Thursday, 29 September 2011

Nimblefoot's Cup

The Melbourne Cup, the race that stops a nation has a rich history of wonderful stories, many a big part of Australian folklore. From the well known exploits of horses like Carbine and Phar Lap through to modern legends like Saintly and the mighty mare Makybe Diva, these are horses we have grown up either hearing about or witnessing ourselves, as everyone has a memory or two from the Great Race. Today though I'd like to tell you about one of the most amazing yet largely unknown tales of the turf.

The story behind the winner of the 1870 Melbourne Cup, Nimblefoot and his owner, publican Walter Craig is a remarkable one. 

In the early spring of 1870 Walter Craig, proprietor of Craig's Hotel in Ballarat had a vivid dream. In his dream he saw a horse being ridden by a jockey sporting his all Violet coloured silks draw away to win the Melbourne Cup. He assumed it had to be Nimblefoot as he was entered and being trained for the big race. However, Craig had also noticed in his dream that the jockey was sporting a black armband. Craig took this as a sign of his own impending death. He promptly went about telling several people the next morning the details of his dream, declaring Nimblefoot to be a certainty for the Cup, but that he wouldn't be alive to enjoy it. He then made a doubles bet with a Bookmaker named William Slack, coupling a horse called Croydon in the Metropolitan Handicap Stakes with Nimblefoot in the Cup. Considering at the time both horses were unfancied, Slack, due to the light hearted nature of the wager gave him the odds of 1000 pound to 8 free beers!! 

Amazingly that night Craig died and a couple of days later Croydon won the Metropolitan. The story of Craig's prophecy was then published in The Age Newspaper the day before the Cup. To everyone's shock and amazement Nimblefoot, with jockey J Day sporting a black armband went on to salute the judge. Due to Craig's death, Bookmaker Slack was under no obligation to pay out on the bet. He did however honour half the winning sum of 500 pounds to Craig's widow.

Sadly the annals of time have consigned wonderful tales such as this to rarely see the light of day. I hope you enjoyed reading about this forgotten piece of sporting legend.


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