The Melbourne Cup is still important

Pat Hornidge Roar Rookie

By Pat Hornidge, Pat Hornidge is a Roar Rookie

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    On Tuesday night, Greg Baum wrote a piece for The Age which stopped just short of calling the Melbourne Cup dead, as both a race and an event.

    Only 90,000 came, he lamented. For the first time ever, international horses finished in the top three. And, in his most bizarre criticism, he seemed surprised that the horses in the race were owned by some of Australia’s and the world’s elite.

    He called it, ‘The race that bypasses a nation’. The problem is, none of these arguments are either new or even that persuasive. The race still captures the imagination of a large part of this country and is entwined with the fabric of Melbourne.

    On Derby Day, SEN interviewed Ballarat-based English trainer Matt Cumani. Half-jokingly he said he was appalled that a handicap such as the Melbourne Cup was considered a quality Group 1 race. It is something unheard of in England.

    Why would you try to even up a race to make it fairer?

    Not to delve too deeply into the Australian psyche, but there is something deeply egalitarian about the Melbourne Cup. Australian racecourses themselves are not the domain of the aristocracy; neither the genuine nor bunyip varieties.

    While the birdcage and the corporate marquees do cater for the rich, famous and beautiful, and a VRC membership is still necessary if you want to make it as ‘somebody’ in Victoria, the public areas of Flemington are the domains of the ordinary.

    Of course, the horses themselves are owned by the wealthy – it is still a rich man’s sport. Horses are expensive, both to own and keep. Even Lloyd Williams does not own most of his horses outright.

    This is nothing new, and really nothing to be surprised or amazed at. It is simply a fact of the industry.

    And does it matter that half the field were international horses? The average person saw 23 horses go around the track; the vast majority would not care about the lineage of the horse or where its stable is.

    Australian bred horses will win again, as will international horses. It is an international event and the greatest handicap in the world. The success of the internationals should be seen as a challenge for Australian trainers and breeders, and it does now seem to have reached a point where attempts are being made to ensure that Australia does start to breed quality stayers over the next ten years or so.

    If a 24-year-old international trainer can train a three-year-old to win, then local trainers should accept the challenge, and step up their game to meet it.

    A crowd of 90,000 to any other racecourse in the world would be magnificent. At Flemington on cup day, it is disappointing. However, the weather did not help. This is officially the coldest start to November in 23 years, and it has really not felt like spring has started yet.

    Corey Brown rides Rekindling to victory at the2017 Melbourne Cup.

    (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

    So from a weather standpoint, the atmosphere was always going to be different than in previous years. Sure it’s rained in previous years, and people have still gone to the carnival, but the gloom that has been over Melbourne this November is something that hasn’t been seen for a while.

    With the weather improving this week though, it would not surprise if there is a record crowd on Stakes day.

    The Melbourne Cup remains a great sporting event, one of the biggest on the Australian sporting calendar. This year’s race was not a fairytale, but not every year can be.

    A down year every so often is good – it makes the rare amazing events more special. Lloyd Williams will probably win again in the future, as will other millionaires, but so will a battler.

    The story of future Melbourne Cups is yet to be written, but the sure bet is that it will remain one of the most important events on the Melbourne calendar, both for sports fans and socialites.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • November 10th 2017 @ 7:24am
      Not so super said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      People around the world don’t care about the Melbourne cup outside a few racing elites
      It’s gone downhill and saying it’s the best handicap in the world is like saying it’s the best 4th division football side in the world

    • November 10th 2017 @ 7:28am
      nugget said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      It’s nothing like the race it used to be. It’s become a benefit for the wealthy (and the bookies) and a chance for the Club’s bigwigs to puff up their chests and kowtow to what they see as royalty. Gone are the days when we knew the horses and looked forward to their ultimate clash. Gone are the days when the betting was enticing. We now get to watch a bunch of horses no-one here knows anything about, with form either undisclosed or opaque. And the coverage! Hard to tell the difference between the coverage and the ad breaks. And as for these idiot overseas jockeys they keep praising… Give me the likes of Reckless any day.

