November 1919 – WWI has ended, the flu epidemic has eased, and 110,000 people turn out for race day at Flemington; the nation stopping Melbourne Cup
From the Adelaide Observer, November 8 1919);
‘One of Australia’s best assets is the horse. Like the call of the bush, the hand of sport beckons to be followed throughout the Commonwealth. There has never been a more joyous, lighthearted or prouder multitude than which gathered together at headquarters today…..’The Peace Cup.’
Among the starters, at odds of 10/1 was the handsome Artilleryman; something of a contradiction in terms for a race dubbed The Peace Cup. 😨 He was owned by Sam Hordern, of the famous Sydney retailing family, and his old friend Alex Murphy.
AND THEY’RE OFF IN THE MELBOURNE CUP!
The horse won the race in record time, by ten lengths.
There were some heartwarming stories of those who won not a fortune, but a precious few bob that day. On the eve of the Cup, one young girl dreamt that a horse in Artilleryman’s colours of white, red and pale blue triumphed. She invested a pound, as did her father and sister.
Artilleryman was ridden that day by Robert (Bob) Lewis. It was the third Cup win for the jockey.
A SHADOW OVER BRAVE ARTILLERYMAN
It’s hard to believe, but the horse was under the sentence of death when he raced that day;
Something went wrong with Artilleryman in the autumn of his two-year-old career. His trainer, P.T. Heywood, could not make out what really was the matter….Artilleryman went along nicely and trouble did not develop until Melbourne Cup time, when a slight swelling on a leg was noticed. After the spring it grew worse, but nothing could be done. A vet advised that the trainer should go on as he was doing for as long as possible. Heywood concurred. The affected leg used to fill and when seized with spasms of pain Artilleryman would stand and paw. On these occasions he fell away to a shadow. When taken from his stable of a morning the colt could not use his leg freely, but walking exercise relieved him. Similarly afflicted, a human being could have helped in the diagnosis….Artilleryman had to grin and bear it, which he did with a fortitude that must be accounted heroic. (Telegraph, October 25 1947)
Sadly, the doomed horse died on Saturday, January 29 1921. Oddly enough it was the day after his part owner Alec Murphy passed away. A port-mortem revealed that Artilleryman had been suffering from an invasive tumour. It had spread throughout his pelvis, finally rupturing a blood vessel in his leg and causing internal bleeding.
A VERY SPECIAL MELBOURNE CUP
The trophy presented to Artilleryman on his win was a new design, a three-handled ‘loving cup’. Before his death, Mr Murphy had presented the cup to the exclusive Melbourne Club, where it was displayed on a mantlepiece. In the early hours of May 3 1939 the gold cup was stolen. It was insured for £200, but of course its true worth was infinitely more. The great worry was that it would be melted down. (information from The Age, May 26 1939)
Two months went by before detectives tracked down the culprit, Edward Parker, a labourer from Clifton Hill. The trophy was found wrapped in newspaper among a pile of rubbish in a bathroom. Talk about disrespect! The bowl had been broken from the stem, but at least it hadn’t been turned into an ingot and could easily be repaired.. 😎
That three-handled Melbourne Cup design has continued to this day. I like to think of it as a special legacy of Artilleryman, the brave horse whose career was cut short by a horrible disease.
FOR MORE ON THE 1919 MELBOURNE CUP, CLICK HERE.