The Token Bloke – a Blast From the Past
A Blast from the Past.
Harry Mccloud won the Melbourne Cup on Colonus way back in 1942. At Ninety Four he is the oldest living cup-winning jockey.
How are you going, Harry? I’m pretty good. I’ve had a few setbacks recently. I managed to fall over at home and got a bump on my head that needed a few staples to close the gaps, so they’ve had to put me in a retirement home here at Bassendean, Perth, but things are going okay. It’s nice to wake up in the morning with no injuries. You’re the oldest living Melbourne Cup-winning jockey. Do you remember winning the race on Colonus in 1942? I do. I led all the way on a very heavy track. Colonus had pretty reasonable form – he’d won the Herbert Power Handicap and finished fourth in the Caulfield Cup. But he was still a 33/1 chance. Yes, he’s finished down the track in the Moonee Valley Cup, but as the rain came his chances improved. Were you confident? The thing with Colonus was that he could sometimes pull quite hard in his races. He had a very soft mouth. With such horses, if you try to fight against them to restrain them you often hurt their mouth and as a result they try to run even faster. Then they wear themselves out early. So, with Colonus in the Cup I decided to just let him run his race and see when he wanted to settle down. Fortunately, we got across to the fence and he settled into a nice rhythm. And you just kept going. Yes. It’s a very hard to lead all the way in such long races as the Melbourne Cup, but he just relished the heavy ground and the soft lead. As we came to the turn I let him off the bit and away he went. Do you recall the winning margin? I think the official margin was eight lengths. How old were you when you won that Melbourne Cup? I was 18. Did you have a party to celebrate? I went to my girlfriend’s that night and we had a party. I’ve had a lot of parties since. Have you any memorabilia from that day? I still have the whip I used. It’s made of whalebone and it’s as strong now as it was back then. Anything else? Well, I have some photos of the horse winning. You nearly won the cup again in 1944 on Peter, finishing second to Sirius. I did. I was in a very bad mood that night. Why was that? I reckon I was overconfident in the race. Peter travelled beautifully to the turn and there was a run-in front of me that I could take. I started to move towards it, but it looked like the gap was going to close. I thought I was going that well that I could switch across the horses in front instead and get clear that way. As I moved out the gap opened again, and Sirius moved through it. He got some momentum up while I was getting into the clear. We charged home, but he beat us by half a length. I have no doubt it cost me the race. I didn’t sleep well that night. I see you did a bit of overseas travel after riding in Melbourne for more than 10 years. Yes, I rode in Singapore, Mauritus, India and Penang. How was Singapore? Did you have any luck? I won the Singapore Gold Cup on Mubarak in 1953 and on Three Kings in 1954. Three Kings went on to win it three times, but I only rode him that first time. I remember one particular race over there very well. I lost it on protest and I couldn’t believe it. The other jockey just outright told lies to the stewards. He said I tightened him up and it cost him the race, but it just didn’t happen. What about riding in India? The racing was okay, but my most memorable moment there was when I was invited to a Palace as a guest of a Prince. I was with my wife Dawn, who was six moths pregnant at the time. She went on an elephant ride and it took fright at a swarm of bees and started charging around the grounds. Dawn was screaming, but fortunately the elephant slowed down and everything was okay.
Did you laugh or were you worried? There were a few giggles. You won a Perth Cup in 1955. Yes, I won lots of Cups when I was riding. I used to have the nickname Cups, because I’d talk about them all the time. They used to put music on and make me sing to stop me talking about them. I didn’t mind my music and my singing. It’s a bit harder now but I never went off key back then. No doubt you were in good voice after winning the Perth Cup on Yabaroo. Yes, I would have been. The thing about riding in Perth was the tracks were always very firm. If you had a horse with sore joints, Perth wasn’t the place for them. But Yabaroo was one of those that loved hard ground. You had a lot of success in your time. What made you such a good jockey? I always let the horse tell me what he wanted to do in the first furlong (200m). I could always judge what mood the horse was in and then make the call on whether to go forward or to go back. I never fought against them. I was pretty good at judging horses, but not so good at judging girlfriends. I wanted more practice at that. (Harry’s daughter
Brenda, who was next to him as we chatted, added between giggles that Harry was married for 61 years) When did you retire from riding? Late in the 1960s I reckon. I think I was about 45. Then I pottered around with a few horses, training at Ascot, until I was too old to go to the track. How was the body when you gave it away? It was okay. I could get around all right back then. It’s a bit harder now; I need a walking frame; but I was pretty good for someone who was involved in 13 falls. A fellow jockey died in one of those falls so I’m pretty lucky, really. Harry, you sound great. Thank you for the chat and all the best. NOTE from RON WILLIAMS: I am a distant cousin of Harry’s and he was responsible for my interest in racing from an early age. I was too young to see his early Melbourne Cup rides, but I managed to see my first Cup in 1945 when Rainbird was successful, due to my Great-aunt, Minnie Mccloud.