Australia: Melbourne Cup, The Race That Restarts A Nation

The Melbourne Cup, one of the great horse races on the planet – and probably the greatest cultural event in global racing – will be staged this Monday night (Post Time: 11:00 p.m. ET / 8:00 p.m. PT). Long referred to as “the race that stops a nation,” the Cup has famously brought sessions of parliament to a halt. However, as its host city emerges from one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, this year’s renewal might be more accurately referred to as “the race that restarts a nation.”

Melbourne has been the country’s coronavirus hotspot, with a stringent lockdown of almost four months being eased just in the past week. While still unable to attend the races, the public is simply rejoicing in the newly found freedom to visit a pub or enter a TAB (the vast network of off-track wagering facilities, many of which are now contained within pubs – allowing the confluence of two great Aussie pastimes!).

While Flemington Racecourse won’t play host to fans, it will welcome eight European horses as part of the 24-strong field competing for an $8 million purse. In a wide-open betting market – even by Melbourne Cup standards – wagering is headed by a trio of Euros. When rain delivered his preferred soft going, Irish import Sir Dragonet landed a betting plunge (12-1 into 6-1) winning the W.S. Cox Plate in his Australian debut. The Cox Plate is a highly prestigious weight-for-age race at 1 1/4 miles, in stark contrast to the two-mile Melbourne Cup under handicap conditions. Jockey Glen Boss, who became part of Melbourne Cup folklore aboard the race’s only three-time winner, Makybe Diva, declared that Sir Dragonet (9-1) can capture the Cox Plate – Melbourne Cup double (last achieved, coincidentally, by Makybe Diva in 2005). However, Monday night’s firmer footing might be a bigger issue than the race’s conditions.

The other Europeans vying for favoritism share two impressive common denominators: the blood of Galileo and the conditioning of Aiden O’Brien. Tiger Moth (8-1) was narrowly beaten in this year’s Irish Derby and will be making just his fifth career start. The race’s 129-pound highweight is Anthony Van Dyck (7-1), who won the 2019 English Derby and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Anthony Van Dyck was an excellent second in his Australian debut and could provide a first Melbourne Cup win for Hugh Bowman, regular rider of the great Winx. Similarly, the Cup has eluded Winx’s trainer, Chris Waller. Another mare would become Waller’s second most famous horse, if Verry Elleegant (12-1) can replicate her victory over Anthony Van Dyck in the traditional prep race, the Caulfield Cup. Waller is also represented by a son of Frankel named Finche (17-1), who has performed consistently at the highest level in Australia since being imported two years ago. Finche has finished on the heels of the placegetters in the past two Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

As racing has become globalized, Australian horses have struggled to withstand the avalanche of international runners. Vow and Declare bucked the trend last year, becoming the first Aussie winner since 2009. Vow and Declare has lost form and is a 60-1 shot to repeat, but last year’s winning rider, Craig Williams, has partnered with another Australian horse in Surprise Baby – whose sire happens to be that 2009 Australian-bred winner, Shocking. Surprise Baby was fifth in last year’s Melbourne Cup, beaten just a length in a blanket finish, and has strong claims again at 9-1. While Vow and Declare is unlikely to repeat, his trainer Danny O’Brien also has Russian Camelot (12-1) coming off a third-place finish in the Cox Plate (he and Cox Plate winner, Sir Dragonet, are both sired by 2012 English and Irish Derby winner, Camelot).

Three jockeys – ­Glen Boss (Sir Dragonet), Kerrin McEvoy (Tiger Moth) and Damien Oliver (Russian Camelot) – have three wins in the great race and would equal the all-time record with one more triumph. Also of interest in the riding ranks is Jamie Kah, who currently leads the Melbourne jockey standings. Kah will have her first mount in the Cup and first ride on Prince of Arran (11-1). Her Melbourne Cup inexperience is balanced by the hardy 8-year-old gelding, who has finished second and third in the past two Melbourne Cups. Kah seeks to emulate Michelle Payne, who rode through the gender barrier in 2015 on 100-1 winner Prince of Penzance. Longshots abound throughout Melbourne Cup history and the strike rate of favorites is a meager 21%, so play your fancy and enjoy the spectacular spectacle.

The Flemington card will be broadcast on TVG this Monday night (First Post: 6:45 p.m. ET / 3:45 p.m. PT) alongside cards from Randwick, Doomben and Ascot. All races will also be live-streamed in HD with past performances available for free at skyracingworld.com and major ADW platforms. The new Pick 7 wager is available on the Flemington (AUS-A) card across races 4-10.  Wagering is available via all the major ADW platforms such as TVG, TwinSpiresXpressbet, NYRABets, WatchandWagerHPIbetAmWager, and BetAmerica.

A native of Brisbane, Australia, Michael Wrona has called races in six countries. Michael’s vast U.S. experience includes; race calling at Los Alamitos, Hollywood Park, Arlington and Santa Anita, calling the 2000 Preakness on a national radio network and the 2016 Breeders’ Cup on the International simulcast network. Michael also performed a race call voiceover for a Seinfeld episode called The Subway.

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