Well yes, I am talking to the ‘Power’ of the Melbourne Cup, in this case, racing journalist Danny Power who has written the new book ‘The Modern Melbourne Cup’, which discusses the changing nature of the great race.
Of recent years the Melbourne cup has shifted from being the event that enthrals Australia to one that enthrals the world. Metaphorically the cup has lost it’s concave shape and assumed the shape of a globe. The cup has gone global but this in not to everyone’s taste. Its rare now for a poorer local horse to succeed in a world of big money. Whatever ones opinion, Australia has learned from the experience of welcoming horses from around the world to our race.
The influx isn’t an entirely new thing. As far back as 1890 New Zealand has been part of the Melbourne cup, one of the most famous horses of all time Carbine made the trip from the south island to Australia for the Cup.
It wasn’t until modern times that the game changed dramatically with horses from the northern hemisphere making the journey but what was once a novelty has now become the norm. With Irish trainer Dermot Weld and his stayer Vintage Crop being the first of an international stampede, others followed from France, England and the USA.
Weld’s trip with Vintage Crop wasn’t his first. He was knowledgeable with Australia having worked in Tommy Smith’s stables and was even familiar with horses in a poetic sense from reading the writings of Banjo Patterson.
The new arrivals brought more than just their horses, they also brought their vastly different ideas about training. Vintage Crop for instance, didn’t race before the cup in any of the usual lead up races, in fact he had not raced for seven weeks prior to his arrival at the Cup.
There are two kinds of horses in racing,the stayers and the sprinters, the latter often unkindly referred to as squibs. The sprinters are the equine Usain Bolts, the stayers are in it for the long haul just as it seems the overseas horses are, having firmly entrenched themselves in Australia’s great race.
And what of this years Cup.
Danny believes that Dermott Weld’s trained winner of the Irish leger’ Voleuse De Coeurs’ translated as ‘Thief of the heart’ may not be up to it this year simply because Dermot will not be training the horse in Australia and it will be difficult for the horse to familiarise itself with a new trainer. Instead he tips the Aga Khan’s horse ‘Verema’ as this years possible winner. It is the first time the Aga Khan will race a horse in the Melbourne cup.
The Melbourne cup is now a race made up substantially of northern hemisphere horses whether owned overseas or by Australians willing to pay the big money. Danny believes that once the money dries up, Australia will need to once again concentrate on breeding its own Melbourne cup winners.
But the world’s part in the Melbourne cup is here to stay and it has valuable lessons for the Australian racing industry.
‘The modern Melbourne cup’ is out now by Slattery Media.