On the first Tuesday of November 1964 Ron Taylor’s life changed forever – all thanks to a single phone call he made for a ride in the Woodville Cup.
“I was booked to ride El Ganador in the Woodville Cup but he was scratched. So I rang up for the ride on Polo Prince and he won. Subsequently, he ran second in the Auckland Cup and Wellington Cup and was then set for Melbourne.”
However, upon crossing the Tasman, things did not go to plan for the Kiwi team, with Polo Prince struggling to settle in Australian conditions.
“He initially went no good in Australia, he wasn’t eating and John Carter (Polo Prince’s trainer) and I wanted to go home! It was Mr Davis (Polo Prince’s owner) who wanted to have one more go in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup. He ran fourth and we knew he was on the way up. We then ran him in the Mackinnon Stakes weight-for-age, which he wasn’t suited to but we ran a nice quiet fourth and then went on to win the Melbourne Cup.”
You’d think winning the 103rd edition of the race that stops a nation would be followed with great celebration, but this couldn’t be further from the truth for Mr Taylor.
“I was in Australia for about six weeks, was riding 7-8 horses a morning and couldn’t get a ride! After the Cup, I was that bloody annoyed that no one would give me a ride after riding their horses work so I thought ‘stuff them!’ I got on the float with the horse, dropped him off at the stable, walked back to the hotel and had a beer at the pub by myself!”
Although people do tend to recognize Melbourne Cup-winning jockeys.
“I was sitting at the bar and the replay of the race was on TV. The guy sitting next to me kept looking at the screen, then back at myself and eventually said ‘That looks like you!’ and then he said, ‘That is you – what the bloody hell are you doing here!’ I didn’t pay for another drink that night.”
Following his career as a jockey, Mr Taylor has enjoyed great success in what he refers to as ‘the stallion game’, including being involved with Pag-Asa, the sire of superstar Bonecrusher. And at 78, he still has skin in the game, living on the beautiful El Ganador Stud on Kaipaki Road with his wife, Janet and Boxer and Maine Coon cat.
“We are adjusting six horses at the moment. We get up early and get them fed. We also have a horse in work with (Ken) Kelso who has won four. It keeps you going.”
A little like getting married or hitting Lotto, winning a Melbourne Cup is an event that will change your life forever. When we asked Mr Taylor if that Tuesday in Melbourne still impacts his life today, he was quick to reply with “Well 56 years later and the reporters are still coming!”
“Only a few weeks ago, I was enjoying a beer and a man came up said ‘you’re the guy who won the Melbourne Cup!’ And this is 56 years later – no other race does that.”