On the first Tuesday in November 1968, a young up and coming horse trainer from the mines in Broken Hill became a legend in racing circles.
Mick Robins left Broken Hill in 1962 to follow his passion for horse racing, finding a job with South Australian trainer Grahame Heagney.
Heagney moved to America five years later and left the young Robins with a stable full of horses.
One of those horses was the champion Rain Lover.
Rain Lover, trained by Robins and ridden by Jim Johnson, pulled off one of the most iconic Melbourne Cup wins in history.
“That day would have to be the best day of my racing career,” Robins said.
“I was standing with some old trainers at the time watching the race. They said to me they’ve seen eight horses get to the front on the home straight that day and none of them had won.
“When Rain Lover came to the turn and he was two lengths, then four, then eight, I turned to them with a smile and said this is one horse that isn’t going to get beat.”
Jim Johnson sits above Rain Lover before the running of the Melbourne Cup in 1968. (Supplied: Racing Victoria)
Champion performing well before cup day
Robins said arriving at Flemington that day, he had been quietly confident in his champion, having run him in the Adelaide Cup earlier in the year and the Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington on the Saturday before the Melbourne Cup.
“Bart Cummings always said to me you have to run in the Mackinnon Stakes, and if you can win that you’ve got a chance at a Melbourne Cup,” he said.
“He won the Mackinnon that year, so I thought we can really have a shot at winning the cup.”
Robins said he had been happy just to have a horse running on the day.
“But to be there and see him win by eight lengths, it still gives me goosebumps,” he said.
The thrill of winning was repeated the following year, with Rain Lover becoming the first horse since Archer to achieve back-to-back Melbourne Cup victories.
Racing carnival a ‘great spectacle’
Still obsessed with racing and the thrill of the win, Robins describes the spring racing carnival as another Christmas for him.
“I’ve been very lucky to be involved with such a great spectacle every year. It’s fantastic,” he said.
“It’s hard enough as a trainer to win one race, but to be able to win a Melbourne Cup and then do it again the following year, it’s just really fulfilling.
“If you had have told me I would grow up in Broken Hill and move to Adelaide then to Melbourne to win the cup, I would have thought you were crazy.”
Robins now resides in Mornington, living and working with horse trainer Tony Noonan at Tony Noonan Racing.
At 88 years of age, Robins still has a lot of energy for the racing game and is a much-loved member of the Noonan Racing Team.
“He’s given plenty of mentorship over the years. We’ve been working together for 25 years now and it’s just so great to have him here with us,” Noonan said.
“My success could be put largely to Mick’s influence and input in the time he’s been with us. Outside of that, we are really good mates now too.
“To have someone that’s won two Melbourne Cups by your side it’s really fantastic, and just allows you to appreciate the sport so much more.”