Great Britain

Ed Dunlop remembers the great globetrotter Red Cadeaux – the ‘horse who touched a nation’

THE English love nothing more than to conquer the Aussies on the sports field.

Let’s be honest, the feeling is mutual. Think bodyline, the Rugby World Cup - even Winx vs Benbatl had a bit of extra bite to it.

Sporting rivalry between our two countries is in the blood.

Granted, the legendary globetrotter Red Cadeaux never actually managed to win in Australia - but he is surely the only British athlete to conquer the hearts of the entire nation.

The Ed Dunlop-trained chestnut sadly lost his life at Flemington in 2015, the site of his heroic hat-trick of Melbourne Cup seconds, leaving a loyal, worldwide fan-base heartbroken.

While devastated at their loss, those closest to him would not have changed a thing about their epic journey around the globe with the ‘horse who touched a nation’.

Dunlop recalled: “He was a very laid back horse, very mature. He was very backward as a two-year-old. My vet Mike Shepherd always liked him, he always said he would be a nice horse one day, as did Tom McLaughlin who worked for me back then.

“We used to watch him on Warren Hill as a young horse and, to be honest, he looked useless. He was very babyish and slow.

“But as he got older he started to blossom, he was an absolute slow burner, like the rest of his family.

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And it was this improvement as a five-year-old that prompted Red Cadeaux’s adoring owner Ronald Arculli to plot an ambitious raid on the Southern Hemisphere.

Dunlop continued: “He won the Curragh Cup in 2011 and his owner Ronald Arculli, who absolutely adored the horse, came up with the idea of the Melbourne Cup.

“I nearly fell off my chair at the suggestion as the race wasn’t even a blip on our radar at that point.

“But he had the right temperament to travel and was progressing all the time, so we took a chance and went for it.

“He lost the Cup by two pixels to Dunaden. It took a very, very long time for the result of the photo. Some people thought we should have won. It was literally on the bob and in the good old days it would have been a dead-heat.

“In this day and age you’re always looking for a winner. It was an incredible day and the whole trip was an incredible experience. At that point there had still never been an English winner of the race.

“We got all sorts of people phoning up to talk to us afterwards, I had BBC Five Live on the phone after the race wanting to talk about it.

“It is one of those global races and occasions and it was amazing to be a part of it and he started to become very famous.

“I can proudly say, albeit carefully given the rich sporting history in that part of the world, that he was a bit of an icon in Australia. The public loved him and not many Europeans horses can gain that sort of following.”

Dunlop’s claims are justified. In 2014, when he finished second for an unprecedented third time behind Protectionist, every cameraman, photographer, owner and racegoer crowded around to catch a glimpse of the runner-up as the winner returned almost unnoticed.

Robin Trevor-Jones, Dunlop’s long-serving travelling head lad, noted in 2015 how dozens of people would turn up at the crack of dawn to watch Red Cadeaux stretch his legs at the Werribee training centre.

Racing.com launched the 'Ultimate Red Cadeaux Experience' competition, giving besotted Aussies the chance to get up close and personal with the horse.

Red fever had swept Australia.

Dunlop continued: “The fact he ran in the Melbourne Cup four times, finishing second three times, was a testament to the horse and my team and the owner.

“He was very talented, but also very brave and he thrived at Flemington on that big stage.

“The same two people looked after him whenever he went abroad. Robin Trevor-Jones, my travelling head lad, who also looked after Ouija Board and Snow Fairy when they went around the world, and Steve Nicholson who looked after him and rode him and doted on him wherever he went.

“Horses like them become public property to an extent and we are very proud to have had three globetrotting stars through the yard."

The horse's journey reached a tragic end when he fractured his leg competing in a fifth Melbourne Cup.

His ashes are buried next to the track at Flemington beneath a dedicated bench with Arculli's words, 'For a race that stops a nation, we were lucky to have a horse who touched a nation' engraved.

Dunlop said: “Robin and Steve were sadly with him when he had to be put down. But they were an enormous part of his story and they do an incredible job.

“There was one year when they were away from home for months, as the horse went from Australia to Japan and Hong Kong. It took over their lives and our lives for so long - but we were very lucky to have him.”

But Red Cadeaux’s epic story wasn’t limited to Australia. He won a Hong Kong Vase, one of five visits to Sha Tin, and competed in Japan, Singapore, France - and memorably in the 2013 Dubai World Cup.

Dunlop laughed: “I said to Ronnie we should run him in the Dubai Gold Cup, the two-mile race at Meydan, but Ronnie wouldn’t have it, he wanted to drop him back and run him in the Dubai World Cup.

“He was a big outsider but he ran a mighty race and was second to the Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

“We won about $2 million for coming second and it was a bit embarrassing for all of us as we started to go wild with celebration in the parade ring, anything within reach I was throwing up in the air.

“The local cameras thought we were the winning connections and we were all over the big screens around Meydan.

“We have so many great memories from a great horse.”

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