The To­ken Bloke – a Blast From the Past

A Blast from the Past.

Ladies in Racing - - Contents - Story by Paul Richards – Win­ning Post • Image cour­tesy Rac­ing Vic­to­ria Ltd

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.

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