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For the third year in a row, the Melbourne Cup was run without a fatality. It is a welcome sign Racing Victoria’s more stringent vetting protocols on horse fitness are working after a spate of European-trained horse deaths between 2013-21 tarnished the image of the race that stops a nation.
If the requirements lead to a perceived drop in quality of international horses from overseas but future-proofs Australia’s great race then so be it.
Mark Zahra wins the Melbourne Cup aboard Without A Fight.Credit: Getty Images
The race itself will go down as one of the more memorable editions not involving Makybe Diva or master trainer Bart Cummings.
In a brutally run race, Without A Fight became only the 12th horse to complete the treasured Caulfield-Melbourne Cups double, and the first since Ethereal in 2001. His time of three minutes 18.57 seconds was the eighth fastest in the race’s 163-year history.
The Freedman family won the race for a sixth time, this time under the names of Anthony and his son Sam, whose uncle Lee Freedman is a five-time winner. They still have plenty of work to catch Cummings on 12.
After a decade of decline, TV ratings were up with Channel Ten — in the final year of its broadcast deal before handing over to Nine, publisher of this masthead — boasting a 12 per cent rise in national viewers to 1.68 million from last year’s 1.5 million. There was also a spike in metro viewers, of eight per cent, from 1.02 million to 1.11 million.
But they are still well down on the 2.12 million in 2014, the catch being that general TV audiences have also declined in that period.
This year’s Melbourne Cup crowd was up on last year.Credit: Chris Hopkins
The sunshine brought the fans back to the track with a crowd of 84,492 on hand at Flemington, the highest attendance since 2017, up 14.5 per cent on the 73,816 who braved cold conditions to see Gold Trip win 12 months ago.
Crowds are still well down on the halcyon days of the 2000s when attendances exceeding 100,000 were common and betting on the races was something easier done at the track.
Irish stayer Vauban came to Australia with an enormous reputation after blitzing his rivals at Royal Ascot in June, further enhanced after a scintillating piece of track work last week.
But the bubble burst when he finished 14th, 13.35 lengths behind the winner. It is the 10th year in a row in which the favourite has been beaten.
The lesson for punters? Don’t get carried away by a foreign-trained horse who supposedly beats the handicapper with no better than group 3 form in Europe. Back the acclimatised import instead.
Though it was by no means a wretched day for punters, not one single favourite got up on the 10-race card. Of more concern to some racegoers would have been the long queues for a drink. This column noted there were lines snaking back 50 metres in the early afternoon when the mercury pushed up towards 30.
Vauban was the pre-race favourite.Credit: Getty Images
No horse deaths, no track vandals, so we’re targeting the Reserve Bank for saving their first interest rate rise in five months for the first Tuesday in November. Yes, we know it’s only a public holiday in Melbourne but if there’s a day punters can be spared bad news surely this is the one.
While we’re at it, this column’s streak of picking the Melbourne Cup winner has been snapped – at one. Our selection, Breakup, finished a disappointing 16th. Hats off to this masthead’s chief racing writer Damien Ractliffe and Carlton ruck Breann Moody, daughter of trainer Peter Moody, for tipping Without A Fight.
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