The 1881 Melbourne Cup remains famous for one of the most genuine surprises in the race’s history. Zulu, who was listed in the betting at 100/1 (last minute 50/1) and known as the “lame pony”, won the Melbourne Cup.1
Zulu was a small black horse owned by Charles Paladius McDonell of Mondrook House.2 Despite Zulu’s mediocre racing statistics, he was entered into the Melbourne Cup and reportedly walked behind a sulky from Taree to Melbourne, though later articles say he was walked to Raymond Terrace and from there taken by boat.3 In the races leading up to the Cup Zulu performed poorly and was not even expected to start because he was said to have “the leg” having failed to gallop in the weeks prior.4
On 1 November 1881 at a few minutes past 4pm, the 33 horses took off and the favourites quickly spread throughout the field. As they rounded the far turn “a little black horse crept up on the inside, but owing to his small size and the dust he was not seen by the spectators till he shot clear in front.”5 Just as the field came into the straight a dog ran onto the track causing three horses to fall including Zulu’s stable mate Wheatear and Suwarrow. Suwarrow’s jockey, John Dodd, suffered a fractured leg and died in hospital two weeks later.6
Zulu continued the race and easily won. The Manning River community went mad with excitement and the horse’s memory is still revered today. The horse rarely raced again but proved to be a fine stock getter. Zulu died at Mondrook in March 1899 and was interred at the homestead there.7
Author: Janine Roberts
1 The Mercury (from The Age), 4 November 1881, 2.
2 SMH, 28 November 1910, 12.
3 Australian Stock Horse Society 40th Anniversary Compendium. https://issuu.com/ashs-au/docs/40th_anniversary_web_book/21; Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 17 April 1936, 1.
4 The Mercury (from The Age), 4 November 1881, 2.
5 Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 3 November 1881, 5.
6 SMH, 15 November 1881, 5.
7 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 30 January 1929, 3.