Is there any race less Australian than the Melbourne Cup?

Tom Shembrey Roar Rookie

By Tom Shembrey, Tom Shembrey is a Roar Rookie

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    Kerrin McEvoy after winning the 2016 Melbourne Cup on Almandin. (AAP/Dan Himbrechts)

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    The Race that Stops a Nation. But which nation? I mean come on, sure it’s a great excuse for a day off work in sunny November, and of course it’s an important part of our history, but the Melbourne Cup is without a doubt the worst feature race-day in the spring carnival. 

    As the rise and rise of Winx continues, the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley showcases not only the best set of hooves on turf, but the packed card of other races are definitely all worth watching.

    Don’t forget the exciting Manikato Stakes the night before. 

    I was there at Caulfield last year when Jameka dashed ahead of the field at the 300, and I chewed my fingernails down to the nub as Scottish set out to reel her back in. The rest is history.

    My eyes were on the track all day, from cursing Damien Oliver for his ride on Sylpheed at the start of the day, to joyously embracing a random punter after we all loaded up on $4 favourite Voodoo Lad to get out of jail in the last.

    The Caulfield Cup last year was a great day; the weather was sunny, the racing dramatic and enthralling, and all the other bells and whistles the MRC turned on for the non-punters apparently went down a treat.

    Victorian Derby Day boasts the most Group 1s of any spring carnival day, and the emotions flowed among the black-and-white clad throng after Prized Icon ($17) overcame short favourite Sacred Elixir to add another Cummings name – this time James – to the long line of his family who’ve taken out the three-year-olds classic. 

    Trainer James Cummings

    Trainer James Cummings poses with the trophy after winning the Victorian Derby on Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Saturday. Oct. 29, 2016. (AAP Image/Mal Fairclough)

    Then came the first Tuesday in November; work sweeps were done, barbecues were lit and punters puzzled over the swathe of imports drafted in to hijack Australia’s richest race. How are you supposed to do form on a horse you’ve never see run, or punt with any confidence on 24 mostly unknown horses over two miles?

    Somehow Hartnell got rolled by German gelding Almandin, who – if you weren’t watching the Group 3 Bart Cummings Stakes over a month beforehand – you would’ve never even heard of. It’s not like there are any other races worth watching on the day, all the nation’s quality thoroughbreds went round on Saturday in the four Group 1s.

    Since Makybe Diva, over a decade ago, there have been just two Australian-bred winners, and even the great mare herself wasn’t born here. This isn’t an attack on the quality of our thoroughbreds; if anything, Australian racing is stronger than ever. Bear in mind how the Japanese raided in 2006 and pinched the quinella; they came back in 2014 with Admire Rakti and left him in the ground.

    Perhaps we have entered a new Reich for German horses, with Protectionist in 2014 and Almandin in the year past.

    Already, whispers and news about the Melbourne Cup in less than two months orbit around which foreign powerhouse trainers will dispatch a fragment of their super-stables to add our most hallowed equine triumph to their over-stacked trophy cabinet. 

    Being the punter of your group of friends is a nightmare on Cup day; every mate who wouldn’t know a forequarter from a furlong is in your ear all day, trying to milk a tip, which most years is like squeezing a dry udder. You’re better off listening to the over-dressed bloke who spent all day on the phone; “a mate of my uncle’s reckons the four is a good each way chance,” or the country boy who claims his dad’s old farm horse was Might and Power’s half-brother.

    Most years you’re better off putting away the form guide and picking a lucky number (barrier 18 has never produced a winner, and saddlecloth 18 has produced the least – that can’t be a coincidence). 

    The Melbourne Cup has this year lost its title as ‘Australia’s richest horse race’, with the $10 million Everest set to run in a few weeks. The Cox Plate is enjoying new levels of fame as Winx’s coronation ceremony, and the other feature races are rising in prominence, while the Race that Stops a Nation is getting set for yet another 24-horse field of overseas thoroughbreds and a scattering of plucky locals to trot out the two miles, all to determine who hid in the pack best and got a gap at the right time (see Prince of Penzance 2015). They’ll net a collective $6 million for that. 

    Enjoy the carnival punters, but don’t wait until November to get on board.

    This video could win $10,000!

    It's one of the favourites to take out the Club Roar most popular video award on Monday!

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • September 13th 2017 @ 7:41am
      AR said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      Imagine a sports writer rubbishing Wimbledon as a shoddy event because an Englishman hadn’t won it since 1936.

      • September 13th 2017 @ 12:27pm
        not so super said | September 13th 2017 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

        also, it is a handicap over an unsuitable distance with no good back up races

    • September 13th 2017 @ 8:15am
      joe said | September 13th 2017 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      This is kind of silly.The Melbourne Cup is more about the day/festivities/event than the actual quality of horses in the race.Its never been considered the best race in Australia.The most prestigious in the average persons eyes, yes.The most famous race,yes.
      But the Cox Plate has always been the race with the premier horses & the best race on the calendar to anyone who follows horse racing.
      The Melbourne Cup day is a uniquely Australian day, basically an unofficial holiday.
      Its fine as it is no matter what horse wins it.You should be thankful that owners/jockeys from around the world want to participate in this great event.It just adds to the storyline each year.

      • September 13th 2017 @ 9:05am
        AR said | September 13th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

        Bingo.

    • Roar Rookie

      September 13th 2017 @ 6:59pm
      hairy fat man said | September 13th 2017 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

      the Cox Plate has always been the race with the premier horses & the best race on the calendar to anyone who follows horse racing

      The Mackinnon was a more prestigious race for many years. I’ve always thought the Caulfield Stakes produced a better standard of winner overall.

    • Editor

      September 14th 2017 @ 7:10am
      Tristan Rayner said | September 14th 2017 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      I think taken in the right spirit, there’s an argument here. I don’t agree, but it’s an argument.

      One of the great things it’s that it’s become our international race and that carries a lot more prestige. Of course, that means we don’t win every year, and the comments above have shredded that argument nicely.

      All in all, I can only seeing it getting bigger as long as the punter is given as much information as possible.

    • September 14th 2017 @ 1:21pm
      no one in particular said | September 14th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

      The Melbourne Cup is everything Australian

      – pandering to internationals
      – giving internationals a leg up over locals
      – thinking a 3rd rate event is a “global” event and people care about it
      – getting drink and embarrassing ourselves on a Tuesday
      – an event that doesn’t match the hype

      It’s a race that is 5/1 the field, where half the field can be eliminated. That’s it

    • September 15th 2017 @ 1:45am
      John said | September 15th 2017 @ 1:45am | ! Report

      Very intriguing article gotta say. I do believe though last years cup was prob the easiest to work out.

      4th Quey won Geelong cup beat oceanographer who then won a Lexus in time.
      3rd hartnell destroyed Jameka who then won a CC.
      2nd heartbreak city also thumped oceanographer at last start
      1st almandin flew under raider beat handicapper also beat protectionist same year the latter ran away with cup

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