When the horses go to the barrier for the Ipswich Cup on Saturday, it is fair to say that the race will probably lack many class runners. The day has been more a social event for many years. The majority of visitors to the course on the day couldn’t care less whether the race fields exuded class or not, as these days the meeting for many attendees is little more than an excuse to get on the soup.
There is no question however, that some great stayers have partaken in the Ipswich Cup field, particularly in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
One horse will stand tall as the greatest winner of the Ipswich Cup. Since the race was first run in 1935, just one horse, Sharply, has been successful carrying over 9 stone (57 kilograms). During his career Sharply proved to be the conqueror of Australian champion racehorse Tulloch, when he defeated the icon in the 1961 Sydney Cup at Randwick. Sharply carried just 7 stone 9 pounds (48.5 kilos), whilst Tulloch was burdened with a massive 9 stone 13 pounds (63 kilograms) in that Sydney Cup.
The pair faced off again in the 1961 Brisbane Cup a couple of months after the Sydney Cup. This time they were a bit closer in the weights. Tulloch was handicapped with one pound (half a kilo) less than he’d carried in the Sydney Cup at 9 stone 12 pounds (62.5 kilograms). Sharply was aptly named – he jumped sharply in the weights – from his victorious 7 stone 9 pounds Sydney Cup weight and rose 8 pounds (3.5 kilos) to 8 stone 4 pounds (52.5 kilograms).
The Brisbane Cup of 1961 heralded the racetrack swansong of the great Tulloch. A huge crowd was in attendance. Tulloch had just become the first horse in Australian racing history to win more than 100,000 pounds ($200,000). He was facing the starter for the 53rd and final time and he had won 35 of his 52 runs to that point. As he lined up for the Brisbane Cup, he also had the amazing statistic of only being unplaced once in his entire career – and that was in the 1960 Melbourne Cup.
Tulloch easily won the O’Shea Stakes over 2400 metres, just two days before he faced the starter in the then 3200-metre Brisbane Cup.
Most trainers thought it silly taking on the champion and only 11 horses comprised the field in the 1961 Brisbane Cup. The danger to Tulloch, on paper at least, was obviously Sharply. George Moore rode Tulloch and as heads were turned for home, Moore had Tulloch within two lengths of leader Sharply. Tulloch raced past Sharply inside the 200 metres mark and went on to win the Brisbane Cup, defeating Sharply with lightweight Drumcondra 3rd.
Reports of the time (I was only six years old, so I missed it) said that “the crowd of 33,000 gave Tulloch three cheers which very rarely happens on a racecourse”. One article reported, “there was another rare occurrence that afternoon as T.J. Smith (Tulloch’s trainer), the tough guy, could not hold back the tears”.
The on-course racecaller of Brisbane Cup day 1961, the late Keith Noud, in his book “Keith Noud Recalls” wrote, “The race for the Brisbane Cup was a thriller. And if ever I wanted a horse to win a race it was Tulloch. Deep down in my mind was the nagging thought that Tulloch was not the champion he’d been in the past. He had a tough battle ahead of him”. Keith Noud went on to describe the race in detail in his book and then wrote, “I had never been more excited than at the finish of this race and by then I had been broadcasting for 25 years. I had just witnessed an epic performance by a champion whose former brilliance had been dimmed by time and sickness. It stirred the emotions. I took out my handkerchief”.
So Sharply probably would have been hung, drawn and quartered anyway if he’d have spoilt Tulloch’s farewell. It certainly would not have been a popular boilover.
But the decision was obviously taken to bring Sharply to Bundamba to contest the Ipswich Cup, before returning home to Sydney.
History shows Sharply carrying 9 stone 3 pounds (58.5 kilos) defeated Flash Hero with the equivalent of 50 kilograms and Sol D’or (52.5 kilograms) that day in the Ipswich Cup. Whilst Sharply holds the weight carrying record for an Ipswich Cup, two placegetters have also lumped huge weights.
In 1962 the great Dhaulagiri carried 9 stone 7 pounds (60.5 kilos) to run 2nd to Dalriada carrying just 7 stone (44.5 kilos).
Then the top stayers, Striking Force (1966) and Jan’s Beau (1972) both ran second carrying 9 stone 2 pounds (58 kilos).
The Ipswich Cup has also been memorable because of two consecutive dead heats. In 1963 Sometime and Conference dead heated and in the following year 1964, Bore Head and Isaacson could not be separated by the judge.
Many great gallopers have been placed in an Ipswich Cup. The top galloper Prunda ran third to Striking Force in 1965, before winning in 1966. Prunda raced in Brisbane even though he was blind in one eye and should have been banned - I think it was a case of it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Panvale ran second in 1969 and the following year won the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick at cricket score odds, in front of the Queen, when ridden by a kid called Peter Cook.
Melbourne Cup placegetter El Laurena ran third in 1981 for current Deagon trainer Geoff Burns. El Laurena ran second later in the year in the Melbourne Cup to Just A Dash.
The great miler Riverdale ran third in 1984 to a couple of handy horses – Hussar’s Command and Rose And Thistle. A couple of months earlier, Riverdale had won the Epsom at Randwick.
Queensland’s top stayer Ima Shadow ran third for Tommy Dawson in 1977 and champion mare Mode’s stablemate Miner’s Inn, ran second to Lloyd Boy in 1978, for the late, great Deagon trainer Gordon Williams.
In the last 20 years the weight carrying record for the Ipswich Cup is held by the John Wallace trained Oompala who carried 55 kilograms to victory in 1994. To prove his staying ability and splash of class, he was taken to Flemington for the first Tuesday in November the same year and ran a great third in the Melbourne Cup to Jeune and Paris Lane.
You can bet London to a brick on, that there will be no Sharply’s at the Ipswich Cup this year - or in the near future.