Dawn Johnston isn’t able to call herself a Melbourne Cup winning trainer, but her experience as a finalist and placegetter in 2009 is one she will never forget.
She put the polish on Mr. Moorooduc, or ‘Diesel’ as he was known at home. He was brought up by Johnston at a time that was tough for her family as they suffered through drought on their Gippsland property.
A tough decision was made to sell some of their pups on a deal that would allow them to remain at the property. One of those pups was Mr. Moorooduc who was purchased by the Artell Syndicate.
“The syndicate was organised by John Stewart, he has been friends with my husband (Trevor) for over 40 years. His son and his neighbour’s two girls came to visit us. We were going through hard times with drought, so we decided to sell some pups to people who would still allow us to have them here,” explained Johnston.
“They came up and said if they can all agree on one, they would buy it but stay here while I’ll train it. It was really the kids who owned the dog – it was their first involvement in ownership.”
Named after the owner’s home town, Mr. Moorooduc had 36 starts mostly around her local tracks Sale and Traralgon. He came to the city and ran 3rd in a Cup Prelude, then won his heat in the fastest time of the night.
“I don’t think I had a city win to my name before then. He was good enough to win his heat, then the fun began.
“There was a lot of hype. I had a lot of people ringing me including radio stations wanting to know how he was and all that sort of thing. We had a night where we were asked to come to Sandown – I picked up a little Cup and under it had our box for the final.
“We had never experienced anything like that night before. My sister-in-law and I do a lot together and she was there too, it was great for her to be a part of it.
“I’m used to racing in the country where I know heaps of people around Gippsland. To be a part of the event and rub shoulders with big name trainers was a different feeling.”
Mr. Moorooduc jumped from box 3 in the final at a price of $6.70. He led the race early but soon after got caught in congestion before finishing third behind Lord Ducal and Dyna Lachlan.
“After the race I was talking to Simone Fisher, I was so excited you would have thought I had won the Melbourne Cup – to run third was just amazing.
“It was similar to my weekend just gone. I went over to Perth to watch Melbourne in the Preliminary final, and although we lost it was still a great experience to be a part of it.”
She says the TAB Melbourne Cup is the ‘pinnacle’ for all participants of the sport.
“It’s something we all want to achieve. Just like the footballers they aim to win a Grand Final, we aim to win a Melbourne Cup.”
Johnston’s 2018 TAB Melbourne Cup dream begins tomorrow night as she has Alabar and Duke Of Burnley engaged in Preludes.
“I think Alabar has the ability to do anything. Duke Of Burnley can’t run the super fast times some of the others can, but nothing ventured nothing gained!”
The first of four TAB Melbourne Cup Preludes highlights racing tomorrow night at Sandown Park. Off the track, it’s ‘Mans Night’ in support of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.