Watching a replay of the 2001 Adelaide Cup, then cold-calling winning jockey Peter Mertens to ask him about the race is an eye-opener.
Mertens remembers his ride on Apache King – prepared by the late Russell Cameron and owned by Nick Moraitis – incredibly accurately.
“Jumped well, was running eighth or maybe ninth on the fence, and just stayed there,” Mertens says down the phone, without hesitation.
“Around about the half mile Native Jazz – a Lloyd Williams horse, he was favourite I reckon – got off the fence and the main contenders were right behind him and they just followed him out.
“So, on the circle into the straight I let Apache King stride up behind them and he just went straight through the gap.
“I just had the best run. I never went around a horse and it all opened up at the right time.”
The Victorian-based hoop also recalls the exciting dash to the post, when his horse crowded Native Jazz – who was indeed the favourite and a Lloyd Williams horse – and resulted in Brett Prebble firing in a dramatic protest.
“My bloke got to the front and laid in a little bit in the straight,” Mertens says.
“Every time I wanted him to lift he just wanted to lay in on the fence, so he took a bit of steering.
“It just stopped me from saluting the crowd – that’s about all it did.
“There was a protest that made it a little more exciting after the race, but it was dismissed.”
Mertens had ridden Apache King to victory in the Group 3 Carlton Draught Stakes (now the Lord Reims Stakes) over 2500m nine days before the Adelaide Cup, making up part of an extremely successful Adelaide carnival for him – again remembered remarkably vividly.
“I’ve ridden in the Adelaide Cup about half a dozen times and love the race, but Cup day in 2001 was great,” he says.
“I’ve got a newspaper print on a bit of cardboard somewhere in my garage, and the crowd was massive that year.
“I actually won the Derby on the Saturday (the previous weekend) on Big Pat.
“I rode him in an Adelaide Cup the following year, but he could never stay the two miles. I actually rode him in the Adelaide Cup and two Melbourne Cups – he was good over 2400-2500, but just struggled a bit over the two miles.”
Mertens also remembers piloting Apache King during his subsequent Brisbane winter carnival campaign.
“I only rode him three times: twice in Adelaide, then in the Brisbane Cup,” Mertens says.
“He ran good – I think he had a bad barrier and I didn’t have much luck.
“I can’t remember exactly where I ran, but I think it was a bit better than midfield. Fifth or sixth, was it?”
Given the horse ran fifth, from barrier 15, it’s clear that Apache King left his mark on both Adelaide Cup history and Peter Mertens.
Image: Peter Mertens and Apache King winning the 2001 Adelaide Cup. PHOTO: atkinsphotography.com.au