Cassidy sitting on top of the world ready for Melbourne Cup
THIRTY-TWO years after bringing New Zealand stayer Kiwi from stone motherless last to record one of the most exciting and celebrated Melbourne Cup wins in history, veteran jockey Jimmy Cassidy still gets a special buzz out of going to Flemington on the first Tuesday of November.
"It used to be the race that stops a nation. Now it's the race that stops the world," Cassidy told APN a week out from the 3200m race which is now broadcast to more than 200 countries and attracts some of the best stayers from all over the globe.
"It's as big as rugby's World Cup or soccer's World Cup. It's as big as the US Masters, you know what I mean, it's the pinnacle of racing."
Cassidy has saluted in 104 group one races since starting out as a 15-year-old.
A member of the Hall Of Fame, he is one of only a handful of jockeys who have won a career grand slam (Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup, Melbourne Cup and Golden Slipper) and has been fortunate to have won the great race twice - in 1983 on Kiwi, which is still his greatest racing memory, and on Might and Power in 1997 for Nick Moraitis.
"You never forget those ones," said Cassidy, who'll ride $34 chance Grand Marshall in Tuesday's big race.
"I celebrated hard for about three days (after Kiwi's win). It was a dream come true and a great experience that opened a lot of doors. I was just hoping to get a ride in the race to be honest."
Cassidy said Kiwi was still one of the best stayers he had ever seen.
"He ticked all the boxes.
"He was relaxed, never got stirred up, he never got a sweat mark on him. He just had the right attitude and it was just great he produced that (paralysing ) finish that day. It was an amazing feeling."
Cassidy, who was 20 at the time, didn't get any riding instructions from owner-trainer Snow Lupton, a sheep farmer who bought the horse with his wife Ann for $1000.
Sadly, Lupton passed way just last month aged 85.
"There wasn't any (instructions). You couldn't make him go any earlier than he wanted to go," Cassidy said.
When it came to Might And Power, not going early wasn't a problem for the free-flowing front-runner.
Cassidy won three legs of the grand slam with the son of might sire Zabeel, who also passed away last month.
After bolting in with the 1997 Caulfield Cup, Might And Power backed up to win the Melbourne Cup just 17 days later, edging out Greg Hall's mount, Doriemus, in a deceptive finish.
"On his day he was as competitive as any horse in the world at 2000m or a mile-and-a-half. His record proved that," Cassidy said of Might And Power.
He also said he wasn't sure if he had lasted to beat Doriemus, but admitted when rival Hall stood up in his irons to salute the crowd, he thought he may have been pipped at the post.
"I didn't know, but when Hall went up ... he'd ridden a lot of group winners. But, as it turned out, he was the happiest jockey I've ever seen who ran second in a Melbourne Cup," he said with a laugh.
"It was great for me but devastating for him. It wasn't like he missed out winning a Cup though. He'd won one and some great jockeys never do."
Cassidy could have actually won the race three times, had it not been for his loyalty to Kiwi trainer and lifelong friend Graeme Rogerson.
The hoop was offered the ride on Kingston Rule in the 1990 Cup, but kept a previous commitment to ride Just A Dancer for Rogerson.
"My loyalty has cost me a lot of winners. But that's just me, it's my make up, it's who I am," he said. "It's not all about winning, you've got to cop losing too.
"It would have been great to ride one (Melbourne Cup) winner for the "King" (Bart Cummings), but I had a lot of other luck in derbies and races with him."
On Tuesday, Cassidy will throw his leg over roughie Grand Marshal, trained by man of the moment Chris Waller.
Cassidy was in the saddle when the former European galloper won this year's Sydney Cup over 3200m as a 40-1 outsider, beating Melbourne Cup rivals Who Shot Thebarman and Hartnell.
He said the six year-old had been primed for the race by his 11th placing in the Caulfield Cup behind Mongolian Khan.
The 52-year-old Cassidy has been through plenty of highs and lows, but has never lost his passion for riding, especially in the big races.
Punters still love to back the man nicknamed "Pumper" and in driving finishes he is still incredibly hard to beat with his powerful whip action and vigorous style.
"The body suffers a little more, but I love doing it," said Cassidy, who got his nickname from one of his girlfriends because of his action in the saddle.