A WELL travelled mudlark stormed to victory in one of the wettest Wagga Gold Cups in history in 1988.
Conditions were so heavy at the Murrumbidgee Turf Club on May 6 Sydney jockey Denis McClune rode more than half the race blind, with his goggles splattered in mud to win on Sasha Bijou.
The then 36-year-old McClune became one of the rare jockeys to win both the Town Plate and the Gold Cup.
His Town Plate win was almost a lifetime ago, winning with Rose Red as a 15-year-old in 1967.
McClune had Sasha Bijou at the tail of the field covered in mud but McClune was prepared to cop all the mess from the rest of the field.
"It's the only place to ride him in the back of the field," McClune told The Daily Advertiser in 1988.
"From the 1400 metres I couldn't see.
"I gave my goggles a wipe at the 100 metres so I could see where I was going, but I still couldn't see a thing."
McClune was able to see coming down to the line after moving Sasha Bijou to the lead at the 250 metres before the ghostly grey put a gap on his rivals to win by 4¾ lengths.
Canterbury-based trainer Les Edwards was praying for rain in the lead up for the cup, but not even he could of imagined the downpour the MTC received.
The MTC received 17 millimetres in an afternoon downpour that threatened the running of the race.
Wagga race caller Allan Hull has called every Wagga Gold Cup since 1979 when Big Bickies won his first of two consecutive cups, yet the day the mud covered ghostly grey won is one that really stands out.
The day before the track was so dry that when the horses went over the crossing dust flew up off their hooves during the running of the race.
Less than 24 hours later it was a different story.
Describing the conditions as the worst he had called the cup in, Hull recalled how he struggled to decipher which horse was which, until the only grey in the race flashed home.
"After about three races the silks had become quite mud splattered and by the time they run the cup the dust of the previous day, as it hadn't rained for so long and it rained fairly quickly, the water didn't have time to seep in and the dust just became mud," Hull said.
"I vividly remember Sasha Bijou was the only grey in the race and when they turned for home to run straight at you, a lot of the silks had become mud splattered and whilst you could determine them it was really difficult, but threading through all these horses was Sasha Bijou.
"Whilst I was aware of the horses I was blessed that Sasha Bijou, who stood out the most because it was grey, that was making the run at the finish."
McClune rated the son of noted wet track sire Noble Bijou a two lengths better horse in the wet and Edwards' prayers were answer with the downpour arriving on cup day.
"I was praying for rain, not only because it would help you people in Wagga break your drought, but give my horse an even better chance of winning," McClune said.
"He is a dead-set two lengths better horse in the rain."
Sasha Bijou had travelled more the 3200 kilometres in the two weeks leading up to the cup.
He had from Sydney to Grafton, to Toowoomba, back to Sydney and then to Wagga and had plenty of success on his journey.
On April 22 he won the Grafton Country Club (1600m) by three and a half lengths before backing up three days later to win the Toowoomba Cup (2200m) by the same margin.
Edwards' foreman David Hodge convinced Edwards to come to Wagga with the six-year-old gelding that Edwards owned with his wife Hilda, their three children and his friend Peter McKern.
Edwards was a part owner in the grey when he was prepared by Pat Quinn, before he decided to take on his trainer.
He had only been training thoroughbreds for six years when he won the cup after training pacers for 35 years before turning his hand to the different industry.
Edwards had eight horses in work at the time, but would travel anywhere if he thought on of his horses could win a race.
After finishing second to Sordon Lad the year earlier All Spades was again placed in the Wagga Gold Cup finishing third three quarters of a length behind Pass The Hat.
The weather played a part in his defeat with Melbourne jockey Wayne Treloar believing he would have won if he didn't pull so hard during the run.
"If I could have held him up it may have been a different result," Treloar told The Daily Advertiser in 1988.
"The reins kept slipping through my hands it was that wet."