This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Matt Stewart of Melbourne Herald-Sun…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
HORSEPOWER THE LIFE OF THE PARTY
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – In Friday’s (Melbourne) Herald Sun there was a full-page ad of the like rarely, if ever, conjured up by the racing industry and presented in the nation’s biggest-selling daily newspaper.
Paid for by Racing Victoria, it promoted the first clash of sprint superstars Black Caviar and Hay List in the Patinack Farm Classic, run the next day.
It was a simple ad without fluff; just two horses facing off, their race records underneath and a banner that promised something raw and enthralling, a “Heavyweight Showdown”.
It did not require any other sexy elements to lure us through the gate; no popping champagne corks, no beautiful young people or a rock band after the last.
More than 77,000 people attended the final day of the four-day carnival, attracted, of course, by the usual party elements but also by the most simple and time-tested calling card racing has; the horse.
The horse, as opposed to horsing around, has been the successful theme of this spring carnival and racing has surely made some important inroads back into the hearts and minds of the wider community.
On Cox Plate day the mums, dads and kids swelled eight and 10-deep around So You Think’s stall an hour before the Cox Plate. They “ooohed” and “ahhed” at the horse’s beauty as they would at an animal at the zoo.
They were intoxicated by him, by his simplicity.
First timers who were there will return to the racetrack, knowing that amid the drunks and punters there are magnificent animals at the races, too.
Briefly, So You Think took the whole nation for an emotional ride.
Even non-racing types are captivated by a horse who is beautiful and unstoppable.
We saw that at Churchill Downs in Kentucky yesterday.
The Yanks couldn’t give two hoots about horse racing; to them it’s a grubby sport that attracts desperates and crooks and is conducted almost in secret, underground.
But the Yanks love a good story, even one that occurs on a racetrack.
As Zenyatta paraded and pawed the ground in her purple rug before her bid to win her 20th straight race, an entourage followed and a mob converged. Cameras flashed. For a few minutes, Zenyatta was an American superstar.
Back here So You Think has been that superstar, first for his quest to defy all sorts of historical hurdles to win the Melbourne Cup – before failing, bravely – then as a heart-breaker after his shock sale to Ireland’s all-consuming Coolmore Stud.
Rarely has Joe Public become so absorbed, so emotional, about the sale of a racehorse.
Fast colts with good pedigrees are bought and sold all the time. The Arab and Irish billionaires make irresistible offers and pluck the best from all parts of the globe so they can pit their poached horses against each other on the racetracks of Dubai, Europe and America.
This is the way of the racing world, a fact many of us only half accept.
There were two overwhelming sentiments after So You Think was sold to Ireland – parochialism and disappointment.
Bart Cumming’s devastated foreman Reg Fleming summed up the parochial sentiment when he asked: “What makes their racing better than ours anyway?”
Peter Moody joined in after Black Caviar won on Saturday. “Why don’t they come to us?” he asked.
They both have a point.
Yesterday’s Breeders Cup extravaganza in Kentucky was allegedly world racing’s biggest deal. Coolmore and Darley poach horses with an ultimate eye to the Breeders, Royal Ascot and Dubai.
The Breeders Cup was run over two days and the temperature was about 8C. Two horses were put down after failing to handle the tight track. One favourite was declared unfit to run by its trainer in a pre-race interview, but started anyway and was pulled out of the race by its jockey.
Punters, already freezing, did their money cold. Two jockeys had a punch-up, one champion, Workforce, was scratched, his connections too scared to run on the track.
This farce, compared with the wonder of Flemington through Cup Week.
As Fleming said, 100,000 people lifted the roof when So You Think hit the front at the 200m in the Cup. That responsibility, inspiring 100,000 fans to lift the roof, now sits on the shoulders of Black Caviar.
The Cup Week crowds will not return for another year but while the party has moved on, the horse is a constant.
The summer and autumn will be a ghost town compared with what we’ve just seen, but the horse is back as a magnet and none will have the pulling power of the mighty Black Caviar come Flemington in February.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?