Steve Moran

Steve reflects on the ‘great race’ as the dust has settled on the 2016 Melbourne Cup

And he probably had more to do with the training of a third, Efficient (Zabeel) than his ‘official’ trainer back in 2007 but I probably don’t need to go there again!

It was, of course, a second win in the race for the very successful, in-form, affable and unassuming jockey Kerrin McEvoy.

It was a fifth win for owner Lloyd Williams which interests me about as much as the inane media releases from the VRC about which B grade celebrities will be attending certain marquees. Curiously they never come with an invite to said circus tents?

No, really I’m not being churlish. I’m far too old and grumpy and uncool to be hanging around with the beautiful (young) people….and good luck to Williams. He is a major employer in the industry and his win here with a horse who had two years off, with a tendon injury, and a month off immediately before the Cup in the European way, was impressive.

But nobody among the rank and file racing fans really cares too much about who owns a horse, no matter who it is. Save for a few fawning members of the racing media. Although I guess I wouldn’t have minded chewing the racing fat over a couple of dry martinis with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.

Somewhat remarkably it was the third Melbourne Cup in the past four years to be sired by Monsun (Konigsstuhl) – who just might have another Group One winner on Australian soil when Vadamos lines up in Saturday’s Emirates Stakes (registered as Mackinnon Stakes) (Gr 1, 2000m).

Could this possibly precipitate a rush to breed to his sire sons in a bid to create a Melbourne Cup winner? Maybe to Fiorente who, of course, won the race in 2013.

I’d like to think that mightn’t be a bad idea but ironically it’s even less likely to happen after the events of the past few weeks when Charlie Appleby arrived from the UK to win the Geelongand Bendigo Cups and the Lexus.

Now this, of course, is not a terrible, terrible thing as Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin is,like Mr Williams, a major employer in this country and the prize money won is all part of the global funding required to sustain his racing operation.

But what if Monsieur Fabre next year decides to bring half a dozen high class mile to middle distance horses, for European clients with no investment in Australian racing, and takes everything in that range from the Toorak to the Cantala to the Emirates (Mackinnon) Stakes?

Or if next year it’s another UK-based trainer, for English clients, who decides to do an ‘Applebly’ and rip $1,250,000 from the local prize money pool.

That’s a lot of money potentially lost to local investors and a massive disincentive to be prepared to invest in a locally, bred staying horse with the perception – and near reality – that you can’t compete with the overseas bred and trained staying horse.

Tis becoming hackneyed I know, but the alarms bell are ringing loud. Just three New Zealand-bred and one Australian-bred horse ran in this year’s Melbourne Cup.

Good ‘ol Who Shot Thebarman (Yamamin Vital) is doing his best, for the Anzacs, to attempt to hold the fort against the marauding huns with his brave fifth yesterday and his third place two ears ago.

That, of course, is not entirely true with the New Zealand-bred Prince Of Penzance (Pentire) winning the race last year. That begs the question as to whether it’s the horses we breed or the way we train them?

Possibly a bit of both. Probably more the training to be frank. But either way the local owner and trainer needs to be incentivised and I doubt opening the doors to all comers to all spring races is the answer.

Equally and ironically, I’m not sure if a ‘protectionist’ strategy is the answer either but it’s a question which needs to be asked. I’m certainly happy to be all very egalitarian when it comes to the Melbourne Cup but only a handful of this year’s nine overseas trained runners really were ‘value add’ to the race and I see little point inviting B graders to the the Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) (there’s marquees for them, remember).

While you can certainly argue that the internationalisation of the race did revitalise the Melbourne Cup, the need for so many visitors has waned against the backdrop of the Australian acquisitions which now run (to wit Almandin) and longer term with the hope that we will begin to breed a better stayer with the increased availability and patronage, just in recent years, of staying bred stallions.

A greater spread in the weights, a change to the penalty conditions and prize money increases to other local staying races might assist.

Of course, we could – while in the process of slashing 500 metres from the Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) distance – do likewise to the Melbourne Cup….only kidding!

One thing I would certainly change is the ridiculous process of penalising certain winners but not others (namely weight-for-age winners). The race is billed as being the world’s great two mile handicap but, in truth, it’s about as removed from being a true handicap as an Australian-bred horse was from winning it yesterday.

Hartnell (Authorized) was clearly the highest rated runner in this year’s race but not the topweight. Sir John Hawkwood (Sir Percy) wins The Metropolitan (Gr 1, 2400m) which is nearer to Group Three status than Group One, and gets a 1.5 kg penalty while Hartnell smashes the subsequent Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Jameka (Myboycharlie) in the Turnbull Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) and cannot be penalised.

Solution? Issue provisional weights at the usual time and then release final weights, say, in the week before the Cup with provision to penalise the Lexus or Derby winner should they happen to run. Either that or just stop calling the race a bloody handicap.

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