Following Tuesday’s debacle, surely the International Cup – once the Melbourne Cup – can’t be in the trifecta of Australia’s best races.
Once regarded as audacious to suggest it wasn’t in the quinella, now, with influx of invaders, the Big One is lucky to make the top six.
Since Makybe Diva (2004), the winners are hardly stamped for turf immortality. Yes, it is a handicap and two-milers are special, but today’s Vic Sprint Classic, spiced but not overwhelmed by internationals, is superior.
Over here: Cross Counter and Kerrin McEvoy win the Melbourne Cup.Credit:Joe Armao
Mind you, it promises to be even better than the Everest at Randwick, with Redzel, a sprinter that epitomises everything that is good about the Australian turf, again attempting the double.
However, the race that stopped a nation had a foundation of great Australasian horses and those that made them going back to 1861.
Now this has been swamped by internationals for world recognition.
Like The Everest at Royal Randwick and Birdsville Cup, the Melbourne Cup is a great social event, done so well by the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington, but for purists, those who prefer betting to booze, it is lagging even further behind Derby day.
On so many fronts this year, the Big One lost dimension. No doubt the winner, Cross Counter, is real good but got a dream run from the handicapper, if not the opposition, with only 51kg and probably could have scored with another two or three kilos.
After all, Cross Counter was hampered avoiding the fallen The CliffsofMoher and steadied near the 500 metres.
Most form guides had Cross Counter carrying bandages for the first time: a definite deterrent. Bandages are applied when horses are having a problem and none are minor when it comes to a Melbourne Cup.
Apparently connections applied for their use but withdrew it. Alas the change didn’t make the early form guides. There is no complaint regarding the connections, but why wasn’t it publicly and loudly announced by officials?
The race book, the official organ, had bandages listed. After rain it would be expected they would be removed, but he was never going to have them anyway and the seed of doubt had been planted and added another reason for Tuesday’s fiasco category.
Of course, the whip rule got a nice old flogging by jockeys concerning the number of strikes before the 100 metres – a dumb rule which Jamie Stier, current playmaker for Victorian integrity, would like to fix along British lines.
Jockeys in a 3200 metres staying test must get their horses into a winning position by the 100 metres, and that requires strength and persuasion. In the heat of battle they can lose count.
Perhaps Hugh Bowman on runner-up Marmelo was a tad excessive with seven over the limit, but his mount is a difficult case emphasised by him attempting to savage Avalius, who struck further trouble from the fallen horse, The Cliffsofmoher – the fifth to take the longest count in the last six Melbourne Cups, another blight on the race.
Apart from Admire Rakti from Japan, those that didn’t survive for long were European-breds.
"Soft horses,” Tommy Smith, a purveyor of equine wisdom, once decreed. Perhaps daughter Gai Waterhouse won a Melbourne Cup with one, Fiorente, but Smith always maintained she was more patient than he was.
The Caulfield Cup, too, traditionally a contender for a top-three position, has lost credence in recent years with the invader influence, and Best Solution, while highly talented, didn’t live up to the performance on Tuesday.
A European group 1 winner, Best Solution was expected to get a sweet run but never looked likely.
Maybe he was tardy previously scoring at Caulfield, described as a “massive win”, but in the quickly subsiding Big One missed the jump by six lengths.
The major spring double legs are becoming races to forget, missing my top based on recent years and historical relevance. With apologies for lack of staying recognition, my top six races are: Cox Plate 1, Doncaster 2, Newmarket (Flemington) 3, Manikato 4, T.J. Smith (at Randwick) 5, and the Golden Slipper 6.
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