MUNCE'S CRUSH: Twice as a jockey, now Grafton Cup as trainer
GRAFTON CUP: Chris Munce entered a small and prestigious group when First Crush made light of a hard run to win the $160,000 Listed G McMullan Contracting Grafton Cup (2350m).
The former jockey, who won Grafton Cups as a rider in 1999 (Count Scenario) and 2005 (Storm Hill), won his first as a trainer when Mark Du Plessis roared home on the six-year-old gelding to beat $101-chance Winkler (John Everson) by a length with Reneged (John Thompson) a further head back in third.
Only Australian Racing Hall of Famer Maurice McCarten has won a Grafton Cup as a jockey and trainer, doing so in the saddle in 1927 on Coolgong and then 20 years later as a trainer in 1947 with Kiaree.
However Munce's thoughts were far from winning when Du Plessis and First Crush looked hopelessly placed mid race when back near the tail. The jockey was four-wide and thought he could be "strung up on a crucifix" if he didn't win.
Munce admitted he "nearly walked back to the stable" at the same time.
Former race caller Steve Hawkins, who has called and seen many Grafton Cups, reckoned it the biggest Cup win he had seen.
"He sat four deep all the way and still kept coming," Hawkins said.
Munce marvelled at the performance and thanked his staff for all their hard work.
"A lot of hard work goes into this," he said.
"My whole staff work tirelessly, work tremendously hard. I just had the horse happy and healthy."
First Crush had won the Grafton Cup Prelude last year but then finished unplaced in the stayer's feature to Supply And Demand.
But there was no one stopping the six-year-old gelding this time around.
"This is just great, it is an extra special thrill to be able to win a Cup for my owner Max Whitby," Munce said.
"His wife is back at home ill and he was unable to come, but we have been planning this a long way out and for it to come off is just great."