Nowra went wild with excitement on November 7, 1978 just two minutes and twenty-seven seconds after the gates sprang open for the Melbourne Cup.
The town’s pride and joy, Arwon had raced to victory in Australia’s then richest horse race.
Arwon, a New Zealand bred galloper, was part owned by Nowra local Jack Watson and it was he who gave the horse his name, Nowra spelt backwards.
Forty years ago he beat Dandeleith and Karu by half a neck, and Mr Watson said it had given him “his biggest thrill yet”.
“In all my born days I never would have thought I would be standing in front of 77,000 people with the Melbourne Cup in my hand,” he said at Flemington in 1978.
“I knew he [Arwon] was something out of the box the first time I saw him gallop.”
Arwon was purchased for $18,000 by former Nowra trainer Paul Sutherland and syndicated in Nowra. After winning a succession of minor races in Canberra and Sydney, Arwon was transferred to Melbourne trainer George Hanlon on February 19, 1978, with the aim of winning the Melbourne Cup.
Jockey Harry White pushed the horse to lead 200 metres from the winning post, collecting his third Cup win.
At the time, Mr Hanlon said when he began training Arwon, he never thought he could win the Cup.
“In my wildest dreams I have no thought to him being a Melbourne Cup runner, let alone winner,” he said.
“I have never known a horse to show so much improvement and I have had plenty through my hands in the 30 years I’ve been training.”
Arwon carried more big bets than any other runner in 1978 and his earnings rose to $242,895 after the incredible Cup win.
Winning bets on Arwon included $100,000 to $14,000, $30,000 to $500, $20,000 to $3,00 and $18,000 to $3000, twice.
Sadly, in May 2007 Nowra lost its Melbourne Cup link when Arwon died at the age of 33.
The longest-living Melbourne Cup winner was put down at George Hanlon’s Leopold property on the Bellarine Peninsula near Geelong.