On Sunday we decided to go on a walk around the town. We went up to the MCG and the Rod Laver Arena, crossed over the Yarra river and came back through the park. There was a lot going on – marketplaces, street entertainers and artists. Although the trees and birds were different to the UK the architecture wasn’t so different, but it was obvious that it wasn’t the UK.
The first clear difference was the overall feeling of space. Roads and pavements and grass verges are much wider, there is more grass in general. There were more and better amenities. Along the riverside we saw a number of permanent public BBQs, all being used. The public toilets were clean and extremely ornate. There were loads of people out and about.
I had planned to go to the rugby later on but I decided to get on with work instead – a good decision as we were thrashed by a strong Aussie team. On Monday I was back in the Betfair office for a couple of interviews before heading off for a charity lunch in a local pub. It ended up being a long and fairly boozy day – I set the alarm to get up at 3 a.m. and watch Tikka Masala in her race at Wolverhampton. She ran poorly.
The big day finally came today. It’s another 10 race card with an early start, but I decided not to get there until 12. I wanted to back Profound Beauty but I’m not allowed to do it on Betfair and I needed cash – I walked into town to find a bank. Unfortunately the banks were all shut – Melbourne Cup day is a bank holiday. Sport is big news in Melbourne – there can’t be many other places in the world where they would schedule a bank holiday because of a horse race. I got a bit of cash out of a few ATMs but gave up on the idea of a big bet.
Later we were at the track, and as before it was packed. There were around 107,000 people there – a massive number. I blindly backed Sheikh Mohammed’s runners for the first three races I was there and got one winner at 5.4. The big race finally came – I put all my cash down, mostly on Profound Beauty to win but covering a few trifectas (tricasts). A huge cheer went up when the gates opened.
The early part of the race was extraordinary. The three Ballydoyle runners worked their way to the front and surged clear of the field by 6 lengths or more. They held this position up until the final bend when they were swallowed up by the field, ultimately finishing 18th, 20th and 21st out of the 21 finishers. It seemed obvious during the race that they would blow up going at that pace, and it looked like a major tactical blunder – it’s hard to imagine why they did it.
As they came round the final bend I thought Profound Beauty was going better than anything but she faded to 5th – Viewed held on by a nostril from the faster finishing Bauer, giving Bart Cummings his 12th winner in the race. Glen Boss suggested Profound Beauty started feeling the ground when asked to quicken in the home straight – very firm ground is normal out here and it’s probably the biggest single issue for foreign raiders.
I headed back after the race, sunburnt and cashless. It’s an amazing spectacle and is a pilgrimage that all horse racing enthusiasts should try to make at least once – I hope I’ll do it again and who knows, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to have a runner one day. Last day tomorrow – I’ll do some shopping before I head back to Blighty in the afternoon.