The centenary cup
Not only was it the centenary cup for the race that stops a nation, it also saw an all New Zealand-bred trifecta fill the placings. Hi Jinx defeated Howsie and Ilumquh In a three way go to the line. The official margins were tight: a half neck by a head.
There were hard luck stories in the race, including the performance of one of Australia’s greatest racehorses, Tulloch, who, carrying 10st 1lb (64kg), would finish a fast seventh after being towards the back half of the field most of the race.
The Centenary Cup also saw the first marketing and promotions sub-committee formulated at the VRC. The festivities took five years in the planning, with a new partnership forged between the VRC and the Melbourne City Council. According to the VRC’s official publication The Story of the VRC and Flemington since 1864 (Kirkwood and Johnson, 2014), the Cup was promoted as “The Festival of Fashions, Flowers and Favourites” and saw the streets of Melbourne come alive with Melbourne Cup theming and plenty of flowers. City street traders also joined in on the celebrations with lucrative prizes presented to the best Cup-themed shop window.
Sponsors were also a new thing at the Flemington Spring meeting, welcoming George Adams, WD & HO Wills, and whiskey merchant Stephen King Pty Ltd. Fashions on the Field was also born out of this subcommittee but the first running would not take place until 1962. Prizemoney for the Cup was increased £10,000 to a record £25,750.
For the New Zealand-bred Hi Jinx, it was a huge result at 50/1 and one which even surprised her part-owner Mr KR Sly, who stayed at home at his property in Hamilton, New Zealand to milk 120 cows! But for trainer and part owner Trevor Knowles as well as Sly, the win landed some good bets sufficient enough to make some life-changing decisions back home in New Zealand. It also highlighted the courage of a horse who spent six months in a plaster cast and sling as a 2YO following an accident to a knee. Seeing a racetrack was seen as ambitious at one point, let alone winning a Melbourne Cup.
Rider Billy Smith, an outstanding lightweight rider, rode more than 1700 race winners in Australia and New Zealand. He won many of Australasia’s biggest races, highlighted by the win of Hi Jinx in the Centenary Melbourne Cup of 1960. Hi Jinx was a last-minute ‘catch ride’ after his stablemate went amiss days before.
Trevor Knowles trained out of Palmerston North 16 miles from the town of Woodville, where second and third place-getters Howsie and Illumquh were prepared. Sadly, he passed away midway through 2020.
Hi Jinx ran an unimpressive 15th in the Caulfield Cup 17 days prior to her most famous victory but her supporters regained interest when she ran second to Mac one week later in the Moonee Valley Cup. Hi Jinx is one of eleven individual mares to win the Melbourne Cup and was bred by Charlie and Ellen Casey, grandparents of 2000 Melbourne Cup winning trainer, Mike Moroney who grew up looking at a photo of Hi Jinx on the wall in their family home.
“Paul (Moroney) and I grew up looking at this photo all the time. Never did I ever think I would one day train a Melbourne Cup winner (Brew, 2000),” the successful Melbourne based trainer states on his website.