Turn it up! Has the Cup lost its sheen?

Is it just me, or is the Melbourne Cup losing its wow factor? It just seems it has lost some of its magic and mystique.

Let's hope, for the sake of the strength of the racing industry, it is just me.

But I suspect I am not the only one who is not drawn to the great race as I was a decade ago. It has become a race full of horses I am not really interested in watching. I did not know many of them existed until weeks or even days ago.

The winner certainly falls into that category. To me, he is just another European horse, a situation made worse by the fact he seems to be trained by a blue juggernaut, rather than a horseman.

What Cross Counter did was truly remarkable, there is no doubt about that. But it is hard to feel part of the race or part of the story when watching him.

There is little emotional connection for an Australasian racing fan.

Take me back 10 years to when nearly every horse ran in leadup races from 1600m and progressed up in distance to peak on the first Tuesday in November. That made watching the Mackinnon Stakes on the before cup day compulsory.

Take me back to when the a character like the great Bart Cummings trained the horses, not a faceless corporation or team.

Take me back to when the jockeys were also real characters - the Shayne Dyes, the Jimmy Cassidys the Glen Bosses.

Take me back to when the race was filled with New Zealand-breds.

Unfortunately those days are gone and they will not return. Australia has become obsessed with sprinters and can not possibly fill its own race.

New Zealand used to help out, but it seems we are moving the same way.

Now the greatest race the two countries have is filled up with European horses with which we have no connection.

The hardiest fans trawl through videos and get a line on each European horse's form. But to many, like me, they are just names in the race book.

There are no Might And Powers, Makybe Divas and Saintlys, no horses of the people.

Australasian buyers have been importing plenty of European stayers and I think having them trained here and racing in leadup races is the solution to Australasia's staying woes. That way at least we are watching horses we know, even if they are European cast-offs.

Of course, my concerns about the cup pale in significance to the subject of animal welfare.

The interest in this year's race should be overshadowed by the death of Cliffsofmoher.

Horse welfare is a huge priority for the racing industry. Those of us on the inside know that and see the measures that are taken to protect racehorses.

The question is are racing bodies doing enough to demonstrate that?

I think they are and that anti-racing campaigners would ignore any demonstrating of welfare practices anyway.

That Cliffsofmoher broke his shoulder was a tragic accident.
What a disgrace it is that people with an agenda use that as a vehicle to promote themselves.

Happy and not so happy trails.

jonny.turner@odt.co.nz

 

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