While Bart Cummings has been known as the "cup king", Etienne De Mestre certainly earned that title in the earliest days of the Melbourne Cup. The Terara based trainer is best known for his work with Archer which won the first two cups, in 1861 and 1862.
Archer was favoured to win again the next year, but De Mestre missed the acceptance date by a day, because of a public holiday in Victoria. July 1 was the day the southern State celebrated Separation Day, for the independence it had received from NSW some 12 years earlier.
De Mestre was furious and threatened never to race in Victoria again. Other NSW trainers withdrew their horses in sympathy, with the result that the 1863 Melbourne Cup had a field of only seven.
For three years the big race was "black" for De Mestre, but he eventually lifted his boycott and took Tim Whiffler to Melbourne in 1867. Strangely there was also a Tim Whiffler from Melbourne in the field, but it was "Sydney Tim" that took the honours, giving De Mestre three Melbourne Cup victories from as many starts.
Like Archer before him, Tim Whiffler was bred at Exeter Farm, Braidwood by Rowland Hassall and T.J. Roberts, but was leased and trained by De Mestre.
From September 1865 the bay stallion raced regularly at Randwick and broke through for its first victory on May 4, 1866. Later that month it appeared in the carnival conducted by the Shoalhaven Turf Club at Numbaa, scoring victories on the Tuesday and Thursday.
After winning the Great Metropolitan Stakes over two miles at Randwick in early September of 1867, Tim Whiffler was prepared for the Melbourne Cup.
With jockey John Driscoll, he departed from Sydney for Melbourne on the steamer City of Edinburgh on October 1, leaving the rest of the month for him to train locally for the major spring events.
As well as winning the cup on October 31, Tim Whiffler took the Queen's Plate in his debut over three miles on November 2, and also the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes on November 30, but pulled up injured in another race the same day.
Early the next year Tim Whiffler was taken to Launceston for the Champion Cup, in which he finished second.
His jockey on that occasion was George Donnelly who would often fill that role for the remainder of the horse's career.
Tim Whiffler appeared in two more Melbourne Cups, finishing fourth in 1868 (ridden by Joe Kean), and sixth in 1870 with Donnelly aboard.
Donnelly was born at Jamberoo, and worked with George Waldron at Kiama before joining De Mestre as a jockey and trainer.
Later in life he married the widow of John Cutts, the jockey who had ridden Archer to his famous victories.
Tim Whiffler retired from racing after finishing third in the 1872 AJC Queen's Plate at Randwick.
From 59 starts over seven years he won 25 times and had another 20 placings.
He was returned to Exeter Farm, but Roberts leased him to Andrew Town's Hobartville Stud at Richmond where he did stud work.
One of racing's most durable campaigners, Tim Whiffler died at Richmond in 1881, aged 19 years.
Information thanks to Shoalhaven Historical Society