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Is Harris Tweed the new Tim Whiffler? Two horses named Harris Tweed aim at Melbourne Cup

June 19, 2011

An intriguing situation not witnessed since the 19th century could influence this year’s Melbourne Cup, with the trainer of last night’s Hardwicke Stakes runner up Harris Tweed keen to bring him for the race.

Trainer William Haggas confirmed that he would begin to look towards Melbourne following his horse’s tough second to the Aiden O’Brien trained Await The Dawn.

“I want to save him for the autumn and we’re going to start taking bloods from him in case he goes to Melbourne,” Haggas said immediately following the race.

“The Melbourne Cup looks an exciting idea, but my father owns him and he’s 80, so I’m not sure he’ll be as keen to go as me.”

The son of Hernando has won four of his eleven starts and looks to have plenty of promise.

He started favourite in the Chester Stakes last month, but was no match for subsequent Coronation Cup winner St Nicholas Abbey.

However, if he was to contest the Melbourne Cup, it may have to be under a different name.

Last year’s Caulfield Cup placegetter and dual Melbourne Cup runner Harris Tweed is being set for the great race once again.

The Kiwi Harris Tweed is trained by Murray and Bjorn Baker and a disrupted autumn campaign was thwarted with the spring in mind.

Of course, two horses with the same name would not be desirable for anyone – spectators, punters, form analysts, racecallers.

The situation is eerily reminiscent of one of the Melbourne Cup’s most famous early tales.

In 1867, the heavily fancied favourite was a Sydney champion named Tim Whiffler, who had swept all before him north of the border.

Most punters believed his good form would translate to Melbourne and he started a 5/2 ($3.50) favourite.

However, to add confusion, there was a horse from Melbourne who had the previous season won the South Australian Derby.

His name was also Tim Whiffler.

To avoid confusion, officials renamed the two horses for the Melbourne Cup only, giving the New South Wales champion the name of “Sydney Tim” while the Victorian galloper became “Melbourne Tim”.

As expected, Sydney Tim bounded away to win by two lengths, while Melbourne Tim belied his odds to finish fifth at 50/1.

The record books show the winner as Tim Whiffler.

Ironically, there were numerous other Tim Whifflers at the time, including an imported English sire who produced 1876 Melbourne Cup winner Briseis.

With a lot of water to flow under the bridge before November, it is unlikely that both horses will make the race for numerous reasons – they may be injured, they may be directed at other targets, or fate may intervene.

However, if they do make the race, there would be much conjecture as to what would happen with names.

As New Zealand’s Harris Tweed has raced in the Melbourne Cup twice before, finishing fifth on both occasions, it would only make sense that he retains his name – especially for the benefit of once a year punters.

A simple name change could occur with England’s Harris Tweed, with the addition of a prefix like Our, Mr, Sir, King or My – or a complete name change may be required.

Or perhaps, as one fellow racing journalist postured last night, they could do what they did with Tim Whiffler and rename the horses by geographical location.

As she said, in true Australian style, New Zealand’s Harris Tweed would become “Kiwi Harris” while England’s Harris Tweed would have to be “Pommie Harris” – her words, not mine.

Whatever happens, the campaigns of both Harris Tweeds should be followed very closely with an intriguing match up in November a distinct possibility.

In other news to emerge from last night’s Hardwicke Stakes, the ever improving Drunken Sailor is a confirmed returner to Melbourne.

The Luca Cumani-trained son of Tendulkar disappointed last spring, finishing 11th to Americain in the Geelong Cup and 10th to Moudre in the Queen’s Cup.

However, since an indifferent preparation in Dubai over the European winter, his form has begun to improve with last night’s third placing an indication of his progress.

Cumani said the owners wanted to return to Australia, with both the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup on his agenda.

Hardwicke Stakes winner Await The Dawn will target the Breeders Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November.

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