The Racing Horse has grave concerns for the sanctity and identity of the MELBOURNE CUP believing the race to be in mortal danger. This is a plea to the custodians, the VRC Board in consultation with Racing Victoria, to change course now before it is too late!
Australia has been a nation in transition and one that has undergone a major personality change which has sometimes struggled to meet the challenges and diversity of changing times, but the Melbourne Cup has always managed to transcend that process. It remains so embedded in the country's psyche and DNA it courses through the veins of both new and old settlers.
Each year the emotional connection towards this race by an adoring Aussie public fuels drama and excitement to unprecedented levels. No other race in the world can compare or engender the same anticipation, engagement and delirium. The anticipation generates both an electric and contagious atmosphere ensuring each household, grandmother to grandson, feed on this giant monster buzz.
But this absolute love should not be taken for granted. With a mixture of fear and concern, and for the first time since 1861, the race is to be served on a platter to the likes of Coolmore and Godolphin, who care little about the sanctity or history of the race.
Australia does not have the sires, structure or patience to breed genuine stayers so opening the race up globally without protection will encourage/demand pillage. Alternatively, the big two have main access to the premier staying sires, and from now on will bring younger progressive European Group-rated horses with no weight to beat up the locals. Today's ease of travel and quarantine is no longer an issue. They will collect the winnings and bragging rights, congratulate themselves on a job of work well done, then plan their net assault for the following year! They will think nothing of those living in Ballarat, Bankstown or Bundaberg, care little about the importance of history, and even less about folklore. Consequently, it will crush and defile the nation's dreams by taking this celebration of Aussie sport out of reach of the domestic trainers of Australia and New Zealand.
It is only natural the VRC want to showcase their fabulous race to the world and celebrate its eminence and success. Those who unconditionally offer love and nutrition should be of paramount importance, and whilst accepting market place principles, selling the soul of the Melbourne Cup will damage what made it a titan in the first place. There is evidence of a simmering discontent from Australian trainers and some part of the general public, from here this can only fester and increase. A signal needs to be sent out after this year's race allaying the fears of the domestic audience.
Without serious readjustments the 2017 winner Rekindling will be remembered as the start of a demise. The three-year-old previously won a Group 3 and a Group 2 before travelling to Melbourne with just 8st 2lbs to carry. Australia provided 12 of the 23 runners (52%), and the Europeans 11 (48%) with UK & Ireland entering 9 of those runners (39%). New Zealand and Japan provided 0 runners. Of the first 11 places Australia provided just the fourth and eighth. If this was just a little disturbing domestically it was worse the following year.
Going down this new route the 2018 winner Cross Counter was another three-year-old carrying virtually no weight (just 8st) after winning a Group 3 before made favourite for a Group 2 (beaten a head). This time Australia provided a share of 11 from 24 (46%) whilst UK & Ireland ran 10 (42%). Of the first 12 places the home nation provided just 3 and once again the best position was fourth. Is this the start of a new trend? I believe it is...
We are reminded Australia contributed 16 runners (67%) of the field in 2012 whilst the UK & Ireland provided 6 (25%) but this figure has drastically changed over just seven years. Last year showed Australia with 11 (46%) runners whilst UK & Ireland ran 10 (42%):
2018: AUSTRALIA 11 (46%) UK & IRELAND 10 (42%) OTHERS 3 2017: AUSTRALIA 12 (50%) UK & IRELAND 9 (38%) OTHERS 3 2016: AUSTRALIA 14 (58%) UK & IRELAND 8 (33%) OTHERS 2 2015: AUSTRALIA 13 (54%) UK & IRELAND 9 (38%) OTHERS 2 2014: AUSTRALIA 12 (50%) UK & IRELAND 7 (29%) OTHERS 5 2013: AUSTRALIA 15 (63%) UK & IRELAND 7 (29%) OTHERS 2 2012: AUSTRALIA 16 (67%) UK & IRELAND 6 (25%) OTHERS 2
There were 16 Australian entries for 2012 for 67% but a significant drop to 11 for 2018 for 46% and a net reduction of 21%. The UK & Ireland contingent picked up those entries and rose from 6 (25%) to 10 (42%). So what should the maximum figure be for overseas entrants? Our view is a maximum of 6, leaving 18 places for the Australians and New Zealanders. It is absolutely imperative they are given the chance to win their own race and continue/add/build on its fabulous history - the alternative does not bear thinking about.
Talking of caps, it is wrong for any owner to have six runners in this race based on a bank balance ego. At best it is not in the spirit of the race but at worse obscene! Braggart Lloyd Williams negatively impacts on this spirit and part of the problem, especially if he intensifies his relationship with Coolmore. He is an Australian with an estimated wealth of A$700m and in 2017 had more than a quarter of the field running for him - what next 8-9-10? What if Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum wanted to own 12 of the runners in the race, would that secure the sanctity or history, would it take the race forward or be acceptable? A cap of two runners per owner is not unreasonable, the race must be bigger than any bank balance or ego - besides it is the people's race, it must remain the people's race!
The race rightly sits at the pinnacle of the Australian racing calendar and is the richest handicap in the world. Such is its importance Melbourne Cup Day is a local holiday in the state of Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) which is always celebrated each year on the first Tuesday of November at 3pm (Race 7). The 2019 edition is ran on Tuesday 5th November.
The Racing Horse fulfilled its racing ambition when invited to the 2017 Melbourne Cup. To be a bit part of this euphoric occasion along with another 90,536 plus inveterate gamblers with a TV audience estimated at 750 million from 163 nations, was the ultimate racing thrill. Prior to my visit I had always thought this race was the greatest borne out of Antipodean blood, sweat and tears, after racing I knew it!
I first fell in love with the Melbourne Cup in 1968 aged 17 when placing a bet in a Randwick TAB listening to Rain Lover win the first of his two wins under jockey Jim 'stand-up' Johnson. As a young £10 Pom I had never witnessed such levels of excitement in any environment let alone a horse race, and the consequent euphoria confirmed my allegiance/homage to the race that truly stops a nation. Regrettably, current terms of entry means there will be no more legendary heroes like Rain Lover, Phar Lap, or Makybe Diva, the sole triple Melbourne Cup winner (2003-05).
We are aware of the fabulous work by the VRC Board and believe they have acted in good faith, but inadvertently about to jeopardise the heart/character and soul of the most fantastic race in the world. We asked them to review the terms of entry before returning the 2020 version back to the Australian people but an initial response was in the negative.
Amanda Elliott is the VRC Chairman and when asked is the Melbourne Cup saturated by international horses she told us emphatically: "No! The VRC is proud to host a race that is so desired by connections all around the world. Every year we receive a very healthy number of international nominations, with the final field consisting of some of Europe’s highest-quality stayers. It is our aim to present the best staying race in the world, whether it be made up of local or international runners."
The Racing Horse will be providing all the racing trends, statistics and betting advice to help our members and readers find the winner of the 2019 Melbourne Cup where we filter the pretenders from the actual contenders.
Once we have the 24 runners and riders and have an idea of the ground conditions we will post our very best advice...
Today's Pacafi: click here
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