Gala still reigns supreme in a long history of Cup battlers

Epic underdog: Frank Reys pilots Gala Supreme, centre, to victory in 1973. Photo: Fairfax ArchiveWhen it comes to the Melbourne Cup dream, Gala Supreme, featuring jockey Frank Reys and a strong supporting cast, is hard to beat.
Nanjing Night Net

The turf in Australia was more the playground of the people, rather than the sport of kings and aristocracy of Britain.

Certainly the rich and famous always had a role here but no greater than rags to riches.

Now with the internationalisation, the Big One is getting away from the battlers, described as those with determination but from a restricted financial background.

Invaders and meeting the qualifying clauses, albeit seeking an improved standard, have taken much of the Aussie and New Zealand flavour out of the 3200 metre staying test at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November.

Gala Supreme was an epic underdog in 1973.

Owner Pat Curtain described himself as a “battler”, trainer Ray Hutchins was very capable but a lesser light, but no man or horse overcame Struggle St like Reys.

Yet Reys, one of 14 children with a Filipino father, a corn farmer in Cairns, graced the microphone after the Gala Supreme triumph with special brand of fair-dinkum more dignity. It was later divulged that Reys descended from the Djiribul people.

“I kept picking myself up off the ground and hoping I would win a Melbourne Cup,” he said. “It’s something every Australian jockey dreams about. It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I thank the Lord, my family and my trainer.”

He’d been down for a long count.

“Last July when I started to feel well again I pleaded with my wife Noeline for just one more crack,” he related.

According to Maurice Cavanagh’s Melbourne Cup, Reys was known as “Autumn Leaves” because of his falls.

In 1969, he fell at Kyneton, suffering a broken shoulder and concussion, three months later a Geelong spill put him out for six months with a fractured pelvis.

It was fractured again when a horse reared over him. Two months later a heavy fall left the jockey with a broken nose and cheekbone.

“I suppose I had broken every bone in my body,” he maintained. ”I got so damn sick I almost gave it away. My limbs just wouldn’t function properly.”

But then on ground level or in a vehicle he also struck trouble.

A horse was entangled in a barbed wire fence at a friend’s property, and the jockey attempted to free it. Reys became entwined, too, landing in Healesville Hospital.

Perhaps Curtain acquired Huntly Lodge Stud, near Sunbury in Victoria, but he made his name as a horse barber, an expert at equine clipping, subsidising his dairy farming.

He bred Gala Supreme, which was sold to Mario Giretti, a former service station owner, for $2500. Giretti had the colt gelded but discovered Gala Supreme “did not have a good heart score”.

Curtain took him back because, “if he’s not 100 per cent I don’t want to sell him to anyone”.

Thus Curtain set out to prove there was nothing amiss with Gala Supremes’ ticker.

After being broken in by John Patterson he was sent to Phil Burke but the trainer died and the gelding went to Ray Hutchins.

Hutchins made a key move for the Melbourne Cup. Gala Supreme was runner-up in the Caulfield Cup and the fashion of the day was another race was needed before the Big One.

“He does not need more racing, a hard race will knock him out,” Hutchins decreed.

Gala Supreme drew the outside, 24, but after the field had gone about 500m Reys had him near the rails.

With 50m to go the jockey sent Gala Supreme between two rivals in a race-winning move and scored by a neck from Glengowan with Daneson a half-length further back.

Obviously one of the great rides driven by adversity and stimulated by a dream time.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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