It might have become the world's race, but the Melbourne Cup is a success story for the unheralded West Australian breeders Trevor and Terrie Delroy.
Their colours will be carried by Ethiopia over the Flemington two miles today, while a rival Zabeelionaire was raised on Wyadup Valley Farm.
"I have known Trevor since his school days and he has always loved stayers," Terrie Delroy said of her husband. "It is his passion, he is always on the computer looking things up. I go to all the yearlings sales with him and have learned a lot about it but he is the driving force.''
The success of Ethiopia and Zabeelionaire in the Australian and South Australian derbies delivered the Delroys their greatest season and the Melbourne Cup is a bonus.
"Trevor has always been a Derby and Oaks man, he is a bit traditional like that, so to win the two derbies was great for him," Terrie said. "The Melbourne Cup is wonderful but I think he would put it behind the derbies. But having said that, if Ethiopia and Zabeelionaire are the first two across the line, I think it would change pretty quickly."
Considering that 18 of the Melbourne Cup runners started their lives in Europe, and only Ethiopia and Niwot are Australian bred in the field, it is remarkable achievement by the Delroys to have two runners come from their farm. "This is very exciting and we didn't expect it,'' Terrie said. "Just doing that parade was fun and Trevor has gone to the call of the card. "We bred two Derby winners this year and that is unusual in itself but to have two in the Melbourne Cup is amazing."
In a commercial world, the Delroys decided to sell the Zabeel colt out of Kisumu, which would become the South Australian Derby winner and Melbourne Cup runner. "We sold Zabeelionaire because a Zabeel out of the mare was proven and we thought we could sell him for a reasonable return," she said. "We tend to keep the fillies and we have his full sister, Gondokoro, that is in the Oaks on Thursday, so it is a big week for us.
"However, if we put Ethiopia in the ring we would have not that much for him. He was by an unproven sire at that time, Helenus, out of a mare which was undefinite unproven, so we kept him and he won us a Derby."
Ethiopia was sent to Pat Carey and he was able to plot a course to Randwick by his fourth start, where he won the Australian Derby as a maiden.
Four runs into his second preparation, he is at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day after running a gutsy fourth in the Cox Plate at his last start.
''I've got to put this into perspective,'' Carey said earlier this week. ''He could be a rare type of horse. We see lots of stayers come and go, but horses with his scope out of his first preparation, coming into this race ... you only get 'x' amount of chances to showcase this type of horse and it's usually on big tracks in big races.
''He's such a big-striding horse, once he gets on to the big, open stretches, only then does it properly allow you to see the true ability and class of the horse.
''He came through a good, hard, tough run in the Cox Plate exceptionally well.
''He's a very natural stayer who, in my opinion, will be suited by the big stretches at Flemington.
''Two miles is an unknown for any horse, but if ever a horse looked like he was going to get two miles, it's Ethiopia.''
ONLY TRUE-BLUE AUSSIE
Internationals have been a feature of the Melbourne Cup for some years, but never before has the Australian breeding industry had such a small input into Australia's most famous race.
Of the 24 horses that are sent out today, only two were bred in Australia: Niwot and Ethiopia. Of this pair, Ethiopia is the only true blue Aussie as he is by an Australian sire Helenus out of Australian-bred broodmare Shona while Niwot is by champion Irish stallion Galileo out of Kiwi mare Too Darn Hot.
Here is a snapshot of how these two came to be:
He was bred by Stephen and Anne Flynn of Mudgee, who paid A$40,000 for his dam Too Darn Hot in New Zealand.
Niwot was sold for A$200,000 at the 2006 Inglis Easter Yearling Sales.
He had eight siblings of which four were unraced. Best performed was Royal Academy gelding Ashworth, which won four races and earned A$82,550.
A winner of nine races and with earnings of almost A$1.2 million, his dam Too Darn Hot was a 2400-metre listed winner of the Tatt's Cup in Sydney in 1997.
Too Darn Hot died in March this year at the age of 19.
He was bred by Trevor Delroy's Wyadup Valley Farm in West Australia and was not offered for sale.
Ethiopia has two full siblings but neither have made it to the racetrack.
Delroy's Wyadup Farm also bred Melbourne Cup chance Zabeelionaire, who was sold for A$250,000 at the 2009 Sydney Easter Sales.
Ethiopia's dam Shona failed to earn prizemoney in four starts. Her third dam Valencia is a group 1 winning sister of group 1 winning sire Vice Regal.
A winner of just one race, last season's ATC Derby at Randwick, he has already earned more than A$1.1 million in stakes from just seven starts.
- Sydney Morning Herald