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Melbourne Cup: From Ireland, Japan, France and Germany, the internationals who took the Cup home

Damien Oliver and Media Puzzle win 2002 Melbourne Cup
Media Puzzle was Ireland's second Melbourne Cup winner, but the story was more about jockey Damien Oliver.

AAP: Joe Castro

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Over the years we've become used to international raiders coming in and grabbing the silverware in Melbourne's big carnival races.

There have been foreign-trained winners of both Cups and a Plate over the last decade.

As we look forward to the rapidly-approaching Melbourne Cup at Flemington, it's time to look back at the internationals who have made the Cup what it is today — a genuine world-renowned race.

Of course, a large amount of the credit for that state of affairs lies with a certain Irish trainer — and qualified vet — by the name of Dermot Weld.

The Irish invasion — Vintage Crop, Media Puzzle

People gather around 1993 Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop after the 2000 Melbourne Cup parade.
Vintage Crop's groundbreaking win in the 1993 Melbourne Cup made the Dermot Weld-trained horse a crowd favourite.

AAP: Julian Smith

If you were going to pick a man to become the first trainer to bring the Cup out of Australasia, you couldn't really go past Weld.

The man from the Curragh in county Kildare was the first European trainer to win one of America's Triple Crown races, with Go and Go in the 1990 edition of the Preakness Stakes.

In his long career, Weld has also planned winning campaigns for horses in Hong Kong, France, Italy and Germany — not to mention the famous Derby at Epsom in England with Harzand last year.

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In 1993, Weld and Vintage Crop played second banana to the English horse Drum Taps from the stables of Lord Huntingdon.

Vintage Crop was the sometime hurdler, sometime horse on the flat, who Drum Taps had beaten in the Gold Cup at Ascot.

But with Irish jockey Mick Kinane in the saddle, Vintage Crop was decently placed in the run, and the chestnut gelding made his move in the straight, gathering pace in the wet to win from outsiders Te Akau Nick and Mercator.

By the time Weld sent Media Puzzle to Australia nine years later, no-one had yet emulated his training feat at the Cup.

The horse was a good story, a galloper plagued by tendon and other injuries, who had struggled to produce his best.

He would be overshadowed by a much bigger one — that of jockey Damien Oliver.

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Oliver had already won the Cup on Doriemus in 1995 and he was looking for a second win on Media Puzzle in 2002.

A week before the Cup, however, his brother Jason — also a jockey — was critically injured in a fall in a barrier trial in Perth, and subsequently died.

This was a tragic echo of their father Ray, who had also been killed in a race fall in the Kalgoorlie Cup in 1975.

After much discussion, Weld and connections kept faith with Oliver to ride in the Cup.

As the field turned for home, Media Puzzle and Weld's other runner, Vinnie Roe, hit the front together — and although Vinnie Roe was the more fancied horse, Oliver and his mount had the answers.

Media Puzzle came clear to win by two lengths from Mr Prudent, as Oliver honoured his late brother by raising his whip to the heavens at the post.

Japan quinellas Cup — Delta Blues, Pop Rock

Yasunari Iwata rides Delta Blues (R) to victory over Pop Rock in the 2006 Melbourne Cup.
Delta Blues (R) and Pop Rock made it a Japanese 1-2 in the 2006 Melbourne Cup.

AAP: Julian Smith

While the focus had been on European horses coming to Australia for the Cup, there was another source of stayers much closer to home.

Japanese stayers were often regarded as among the best in the world, but only one, Eye Popper - who finished 12th behind Maybe Diva in 2005, had made the trip to Flemington before 2006.

That year, trainer Katsuhiko Sumii brought two horses to Australia — Delta Blues and Pop Rock.

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Both were given a lead-up race in the Caulfield Cup (2,400m).

Pop Rock — a winner over Eye Popper over 2,500m in Japan — came seventh, but Delta Blues finished third behind the David Hayes-trained Tawqeet.

Tawqeet started second favourite at Flemington with Pop Rock, behind top pick Aidan O'Brien's Gold Cup winner, Yeats.

Delta Blues — ridden by Japanese jockey Yasunari Iwata — was placed out of trouble in second spot, while Oliver had Pop Rock in midfield.

Yeats and Zabeat were at the front, but they spent too much petrol early, and when Delta Blues and Pop Rock let down in the straight, they had the race between them.

They were neck and neck for the final 250m, but although Oliver pulled Pop Rock within a half-head, it was Delta Blues who took the Cup.

The French connection — Americain, Dunaden

Gerald Mosse celebrates American's win over Maluckyday and So You Think in the 2010 Melbourne Cup
Americain, ridden by Gerard Mosse and trained by Alain De Royer-Dupre, became France's first winner in the Cup.

Joe Castro: AAP

The internationals were becoming an increasingly large presence in the Melbourne Cup, and Australian racing people — trainers and owners — were beginning to look to Europe in hopes of finding a horse to win the Cup.

Melbourne businessmen Gerry Ryan and Kevin Bamford bought French horse Americain — trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre in early 2010 with the Cup in mind.

Americain won a race that would become familiar to Melbourne Cup followers - the Group Two Prix Kergorlay over 3,000m at Deauville in France — in August 2010 before heading to Australia.

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He then emulated Media Puzzle by winning the Geelong Cup ahead of the Cup, but he was not favoured at Flemington behind dual Cox Plate winner So You Think, trained by the great Bart Cummings.

The rain came at Flemington on Cup day, and the ground was soft.

So You Think led in the straight, but jockey Gerard Mosse reeled the favourite in on Americain and went away to win by nearly three lengths, giving France a famous win.

Another French hopeful, Dunaden, was a cheap buy at just 1,500 euro, and was later claimed out of a Dutch stable, ending up with French trainer Mikel Delzangles.

Red Cadeaux and Dunaden in driving Melbourne Cup finish
Red Cadeaux and Dunaden fought out another tight finish between internationals at Flemington in 2011.

AAP: Julian Smith

He tried to follow a similar route to Americain, running in and winning the Geelong Cup.

By this time, punters had cottoned onto the form line through the Geelong Group Three race.

Americain was 4-1 favourite for the Melbourne Cup, but Dunaden was second favourite at 15-2.

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French jockey Christophe Lemaire replaced the suspended Craig Williams on Dunaden.

There were plenty of chances in the straight, but in the final 100m it was Dunaden and English stayer Red Cadeaux who edged clear of Lucas Cranagh in third.

There was nothing in it as they approached the line, and commentators including Grandstand's Gerard Whateley felt the Cup may have had its first ever dead-heat.

In the end, after a nerve-wracking delay, Dunaden's number went up, and France had gone back-to-back.

Germany grabs the Cup — Protectionist

Ryan Moore and Protectionist (middle) race to victory in the 2014 Melbourne Cup.
Protectionist (middle) gave trainer Andreas Wohler Germany's first-ever Melbourne Cup triumph.

AAP: Hamish Blair

Five-time Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Lee Freedman had joined in the move to bring in overseas talent, sourcing German galloper Lucas Cranach who ran third behind Dunaden in 2011.

But three years later, a German-trained horse, Protectionist — under the charge of Andreas Wohler — made the Cup field.

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The horse was co-owned by German breeder Christoph Berglar and an Australian racing syndicate.

Protectionist had won the Prix Kergorlay like Americain, and he was given an Australian lead-up run in the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield, where he came fourth.

Cup favouritism went to the ill-fated Japanese horse Admire Rakti, but there was never much doubt about the result once Protectionist went clear in the straight, beating Red Cadeaux — second in the Cup for a third time — by four lengths.

Germany had won the race that stopped a nation.