Twenty-four of the world’s most talented stayers line up to compete in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse each year. It is one of the world’s richest and most prestigious races, run under strict handicap conditions, so it is always ferociously competitive.
It is very rare to see an extremely short priced Melbourne Cup favourite, due to the sheer depth of quality in the field. However, every now and then a supremely gifted stayer emerges as the overwhelming favourite after generating a great deal of interest among punters. These are the five shortest priced winners in Melbourne Cup history:
Phar Lap ($1.73)
The legendary Phar Lap is only horse to have started odds-on to win the Melbourne Cup in the 159-year history of the race that stops a nation. He was priced at just 8-11 ($1.73) to salute in 1930 after embarking on a sensational run of victories that year.
Phar Lap captured the public’s imagination during the early years of the Great Depression, and he was known as the people’s champion. He is the highest rated horse in Australian history, with a 141 rating. That leaves him ahead of Bernborough, Tulloch, Kingston Town, Peter Pan and Winx.
He had won 16 of his past 17 races before the 1930 Melbourne Cup, including extremely prestigious races like the Cox Plate and the St Leger. Phar Lap was so good that criminals tried to assassinate him twice in order to prevent him from triumphing in the Melbourne Cup.
Yet both assassination attempts failed, and Phar Lap went into hiding. He emerged on the day of the race and delighted punters by winning the Cup with ease.
Phar Lap ended up winning 14 races in a row during 1930, and then he won nine out of 10 starts in his five-year-old season. The only defeat came when he finished eighth in the 1931 Melbourne Cup. However, that was because the handicappers assigned him a ridiculous 10 stone 10 pounds, the heaviest load in the race’s history.
In 2015, The Age ran a virtual race between all the greatest champions in Melbourne Cup history, and Phar Lap won it ahead of Makybe Diva.
So You Think ($3)
New Zealand-bred stayer So You Think was the red hot favourite to win the Melbourne Cup in 2010. He pulled off an astonishing feat by winning the Group 1 Cox Plate during his three-year-old season, and he then won it again the following year.
So You Think also won the Underwood Stakes, Yalumba Stakes and Mackinwood Stakes in 2010, leading many people to hail him as one of the greatest Australian racehorses of all time.
He was priced at just $3 to win the Melbourne Cup that year, and more than 110,000 spectators packed into Flemington Racecourse expecting him to surge to victory. You can check out a full list of the 2020 Melbourne Cup horses here – https://www.punters.com.au/melbourne-cup/melbourne-cup-horses/ – and you are unlikely to see a horse priced as short as $3, so it is easy to see why the weight of expectation was so intense.
However, persistent rain made the track sloppy, and So You Think could only finish third. He was more than three lengths behind the winner, a $13 shot called Americain, and the lightly raced Maluckyday finished second.
Makybe Diva, ($3.50)
Tony Šantic, a tuna fisherman from South Australia, named his highly promising racehorse after five of his employees – Maureen, Kylie, Belinda, Diane, and Vanessa – by taking the first two letters from each of their names. She went on to become one of the greatest stayers in history.
Makybe Diva won her first Melbourne Cup at odds of $7 in 2003. She remained in terrific form ahead of the 2004 Melbourne Cup, so she was priced at just $3.50 to triumph, and she justified the odds by winning convincingly.
Many pundits doubted she could win a third Melbourne Cup, but the punters backed her into $4.40 in 2005, and she completed her hat-trick with another sensational performance. That made Makybe Diva the most successful horse in the race’s history, and she also won the Australian Champion Stayer award three years on the bounce.
Makybe Diva was named Australian Racehorse of the Year in 2005 and 2006, and she was swiftly inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
Rising Fast ($3.50)
In 1954, Rising Fast became the only horse in history to win the Cox Plate, the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup in the same year. He demonstrated wonderful adaptability by winning the Cox Plate over 2,040m and the Caulfield Cup over 2,400m, so the handicappers paid him a great deal of respect ahead of the 3,200m Melbourne Cup.
Rising Fast was handed a weight of 9 stone 5 pounds for the race that stops a nation, but he was still backed into $3.50, and he was the toast of punters across the land after romping to victory. Only Rain Lover in 1969 has ever carried a heavier load while victorious at the Melbourne Cup.
Master O’Reilly, $3.80
Danny O’Brien’s Master O’Reilly secured an emphatic victory at the 2007 Caulfield Cup, so he was priced at just $3.80 to win the Melbourne Cup a couple of weeks later. However, he disappointed punters by finishing eighth, finishing well behind winner Efficient, a $21 outsider.
Master O’Reilly ended up winning eight of 48 career starts. He was fourth in the 2008 Melbourne Cup behind $41 shot Viewed and fourth the following year behind Shocking, who was priced at $9.
Master O’Reilly died in unusual circumstances in 2013. “He was a great warrior for our stable,” O’Brien said., He provided me with one of my greatest thrills winning the Caulfield Cup.”