Derby Day

Still in Aus and still suffering from jetlag – I suspect I’ll finally get over it when it’s time to go home.  I travelled over with Stephen Morana, Betfair’s Chief Financial Officer, who is also feeling it.  I had a busy day Wednesday, finishing late in the office – Stephen was asleep in his chair.  We walked back to the hotel – I had an early night but hardly slept a wink.

We were up early on Thursday to catch the first plane to Hobart.  Our Australasian business is a 50:50 joint venture with Crown Limited, an Australian company that was formerly a big part of PBL, a large media group extensively owned and run by the Packer family for many years.  At the office we met up with Ed (BF Chairman) who had flown in from Sydney and some others.

Hobart is very different to Melbourne.  I didn’t see the city centre.  Most of the houses I saw were single story and detached – land isn’t expensive and it seems they prefer to build out rather than up.  Most were wood clad and brightly painted.  The scenery is incredibly beautiful and the whole place felt clean and eco – very quiet compared to the hustle bustle of Melbourne. 

We had a tour of the office and I was supposed to sit down with Ed for a Q&A with staff.  I didn’t feel up to it and ducked out – I’m nervy about interviews in general but I was feeling particularly grim after my sleepless night and I thought I might be sick.  Stephen took my place next to Ed and they did a good job.  We had a BBQ afterwards and I perked up.  Ed and I had an afternoon interview with a couple of journos from the Mercury, Tasmania’s largest daily paper.  We had a look in our comms room – a massive set up, and among other statistics we had 39 kilometres of cable in there.  We flew back later and had dinner in town with a few others.  I didn’t stay late – that night I finally had a good night’s sleep.

Friday was a board meeting and I was hoping to make it along, but I didn’t find the time.  I did a radio interview early and then a long interview with Thoroughbred Magazine.  After that we went to the Derby Day lunch which ran late into the afternoon.

Most of the big names from racing were there and many were interviewed.  There was lively and friendly debate about the Derby from most involved.  One exception was the trainer of the odds on favourite, Mark Kavanagh, who was sitting quite close to me – he did a very strange interview. 

There’s been a lot of debate in the papers about the number of European raiders in the Melbourne Cup – this year the top of the betting is dominated by GB&I trained horses.  Bart Cummings, the Hall of Fame trainer known as the ‘Melbourne Cup King’, has been vocal on the subject and he thinks there should be a cap on the number of foreign raiders.  Others, including Royal Ascot raider Gai Waterhouse disagree.

Cummings makes a fair argument but I think he’s wrong.  The Aussie sprint raiders at Royal Ascot have become a big and popular part of the festival – it gives the meeting an international flavour and it’s healthy rivalry.  There is an emphasis on sprint distances and 2yo types in Australian racing which leads to less Melbourne Cup types (hence the European dominance this year), but that won’t be the case forever.  I’m increasingly happy with Profound Beauty – unfortunately I haven’t backed her yet and the price is getting ever shorter.  I’m not allowed to bet on Betfair on anything Aussie – the regulations are tougher out there than they are in the UK.

I got back to the hotel at around 5 p.m.  Stephen and I were invited to dinner that night, but things finally caught up with him – he crashed out in his room and I couldn’t wake him.  He finally woke at 9:30 and after making our apologies we headed out for a very late bite to eat, getting back in the early hours.

Saturday was Derby day.  Racing starts early at Flemington – the first race is at 10:20 and the ten race card (all group races with four group 1’s) finishes at 5:15.  After a dull start it turned out to be a glorious day.  It was a sell out crowd of 117,776 which is the biggest I’ve ever seen.  I took this picture moments before the big race.


The average age of the crowd was young by UK standards and there were almost as many women as men.  Racing is far more mainstream in Aus than it is in the UK and the papers devote huge amounts of space to it.

The day was a massive drinkfest.  I was on my feet the whole time, I drank a lot and I got sunburnt.  It was an amazing experience, but I was on my last legs when I got back at around 7 p.m.  The younger guys in our group headed off to the bars in town to carry it on.  I had a quick kip and got up a little later feeling hungry.  Stephen and I headed into the Crown Casino for a bite to eat late on – my legs were so tired I could barely walk.  This morning after a good night’s sleep I feel the best I’ve felt all week – we’re going to the Rugby League international today (England/Australia) which is not a sport I know a lot about but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.  Onward and upward.

Nicky Nutjob ran poorly in the week – he was sold along with Skid Solo and Parisian Gift in the HIT.  All sold badly.  I think NN may be a resell into the NH market next year – he may have the scope to make a decent hurdler one day.  PG is potentially a significantly above average handicapper.  Skid has talent but has been frustrating.

Kings Head was down to run yesterday but was withdrawn after the early rain.  Cheddar George was entered but the ground came up too soft – he’ll come out soon.  I think Tikka Masala comes out on the A/W on Monday.