On a winner

November 15, 2017

Auctioneer Greg Caldwell and MC Ian Purdey who have entertained Calcutta crowds for 40 years.

ONE of the most resilient Melbourne Cup stayers is not even a horse.

The Kyabram Club can rightly claim that its Melbourne Cup eve Calcutta has far from run its race even though it was first held in 1963.

A large and expectant crowd again attended the Calcutta last week and despite tight economic times money was splashed around as punters and syndicates both large and small were engulfed in Cup fever.

Some 18 of the 23 starters in the Cup fetched $1000 or more when auctioned. Veteran Calcutta attendees say this has never happened before, not even when the Calcutta attracted the largest pool in 2015 when Prince Of Penzance won the Cup. Last week’s Calcutta pool of $27,050 fell just short of the 2015 record.

There were some two-legged stayers who were at the Calcutta in 1963 and were still there last week.

One such person was former mayor of Kyabram Kevin Andrews. He has missed just two Calcuttas and was a member of one of the original syndicates, ‘The Mongrels’, which has also survived the long haul from day one and is still not frightened to put its money where its mouth is.

No doubt drawing or buying 10 winners and a host of placegetters over the years has been helpful in this syndicate maintaining its enthusiasm for the Calcutta.

Then there are other proven track specialists Purd and Greg.

Greg is Greg Caldwell. With some help in latter years from his son Rod, Greg has been the auctioneer at the Calcutta for 44 years, assisting the legendary Frank Ruler before taking the reins in 1973.

Greg has also proved he has the ability to stay all day but he would be first to admit it’s getting a bit of a struggle to run out the 3200 metres at full tilt.

Purd, of course, is Kyabram icon Ian Purdey. He has emceed the Calcutta for nearly 40 years. His ability to involve the audience in a light-hearted way amid what can be very serious business deals has made him a master at this caper.

The $16,230 first prize ‘The Turtle Men’ syndicate collected last week when it drew and bought the Cup winner Rekindling for $800 is a far cry from the early days of the Calcutta when the first prize was about the equivalent of $600.

Syndicates now dominate the Calcutta because big money can be raised by people who buy large blocks of tickets in the draw to improve the odds of drawing a horse.

But having a fistful of tickets in the draw isn’t a guarantee of success.

One law-abiding syndicate spent nearly $800 on tickets and never drew a horse. Out of frustration the syndicate bought one at the auction just to say it had a runner.

And it would have been a good result if the race was halted the first time the field passed the finishing post!

But it’s a safe bet this syndicate will be back bigger, better — and more hopeful — next year.

That’s the attraction of the Melbourne Cup... and the Kyabram Club Calcutta.

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