At this time of the year the name Lupton takes on a special meaning at Flemington through the deeds of the legendary Waverley wonder Kiwi and his win in the 1983 Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m). On Tuesday, another branch of the Lupton family will try to write their own chapter into Cup folklore when unfancied eight-year-old Etah James lines up for her attempt in the 2020 edition of the great race.
The Raise The Flag mare is bred and part-owned by Mark and Cath Lupton, with Mark being the nephew of the late Snow Lupton who owned and trained Kiwi. Along with family friends Terry Reid and Gary Howes, the Luptons will be hoping for a similar performance to the one that Etah James put in to capture the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at outside odds earlier this year.
These days prepared by trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, Etah James has had just two starts since her Sydney Cup triumph and appears to be peaking at just the right time following a good effort for fourth in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m) at her last run.
The mare has enjoyed stints with Victorian trainer Matt Cumani and Lupton himself prepared her to finish third in the Group 2 Avondale Cup (2400m) and fourth in the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m) earlier this year, before she transferred back across the Tasman to the dual-state operation of Maher and Eustace. “She’s very well and we got an update this morning (Sunday) with a video of her walking in the ocean and they are very happy with her,” Mark Lupton said.
“She has had a bit of an unorthodox preparation as she has only had the two runs since Sydney but she had a couple of niggly issues that have since come right and she is on track now. “Ciaron said after she ran fourth at Moonee Valley that her coat had really started to dapple up and she is peaking at just the right time.
“We know she is a roughie in the Cup with a tough draw (barrier 22), but we don’t think she is the worst by any means as she goes on any track conditions and we know she runs two miles. I think it will all depend on the pace of the race as we would love to see her in the first seven or eight and then she will have every chance to kick on at the finish.”
Lupton is well aware of the association that the family name has with the race and would like nothing more than to emulate his late uncle’s deeds. “We were just talking the other day about it and the family are all pretty excited,” he said. “I haven’t tried to think about it too much as there is so much water to go under the bridge before you even get to raceday. “I got asked where the party will be and I had to honestly say we hadn’t even worked out where we were going to watch the race yet.
“We’ve got our good mare Yearn racing at Ellerslie on the day so I’m picking we will be watching the Cup from there. Terry will be at home in Sydney while Gary is in London so the phone will be running red hot. “The COVID-19 situation has mucked us all up but it’s just not racing as our son Blake got married in Texas yesterday and we couldn’t be there either.
“Whatever happens, when Blake gets home there will be a big party and wouldn’t it be nice to have the Melbourne Cup as a guest that day. “Snowy won the Cup with a horse that he paid $1000 for and we’re having a go with one that cost us a $4,000 service fee. “We’re up against horses that have cost much much more than that, but it’s a race that even the underdog can compete in, so we’re there having a go.”