Winners of the Melbourne Cup – 1967

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In the lead-up to the big race, punters were unable to split Red Handed and the well-fancied General Command, with neither horse budging from a rock-solid 4/1 throughout the day. That is, until Bill Waterhouse saw Felipe Ysmael enter the betting-ring. In a courageous bluff, Waterhouse stared provocatively at ‘The Babe’ for a moment before casually winding out Red Handed’s quote from 4/1 to 9/2, virtually daring his prey to take the inflated odds. Suspecting a rat—Ysmael promptly strode up to ‘Big Bill’ and instead plonked his $250,000 on General Command, a stern poker-face no doubt concealing Waterhouse’s delight.
Taken hook, line and sinker by Waterhouse’s audacious con, ‘The Babe’ could only look on in horror as Red Handed, his original selection, kicked strongly to win by a neck with General Command’s mediocre sixth leaving the $250,000 firmly in ‘Big Bill’s’ bag. Ysmael was reportedly never the same punter again, the huge loss irrevocably damaging his nerve for the big-stake investment.
Originally a cheap purchase at the Trentham yearling sales, the lop-eared chestnut Red Handed amazingly gave trainer Bart Cummings his third consecutive Melbourne Cup, joining Light Fingers and Galilee on the honour-roll. The strong lead-up form that so convinced Bill Waterhouse that Red Handed was a ‘sure-thing’ in the Cup constituted two brilliant seconds to the mighty Tobin Bronze in the Toorak Handicap and Caulfield Cup, before a satisfactory tune-up 4th in the Mackinnon Stakes. Much credit for Red Handed’s Cup victory went to his star jockey Roy Higgins, who used all his vigour to summon one final effort from Red Handed and lift the five-year-old home by a neck over Red Crest, having looked a vanquished and tired horse with a furlong to run.

The ‘first to blink’ mind-games that constitute the interaction between punter and bookie have surely never been played out with such dramatic effect as on Melbourne Cup day 1967. That year, Filipino industrialist Felipe Ysmael and bookmaker Bill Waterhouse engaged in a betting-ring stand-off for the ages. The sense of theatre generated by the hostile union of gambler and satchel-swinger has always been one of the great drawcards of a day at the races—two individuals sure of knowledge and nerve locked in an arduous day-long test of will, wallets and courage.
In the lead-up to the big race, punters were unable to split Red Handed and the well-fancied General Command, with neither horse budging from a rock-solid 4/1 throughout the day. That is, until Bill Waterhouse saw Felipe Ysmael enter the betting-ring. In a courageous bluff, Waterhouse stared provocatively at ‘The Babe’ for a moment before casually winding out Red Handed’s quote from 4/1 to 9/2, virtually daring his prey to take the inflated odds. Suspecting a rat—Ysmael promptly strode up to ‘Big Bill’ and instead plonked his $250,000 on General Command, a stern poker-face no doubt concealing Waterhouse’s delight.
Taken hook, line and sinker by Waterhouse’s audacious con, ‘The Babe’ could only look on in horror as Red Handed, his original selection, kicked strongly to win by a neck with General Command’s mediocre sixth leaving the $250,000 firmly in ‘Big Bill’s’ bag. Ysmael was reportedly never the same punter again, the huge loss irrevocably damaging his nerve for the big-stake investment.
Originally a cheap purchase at the Trentham yearling sales, the lop-eared chestnut Red Handed amazingly gave trainer Bart Cummings his third consecutive Melbourne Cup, joining Light Fingers and Galilee on the honour-roll. The strong lead-up form that so convinced Bill Waterhouse that Red Handed was a ‘sure-thing’ in the Cup constituted two brilliant seconds to the mighty Tobin Bronze in the Toorak Handicap and Caulfield Cup, before a satisfactory tune-up 4th in the Mackinnon Stakes. Much credit for Red Handed’s Cup victory went to his star jockey Roy Higgins, who used all his vigour to summon one final effort from Red Handed and lift the five-year-old home by a neck over Red Crest, having looked a vanquished and tired horse with a furlong to run.
Known as ‘The Babe’, Ysmael was a fearless punter with a reputation for betting big, and he had Bill Waterhouse firmly in the cross-hairs. Word had spread around the traps (as it so easily tends to do in racing circles) that Ysmael had settled on the Bart Cummings-trained Red Handed as the winner of the Melbourne Cup, and intended to back the gelding for a collect of $1 million. Unfortunately for ‘The Babe’, ‘Big Bill’ Waterhouse decided that Red Handed was unbeatable in the Cup, so setting the scene for a classic high-stakes duel the outcome of which could make only one man a fortune.

extract from ‘Winners of the Melbourne Cup’ by Costa Rolfe.

For more details about the book go to the Red Dog Books website

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