IT’S been a bad week for Australian racing fans – oh what a shame!
First the Melbourne Cup became a raiders benefit, to such an extent that surely officials will rename it the European Melbourne Cup (the race that stops Europe) in 2019.
Then their beloved Winx was no longer the top rated horse on the planet, as she now shares her 130 mark with brilliant Champion Stakes hero Cracksman.
Having come at me like a croc in Crocodile Dundee when I questioned the talent of the horses Winx had been beating in a recent trip Down Under, I can’t say I’m surprised or disappointed.
I actually did warn locals that the official handicappers would rate Cracksman as the clear best on the planet if they took his Ascot success literally. Because of the testing ground, they didn’t.
Of course in the main it’s all friendly banter, and if it gets people talking about horse racing then that’s terrific. In the modern era there are not enough discussions about this great game. The more it’s yapped about the more younger generations will enjoy the banter and join in the fun. And we need young blood living and breathing the Sport of Kings.
As for the Melbourne Cup, well firstly there are only congratulations for trainer Charlie Appleby and his Godolphin team, jockey Kerrin McEvoy and of course Cross Counter, the hero of the Melbourne Cup.
Not only did we send over the winner, but Hughie Morrison had the runner-up Marmelo, and young (ish) Charlie Fellowes the third in A Prince of Arran.
And that’s not all. Ex French Finche was fourth and Rostropovich fifth.
That’s all good news.
But here is my problem with the Melbourne Cup.
When Dermot Weld made his history by landing the prize with Vintage Crop in 1994 he was joined in the event by just Drum Taps. The challenge of winning the Cup from the Aussies and those in New Zealand was everything. And in defeating the locals Weld conquered a nation.
In 2018, though, that challenge no longer existed.
It was not a case of if we (Europe) would win the Melbourne Cup, but rather of deciding with which horse our army would kill off the limited mainly non-staying opposition. As it happened I tipped up
Marmelo on social media – not my first second in the race that now stops Europe.
So unless the Australians limit Euro challengers, which is unlikely, it’s hard to think European horses won’t dominate the Cup for years to come.
Quite simply Australian breeders are only interested in sprinting or milers, and the staying division is weak – very weak.
Breeders, owners and trainers Down Under have to change their mentality. Otherwise the beloved Cup will not be staying home much in the future. And if nothing else that should worry fans of Australia’s much loved late handler Bart Cummings. He must be watching down on high with his head in his hands.
A European horse winning the Melbourne Cup was close to the end of Bart’s world.
Of course what the Melbourne Cup result also did was reiterate the lack of strength in the opposition.
Winx is facing when she runs over a mile and a quarter. Something Australians could not come to terms with during Cox Plate when I was called a ‘****head’ for suggesting such blasphemy.
It was extraordinary watching horses like Yucatan, Best Solution and A Prince Of Arran mop up valuable Australian prizes in the Cup build up. Equine beasts well in the shadow of, for instance, Cracksman and Enable.
Such is the prize money on offer Europeans will always want to win the Melbourne Cup. And the build up to the event itself is brilliantly put on by the Flemington authorities. It’s addictive.
But you know what. The challenge of winning the great race is not what it once was – and that’s a real shame.
I’m heading to Wincanton today, and to be quite frank it will be a bit of a shock to the system.
After a week in Melbourne for the Cox Plate I had six days in Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup and then four days in Los Angeles to recharge the batteries.
Of course most of the trip was work, but I’m never going to kid myself it’s work like someone laying bricks all day.
Having come from no history in the sport – no dad or mum famous in my family – I still pinch myself that I am where I am. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard and have put my head down and battled all sorts of difficulties along the way.
But I am so lucky to experience so many wonderful days in racing. I love this sport. I breathe this sport.
And I will always be passionate about it.