6 Nov 2023

Melbourne Cup veteran Walker remembers special race

10:27 am on 6 November 2023
Jockey Corey Brown wins the 2017 Melbourne Cup on Rekindling

Jockey Corey Brown wins the 2017 Melbourne Cup on Rekindling Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It's the biggest horse race in Australasia, but as far as former New Zealand jockey Michael Walker was concerned, it was just another race.

The first Tuesday in November heralds a sporting event that stops two nations and draws many people into becoming punters for just one day a year.

Walker is one of New Zealand's most successful jockeys and features in the top 25 for career wins with 1144.

During his career he rode 25 group one winners.

He's recorded more than 2000 wins when his rides in Australia and Asia are taken into account, however he never won the Melbourne Cup.

He finished second on Prince of Arran in 2019. A year earlier he was third on the same horse and he was third on Criterion in 2015.

The first of Walker's seven Melbourne Cups was in 2010, but as a 17 year old he did attempt to get secure an entry.

"I put my name forward to ride Brew for Mike Maroney (in 2000) but unfortunately it went to Kerrin McEvoy and he ended up winning, but that happens in the racing game," Walker told RNZ.

He then had to wait ten years to get his first Melbourne Cup start at Flemington and he says it was an amazing experience.

"It actually starts a few days before with the parade, all the media attention and me being young then I was just enjoying the whole thing and if I went back to that day now I'd probably put a bit more thought and work into it."

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 22: Jockey Michael Walker reacts after riding Tagaloa to win race 7 the Blue Diamond Stakes during Melbourne Racing at Caulfield Racecourse on February 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Photo: Getty Images

However Walker says he took every Melbourne Cup event in his stride as he's not a jockey that ever got nervous.

"Leading into Cox Plates or Melbourne Cups or any big race I always treated every race as the same.

"So even though it's a bigger race and worth a lot more money and everything that goes around it, I just treated it as a normal race."

Walker never scored a victory in Australia's two big races... second in both the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup.

The 39 year old announced his retirement earlier this year after suffering a brain injury in a fall in 2022.

However he's still involved as a part of the racing media.

While European horses have featured heavily in recent years, Walker believes more and more Japanese horse will feature in the big race.

So what's his picks for this year?

"Gold Trip, he won it last year, Ciaron Maher and David Eustace are the elite trainers here at the moment , their horses just get better and better .

"And hopefully for another Kiwi (jockey) James MacDonald I'd love him to win it.

The race jumps at 5pm (NZ time) on Tuesday November 7th.