Melbourne Cup – A sigh of relief

Verry Elleegant has exacted revenge on English gelding Addeybb with a tenacious Ranvet Stakes victory. Picture:

After what’s been a dreary, rain-soaked, bitterly cold winter here in Melbourne springs finally arrived.

The sun’s shining and even the flowers are starting to bloom and smile again — the birds are twittering gleefully in the once barren trees that are now flush with vibrant colour and new leaves.

But what we’re thankful for and warming the cockles of everyone’s heart is, our restrictions have finally lifted after a world record number of days in lockdown.

We’ve all breathed a collective sigh of relief after serving time in what feels like an eternity behind bars.

But the confinement has taken its toll on everyone.

We’re mentally, physically, and emotionally COVID fatigued.

And because so many have been working from home, comfort eating has also been an issue with many stacking on the calories.

The financial burdens brought to bear on hundreds of thousands of families is staggering.

More than 156,000 people in the Victorian hospitality industry have lost their jobs.

And about 650,000 hospitality workers Australia wide.

We’ll never know or be able to quantify the full extent of the human suffering and economic damage.

Some countries will emerge scarred, but stronger for the experience.

But some smaller economies could be teetering on the brink of collapse.

Only God knows how they’ll recover, if ever, because they aren’t anywhere near like the resource rich developed nations.

Despite the doom and gloom, a lot looked forward to our homegrown Melbourne Cup Carnival.

Win, lose or draw — we’ll get a thrill watching the best stayers in the world fight it out for the coveted crown.

Some say it’s only a horse race, so what’s the big deal?

Unless anyone’s worked or had some form of association with the industry, it appears to be just that — another horse race.

Thankfully, I’m one of the fortunate few who’s had the opportunity of working in the industry as the enclosed photograph will testify (that’s me standing at the back 5th from right with dark hair).

It was my very first job in the Melbourne Radio Industry.

I came to know many of the famous sporting identities whom I had the immense pleasure of working with.

They were an amazing bunch and extremely kind and generous to the kid “fresh off the canoe”.

Radio 3DB where I worked was the premier Racing and Sports Station at the time and located in Melbourne’s bustling CBD.

What an experience it turned out to be as I began rubbing shoulders with the racing and sporting elite.

People like the legendary Melbourne Cup Race Caller, Bill Collins, lived in an office just a few doors down from me.

I would often saunter into his sanctuary for a yarn with the great man.

It was also my way of getting to learn the ropes in an industry I knew very little about.

Bill was an absolute gentleman, humble and so very helpful.

Having to adjust to a new way of life in a new country, not to mention a new job, was challenging as it was overwhelming.

But I’m glad I hitched my wagon to some of these wonderful people whom I have the greatest respect and admiration for.

I can still remember one of the tips the late Bill Collins gave me.

He said, “Col, back your horse for a Place only bet. That way you’ll get three chances of winning. If it comes in 1st, 2nd or 3rd, you’ll collect!’

For many years since, I’ve followed his sage advice and walked away with modest winnings.

Because as everyone knows, betting’s a “mugs game!”

Australia’s premier Racetrack did not host the 100,000 plus people it usually does with all the fashion and fanfare.

However, this year’s spectacle has about 10,000 people.

The rest of us watched on TV.

About this time every year there’s a flurry of interest in the race that stops the nation.

And it doesn’t matter where you live in Australia, the nation comes to an abrupt standstill for the three or so minutes of the race.

It’s a gruelling two-mile event where some of the world’s best stayers compete for prizes totalling nearly $8 million dollars.

The serious punters study their form guide and previous race meets, weeks before the event.

They put the final touches to their selections after the Barrier Draw’s was announced.

Then another very important piece of the puzzle in their final selection will be the weather and the track rating.

Forecast for Tuesday in November was 29 degrees and mostly fine.

So the track was good.

It suited horses that are good on solid ground.

Watching a serious punter go about their business trying to select a winner is quite intriguing as it’s amusing.

They’ll go over the field of runners with a fine toothcomb, slowly weeding out the ones they think have little chance of coming in the top four.

They’ll also watch for weight variations where certain horses are weighted with far too much to carry over the trip.

For example, last year’s winner, Twilight Payment is carrying 58kg in this year’s race.

It’s a whopping weight for the gruelling tempo of the two miles event.

But it won recently overseas carrying nearly the same weight.

So, it’s still in with a chance of coming into the top four placing.

But it’ll be hard lugging the big weight especially towards the end of the race.

However, the professional punters focussed on horses who have snuck into the field carrying a light weight.

For example, last year’s second placegetter, Tiger Moth, nearly caused a boil over against the eventual eight-year-old winner, Twilight Payment.

Tiger Moth carried only 50kg and nearly nicked the prize.

This year, it’s horses such as Sir Lucan, a three-year-old, that’s snuck into the field carrying 50kg.

The only query against this horse was — its never run the 3200 metres.

But neither has the favourite, Incentivise’ before the race, another horse I felt that’s snuck in light is was the Knight’s Order.

It won the Brisbane Cup in June this year carrying 59kg and ran home to win in a time of three minutes and 22 seconds.

Carrying only 53kg in the Melbourne Cup.

The 6kg weight advantage, expert said would come into play especially towards the finish.

For most people though, it’s all about having a little fun and a flutter.

And many will back a horse because they like the name, number, or the colour of the jockey’s racing strip.

Most bet only once a year.

And I’m no different.

After the Melbourne Cup Carnival’s over, we hang up our punting pens.

So, who’s going to win is anyone’s guess.

Incentivise was the favourite.

He absolutely blitzed the competition in the Caulfield Cup.

But it was Verry Elleegant’s winning style that has tongues wagging.

As he romped home a few lengths ahead of his nearest rival, he looked like he still had plenty of gas left in the tank and making its owners millions of dollars.


• COLIN DEOKI is a regular contributor to this newspaper. The views expressed are the author’s and not of this newspaper.


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