Shutdown, well back 2nd last, circling deepest the turn and finding the line? Mickey Dee? Did my eyes deceive me? Was that really Tom Melbourne?
But surely he ran 4th? Ah no, good old Tommy managed to get his head up on the line and got out-bobbed by Spright costing himself $30k in the photo. Whilst he might be easy fodder for social media click-bait, his earnings are now approaching $1.4 million, consistently getting fat cheques in Stakes grade and there is no doubt he is the apple of his owner’s eye as he covers the feed bill for leviathan OTI team.
Whilst Tom might be the greatest of all Bridesmaids of the modern era, here’s a look at a few that have rivalled him in the past.
Nightmarch- (69: 24-18-11)
It’s hard to feel sorry for Nightmarch with a record that boasts the 1929 Melbourne Cup, an NZ Derby, an Epsom Handicap and a Cox Plate among many other feature wins, but for this son of Night Raid it was a case of what could have been…. had he not run in to another son of Night Raid by the name of Phar Lap.
After defeating a 3yo ‘Big Red’ in the 1929 Melbourne Cup, Nightmarch would play the Bridesmaid for a good chunk of the rest of his career. Six times he would finish 2nd or 3rd to Phar Lap including four straight seconds in four stakes races in the space of just four weeks in the Spring of 1930. Resigned to his fate in Australia, Nightmarch headed back across the ditch, as far away from the Red Terror as possible to take out the NZ Cup and went on to claim other features upon returning to Australia before heading back home for a stud career.
Perhaps the unluckiest Bridesmaid of all time, but considered one of NZ’s best and was the first horse to win both the Melbourne Cup and the Cox Plate in the same year. An achievement later emulated by Saintly and Makybe Diva which gives a pretty fair indication of the quality of the bloke.
Hay List- (28: 15-6-0)
Whilst it may be hard to feel sorry for Nightmarch with his impressive C.V., it’s hard not to feel sorry for the big West Aussie Hay List.
Winning his first 8 starts in Western Australia under the care of Jim Taylor, he was transferred to canny ex-pat J.C. McNair for a campaign over east and looked to have the sprinting features at his mercy after taking out the 2010 Manikato Stakes. But soon after fate would intervene reducing his career stats of 28 starts 15 wins to ‘very impressive’ rather than ‘super impressive’.
6th November 2010 would be the first occasion he would run in to a mare by the name of Black Caviar. On this occasion he was a well beaten 11 lengths sixth and would go for a spell to recuperate from hoof problems which plagued him throughout his career and would ultimately shorten his life span after contracting laminitis in 2015.
First-up, 13 months on, and back to his best, Hay List ran out of his skin under 58.5kg in the Group 1 lightning, only to run a distant 3.25L 2nd to the undefeatable sprinting Queen.
He would play Bridesmaid to her again at his next four group 1 starts, probably giving her the biggest fright of her life when he skipped four lengths clear down the rise at Randwick in the 2011 T.J. Smith…. only to be reeled in, and defeated by nearly 3 lengths on the line. With 5 lengths back to the third horse, group 1 winner Triple Honour.
Hay List was a freak in his own right, who just happened to co-exist smack bang in the middle of probably the greatest sprinting freak show we are ever likely to see.
Happy Clapper- (41: 11-11-4)
Speaking of freaks in the freak show, spare a thought for The Clapper, and Patty Webster.
The unfashionably bred gelding first finished runner up to Winx in the 2016 Doncaster Handicap under the flyweight of 50.5kg and he would go on to play Bridesmaid on another four occasions at G1 level.
For a while it seemed Happy Clapper was destined to be one of the best of all time never to crack a Group 1, missing out by half a length to It’s Somewhat on a heavy track in the 2017 Doncaster, before finally edging out, you guessed it- Tom Melbourne in the 2017 Epsom Handicap to break his drought. Another two Group 1’s the following Autumn punctuated what was/is a brilliant career by another whose record perhaps belies his amazing talent thanks to one, once in a generation horse by the name Winx.
Other notable mentions-
Red Cadeaux- (54: 7:13:7) $8 million in stakes money, raced in seven different countries, and either won or was placed at stakes level on 20 occasions, for just the one Group 1 victory, the 2012 HK Vase. Runner up in a Dubai World Cup to Animal Kingdom, a Queen Elizabeth to globe-trotting Criterion, and three seconds in Melbourne Cups, he was sadly euthanized after breaking down in his fifth attempt at winning ‘the race that stops a nation’. Perennial Bridesmaid, but an absolute warrior, may he rest in peace.
Shogun Lodge- (58: 13-12-8) Ah the memories. Takes me back to my youth, when I was still paying a pittance board at my parent’s house, was earning a decent quid, and had large amounts of disposable income to load up on Bobby Thomsen’s charge when he would come from last to first with a withering run with the likes of Hollywood type hoops R.S. Dye and G. Boss swinging off the big chestnut. All heart racing stuff, enough to get any young lad on the terminal hook. Whilst he got me the cash on a few occasions, he was prone to just miss quite often although rather honorably to the likes of Lonhro, Northerly, Sky Heights, Fairway, Viscount and most memorably Sunline in the 2002 Doncaster which left the Bossman eating humble pie after he gave the salute passing the line only to have missed in the photo.
Defier- (34: 10-6-8) Bit of a personal favourite trained by one of my favourite trainer’s in the late great Guy Walter. Much like Hay List, was plagued by hoof problems throughout his career but still managed to rack up three Group 1 wins from a mile out to the 2200m of the Doomben Cup. Whilst he managed wins at Weight for Age over the likes of Sunline (2002 George Main) and Lonhro (2002 Warwick Stakes), he is probably best remembered for his consecutive Bridesmaid efforts in back to back Cox Plates to a white hot Northerly in his rampant season of 2002 and to old trooper and Valley specialist, dual Cox Plate winner Fields of Omagh.