I’ve previously written about emergency horses and the need to have the best and most in-form horses starting a race. This brings me to the discussion of the Melbourne Cup and the debate surrounding a lack of emergencies for that race.
A field of 24 is always going to have a high-chance of a scratching or two, just by weight of numbers, and the subsequent effects of a scratching on barriers, speed maps, betting, sweeps (and the people who miss out on their bet) and the like go on.
In reality, to any real horse-racing watcher, the debate is nearly invalid because we can’t even get the best field into the race to start with, let alone reserve runners!
In the modern era we have a plethora of overseas entrants each year vying for a start in the race. Punters are left clueless as to what to expect from them because they don’t have to have a run here prior.
To date, only one import has won the race without having a run here prior – Vintage Crop in 1993. A hundred or so have tried and failed, some spectacularly, others by fine margins.
Protectionist won following a fine fourth in the Herbert Power. Red Cadeaux has gone quite close on three occasions, but failed to win. Might he have won at least one of them with a lead-up run?
Why not preclude any import from starting in the race without a run here, and at least let the public gauge what chance it might have in the race?
If it runs poorly in a lead-up race, then it probably has no chance in the Cup anyway. A top-six finish in any of the main lead-up races, such as the Herbert Power or Geelong Cup, is surely a minimum. With a higher quality race, such as a Cox Plate, just running at Group 1 level would suffice, regardless of finish.
Why can’t we get the best field of in-form horses into the race to provoke even more interest, and possibly more betting turnover as a result?
There has to be a solution to the growing problem of inferior big race fields. Maybe those framing betting markets provide the best answer, but it doesn’t take Einstein to figure out that those horses who perform to high standard in key lead-up races should get preference over those that don’t.