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(Image : Melbourne Cup - Footage : Sports Fanatic)
MELBOURNE CUP (Group 1)
Flemington, Turf, 3200m
1 November 2011
There’s only one place left in the world, where the organisers still have the guts to stage a major horse race mid-week. The Blue Riband, as it was once styled, but more commonly referred to as the Investec English Derby these days, was for centuries held on the first Wednesday in June, but modern commercial imperatives have forced it to the weekend.
Australia’s deep-rooted reverence for the Melbourne Cup guarantees its “first Tuesday in November” date, and while it’s only in its native state of Victoria that they actually acknowledge it in the form of a public holiday, it remains the only event in that sports-mad country that literally ‘stops the nation’, including parliament itself.
Tomorrow at 6am more than a few South Africans will be tuned into Tellytrack (Channel 232) for this year’s 150th renewal, and the question on everyone’s lips will no doubt be whether the Dynaformer entire, Americain (USA), can join Phar Lap, Tulloch and Makybe Diva in the folklore of the race, with a second consecutive win. The degree to which “the Cup” has embedded itself as the world’s staying championship, is reflected in the international profile of the twenty four candidates. Only three of them are Aussie bred, while another three hail from their trans-Tasman neighbours, the Kiwis.
Those of us who watch with a measure of objectivity would recognise the latter by the “NZ” suffix after their names in the race card, but our mates down-under have taken such a pasting from the Kiwis over the years, they tend to refer to them as “Australasian”. In a year when only 25% of the total field can claim these origins, Australasia is perhaps more appropriate for the reputations of both countries breeders now than ever.
One traditional ingredient which appears to be missing this year, is a “bang inform” entry from the yard of the “Cups King”, Bart Cummings, who’s thus far sent out a never-to-be-broken 12 winners of the event in his 80-odd years. While he saddles the previous hero, Precedence (NZ) and the German colt, Illo, neither have been grabbing the headlines normally reserved for the fancied candidates. Though it’s also true, that if he does win it, it won’t be the first time Bart came from nowhere to drink with the Governor General. This time of course, it will be cocktails with The Queen, so don’t be mesmerized if Bart makes it a baker’s dozen.
P.S More than 100,000 will make their way to Flemington tomorrow, and more than half of them will get there by train. If ever Melbourne had a case for a Gautrain, this is it.