Great Wagga Gold Cup moments
FORMER Ariah Park publican Bob Tyack doesn’t mind saying Mill Court was probably not the best horse in the Wagga Cup (2000m) in 1990.
Now living, and training thoroughbreds, in Dubbo, Tyack described Mill Court as a horse with a “few problems” and a rough exterior.
“He was 17½ hands and raw boned,” Tyack recalled.
“He was a bit of a giant, and there was never much condition on him.”
Although not quite a racetrack ugly duckling, Mill Court was hardly the horse to attract all the attention in the MTC mounting yard before the Wagga Cup 24 years ago.
As Bob Tyack remembers, the Wagga Cup attracted a quality field that year, although it was robbed of top weight Merimbula Bay on race morning because of swelling in a leg.
“He (Mill Court) was a tough old horse ... a very good country horse,” Tyack told The Daily Advertiser.
“I’d have to say there were better horses in the race.”
Two decades later, however, Tyack knows there was a special something that stood Mill Court apart from the other Wagga Cup contenders.
“The big difference was he loved the old (Wagga) track,” Tyack said.
“He seemed to really love running up the hill at the top of straight.”
It is now part of Wagga Cup folklore how, amid emotional scenes, Mill Court used his affinity with the original MTC circuit to pull off a hometown triumph in the 1990 edition.
Ridden by Wagga jockey Wal Bowditch, Mill Court (14-1) smashed the 2000m track by almost two seconds as he beat Melbourne visitor Stirring (8-1) and Port Kingdom (15-1) in the Cup in front of 8500 spectators.
Bowditch was 29 at the time and had to strip six kilograms in nine days to ride Mill Court at 52.5kg.
Physically drained by the weight loss, Bowditch recovered for an hour in the jockey’s race after race before accepting the plaudits for the victory.
At the time Bowditch was overcome with exhaustion and emotion.
“This win is like a Melbourne Cup to me,” Bowditch said later.
“I had a gut feeling on Thursday night that the horse would win and I could hardly sleep thinking about it.
“I wanted to win the Cup for the people in Wagga.”
For Bob Tyack, Mill Court’s triumph in the Wagga Cup remains a “magic moment” on the racetrack.
Tyack was born and bred in Tullibigeal, but was running the Ariah Hotel when Mill Court gave the Riverina its second Wagga Cup in five years.
In 1985, Pride Of Indies gave Wagga trainer Dave Heywood a classic hometown success in the city’s greatest horse race.
So many years later, Tyack still feels the pain that was associated with Mill Court’s success.
“It was very emotional,” he said yesterday.
“Our daughter (Yasmin) was very sick at the time.”
With Yasmin requiring treatment in Sydney for cancer, Tyack transferred Mill Court to the care of Wagga trainer John Smart for the finals weeks of the Wagga Cup campaign.
“John was caretaker trainer,” Tyack said.
“He was a good trainer and did a fine job.”
Earlier, Tyack had used an unorthodox training program to have Mill Court in perfect shape for the races.
“I was working at the Ariah Park Hotel at the time and I used to work him in the paddock next door,” said Tyack, who also bred the son of Million.
“I’d also take him across to Wagga twice a week for a run.”
In a memorable career, Mill Court won 10 times at Wagga, according to Tyack, and also eclipsed the Forbes Cup and Goulburn Cup.
“He just loved the place,” the trainer said.
Just as Mill Court had a distinct liking for Wagga, Wal Bowditch was almost inseparable from the plain horse from back blocks.
“Wally rode him in every start bar one,” Tyack said.
“A kid rode him at his first start at Berrigan, but Wal was on him every time after that.
“You couldn’t get him off the horse. Other jockeys couldn’t get a crack at him.”
Significantly, the formidable combination of Bowditch and his favourite equine, and Mill Court and his “home” track, were an irresistible force in 1990.
Thousands cheered as Mill Court stormed to the post.
More than a few tears were shed as well.