Robins in rare field of racers
Tuesday, 10th August, 2010
Former local Mick Robins travelled back to the city yesterday as an ambassador for the Victoria Racing Club's Melbourne Cup tour.
The octogenarian, who worked as an underground miner for 10 years from 1968, is one of only of four trainers in the 150 year history of the Melbourne Cup to have taken a horse to consecutive wins, with his 1968 and 1969 cup winning horse Rain Lover.
The others were Etienne de Mestre, who trained Archer to wins in 1861, the first time the Melbourne Cup was run, and again in 1862, Bart Cummings, who trained Think Big in 1974 and 1975, and Lee Freedman who trained the three-times winner, champion mare Makybe Diva.
Mr Robins is just one of a number of local links to the race that stops the nation; another is David James, a member of the Syndicate of Seven and the owner of the 1895 Melbourne-cup winning horse, three-year-old filly Auraria.
Mr James was a contractor, mining promoter and politician. He established a stud, producing horses which won races in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Mr Robins will accompany the Cup on part of its 220-day global voyage.
He has been around horses for most of his life before a lucky turn of the penny led him to train Rain Lover.
In 1969, Rain Lover was only the second horse in the history of the Melbourne Cup to win the great race twice; the other was inaugural Melbourne Cup winner Archer.
"It took a little boy from Broken Hill to break a record that had stood for 107 years," he said.
After leaving Broken Hill in 1962 Mr Robins went to Adelaide to work with trainer Graeme Heagre, where, his lucky turn came along. Mr Heagre had sold a horse Tobin Bronze to an American before following it over there.
He left Mr Robins a stable full of horses to train - one of them being Rain Lover.
"It was the lucky turn of the penny," he said.
"If Tobin Bronze wasn't sold to America I would never have won a Melbourne Cup. It was like a fairy tale."
He said he remembered the 1968 Cup well.
"It was the first Melbourne Cup I'd ever seen," Mr Robins said.
"I was thinking how could we win this there's 85,000 people here. Three hours later (Rain Lover) had won the race by eight lengths in the fastest race that was ever run."
Mr Robins said another significant thing happened on that day - racing great Bart Cummings congratulated him on the race, in which he beat a number of Bart's horses.
"I had asked Bart for a job but didn't get one," Mr Robins said.
"He said 'Good on ya, son ... I should've given you a job that day' - he was only two years older than me."
Meanwhile Mr Robins said while there was no doubt Bart Cummings was a racing legend his own figures speak volumes.
"(Bart's) had 75 runners and won 12, I've had three and won two and I reckon he's the best trainer in the world."
Mr Robins now lives in Victoria, but visits the city yearly to see his sister. He said he thinks of coming back home.
"When I come back you think you could've been here still living and it wouldn't worry me. I could end up back here."