in Deniliquin for his mother.

Also paying tribute to Higgins and the Melbourne Cup over the course of the tour were Victoria Racing Club ‘keeper of the cup’ Joe McGrath and 2001 Melbourne Cup winning trainer Sheila Laxon.

The pair also accompanied the cup to Deniliquin Children’s Centre and Deniliquin’s Riding for the Disabled on Friday, before a stop for a photo at the iconic Ute Muster gates and a public showing and Q&A at Deniliquin Library.

The pair then went on to the Wakool and Koondrook tours on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Cr Fogarty said given Deniliquin is very proud of its horse racing history and connections, she was thrilled the town was included on this year’s cup tour.

‘‘Roy was such a colourful character, apart from being a world class jockey,’’ Cr Fogarty said.

‘‘And the community in general loves its racing; it’s great to see the Deniliquin Race Club has held together through all this time.

‘‘Friday night’s venue was fantastic, and I congratulate (Historical Society president) Lindsay Renwick and his team for the amount of effort put into the displays, and in getting ready for the tour,’’ Cr Fogarty said.

‘‘It was amazing to see the cup, and people were so excited.’’

Mrs Laxon, who won the 2001 cup with Ethereal, said the visit to Riding for the Disabled at the Deniliquin Pony Club held particular meaning for her.

‘‘After I had a bad race day fall I stagnated, but then I defied doctor’s orders and got back on the horse,’’ she said.

‘‘There is a great advantage you can get from having a real rapport with a horse.

‘‘Riding for the Disabled is really giving people the opportunity to benefit from that.’’

From the National Sweep draws following Deniliquin, Wakool drew barrier 9 and Koondrook/Barham drew barrier 4.

■Photos from Wakool and Koondrook courtesy of the Barham Bridge.