      • November 10th 2017 @ 1:19pm
        chris said | November 10th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

        Yep well said.

    • Roar Guru

      November 10th 2017 @ 8:49am
      kv joef said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Well said Pat. The tired, brain-dead, negative journalism and commentary from those whose lives must be a living cliche.

      Just ask them what they were doing at 3pm on the first Tuesday in November?

      And to ‘Not so super’, ‘nugget’ and … i’m sure ‘kangajets’ will be here shortly …

      The Melb. Cup was front page news on every major racing paper in the world. Within 12 hours there were several half and full-page adverts in the United States two major ‘daily’ breeding magazines using the Melb Cup result as promotion for yearlings and older stock that are sold at the Keeneland sales, one of the world’s major yearling sales … why would they do that for a race of irrelevance.

      And if you were wondering the international coverage of our spring carnival has been extensive and positively reported in Europe, Americas and the racing jurisdictions in Asia. Australasia is well and truly on the international scene.

      Also, the Cup result drew a public congratulatory response from the president of ireland, As for coverage, Racing.com seemed to move along at OK pace. Also the betting? 8/1 the field ?

      The sire High Chapparal’s offspring won the VRC Derby and the other the Cup – one bred in Ireland the other in Australia.

      So NSS, Nuddet and Kanga (soon to be here) … you know living in a closet is not good for you, you should venture outside occasionally.

      • November 10th 2017 @ 9:47am
        not so super said | November 10th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        KV, of course the cup is still big. i just prefer it the way it used to be. you know when you could follow a group of horses all spring in preparation for the big one? Also the hype that the VRC spruik about it being the international event is just that – hype. i will always follow the cup but not like i used to. its now a 7/10 when it used to be the day of the year.
        United States two major ‘daily’ breeding magazines – what is the readership of such publications? probably less than the rank and file punters who dont love the race like they used to

    • Roar Guru

      November 10th 2017 @ 10:27am
      kv joef said | November 10th 2017 @ 10:27am | ! Report

      i don’t know what the race used to be other than a handicap probably on par with England’s Ebor. Some years good, most years = v.ordinary and downright terrible on an international standing.

      Remember, this year, 2 Australian bred horses Q’d the Caulfield Cup in a very fast time, beating home the MC second place.

      Concerning TDN and BH, I should have said … they are international publications – published across all forms of media, from the united states. You can subscribe to them and they show up in your mail-box every day. i think Bloodhorse has over 4 million website users – web metrics for TDN is over 3 million. They are both benchmark publications in both their coverage and quality.

      By the way, Australia has an excellent Industry publication (free online) called Breeding and. Racing.

    • Roar Guru

      November 10th 2017 @ 1:36pm
      ScottWoodward.me said | November 10th 2017 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

      I am always uncomfortable moving around in big crowds which is why I was not keen to attend the Cup, but despite the terrible weather and being forced to stand in the wind and rain for 20 minutes until we could walk across the track it was all worthwhile and a great experience.
      It started with the Call of the Card on Monday which was a sell out to 1,300 fans in the Crown Palladium and it was a brilliant way to spend the day before the Cup. This important function has been given a new life blood thanks to Crownbet boss Matt Tripp who is not only is the sponsor, but held more money than the other three bookies combined. It was like racing’s version of the Academy Awards with the “whos who” in attendance.

    • November 10th 2017 @ 1:39pm
      johnny nevin is a legend said | November 10th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

      Good article and refreshing perspective Pat. The doomsday predictions are similar to when the 2 french horses won 2 years running but didn’t eventuate with international trainers dominating. Of course Australian bred horses are a rarity but didn’t seem to matter as much when Fiorente and Green Moon won, (both Irish Bred), as they were Australian trained. I understand the view that its hard to consider the form of an international horse without an Australian run but most internationals had previous form here (or at least had form with horses that had a run here). I have the say the view of a lot of racing media is coming across as negative an even borderline ungracious to a great day for Irish racing with a 1-2-3 and son beating father.

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