It’s hard to think of any sporting spectacle where a big city – of four million people in Melbourne’s case – comes to a standstill for an entire day. Some people might not watch racing for the rest of the year, but the Melbourne Cup has rich tradition and it’s a privilege for those spectators to be at the race course watching the action unfold.
Around the province of Victoria, workers receive a public holiday for Melbourne Cup day with most either turning out at Flemington for the race or opting to watch it live on Channel 7.
They call it the race that stops the nation as nearly 90 per cent of Australians – remember this is a country of 25 million – stop for three minutes to watch the showpiece race at 3pm. In this edition, fans had plenty to cheer about as an Australian-trained horse, Almandin, pipped Heartbreak City to win the 156th Melbourne Cup.
Following the race, one of the many unique stories emanating from Flemington was the presence of Lloyd Williams. The Australian businessman is the owner of Almandin and the most successful owner in the history of the Melbourne Cup – with a record five victories.
Williams hadn’t been at the race course since 1996, instead choosing to watch sport at home, where his son Nick is the face of the racing operation.
“Winning this race means more than building businesses,” he said in his post-race conference.
“I’m now 76 years as a Melbournian. From the age of five, I listened to the Melbourne Cup. It’s always been a part of my life. I’ve dreamed about it since I was a boy.”
Listening to Williams’ passion for the Melbourne Cup gives you goosebumps and if proof is ever needed, what it means for the local people. Away from an annual horse racing event which is very much at the epicenter of the city, there are seven AFL teams, a professional rugby union and rugby league team, the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Rod Laver Arena, which hosts the Australian Open. The place is sports mad.
Of course, as a UAE racing fan, it was disappointing not to see Godolphin win in Melbourne but the manner in which Hartnell and Qewy ran was inspiring. Third place might have disappointed Hartnell jockey James McDonald, but the horse is a class act and this finish represents a positive stride in the hope that he might race over a shorter distance.
After experiencing the sheer energy at Flemington, I’m enthralled by the passion of the local people for the Melbourne Cup. It’s a magnificent occasion. I can only compare it to previous experiences of being at Ascot, Newmarket, Leopardstown or the Dubai World Cup, and even though you have plenty of adoring racing fans at these venues, the atmosphere in Melbourne is incomparable.
The Melbourne Cup is clearly a significant part of the country’s culture and it’s a race that draws the people together. It is the biggest race in the world for me, and if one ever has the chance to travel to Australia for the first week in November, then it’s definitely a sporting occasion not to miss.
He partnered favourite horse Mutual Force to victory in the only Thoroughbred race on the card, a 2200m handicap, exactly a year and a day since his last ride in public.
Mutual Force, trained by his boss Ali Rashid Al Rayhi, has now won six times for the yard and, on all bar one occasion, Al Mazrooei has been in the saddle.
The jockey said: “It is obviously great to be back and especially with a winner for Ali who has always been a great support.
This horse goes well fresh and likes it here at Abu Dhabi so I was hopeful of a big run.
“Ali has always really supported me so I am delighted to ride a winner for him.”
The official feature, the 1600m Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup Prep, was won fairly comfortably by Shateh who made all under Richard Mullen.
Trained by Majed Al Jahouri for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mansour Al Nahyan, he was completing a double for his jockey who had earlier employed identical tactics in a 1400m conditions contest aboard AF Ashras.
Mullen said: “It has been a good evening and I was hopeful of it being so on the way here as I thought I had some good chances.”
GODOLPHIN’S FIGHT GOES ON
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid’s quest for an elusive Melbourne Cup goes on for another year after Almandin stormed to victory ahead of Heartbreak City.
Godolphin had five runners in Tuesday’s race at Flemington, with Hartnell and Qewy finishing third and fourth respectively.
Flemington is a racecourse Godolphin has been competing at since 1998, with three runner-up spots representing their best finish.
Qewy and Secret Number showed buckets of talent in the two mile race, but question marks remain over Hartnell’s ability to run over two miles.
The horse is a class act, possessing plenty of pace, but perhaps he could thrive over shorter distance.
LLOYD WILLIAMS MAKES HISTORY
It’s been 20 years since Lloyd Williams last stepped out at Flemington, and on Tuesday, he delivered a spectacular press conference following Almandin’s win.
“I’m now 76 years as a Melbournian,” Williams said. “From the age of five, I listened to the Melbourne Cup. It’s always been a part of my life. I’ve dreamed about it since I was a boy.”
Williams is a record five time winner in Melbourne and the most successful owner in the history of this event.
He rarely makes public appearances these days, instead choosing to watch sport at home, where his son Nick is the face of the racing operation.
THE MELBOURNE CUP IS UNIQUE
It’s hard to think of any sporting event in the world where a big city comes to a standstill for a day.
In Victoria, employees receive a public holiday for the Melbourne Cup with most either turning out to Flemington or watching the race live on TV.
The Melbourne Cup is a significant part of Australian culture and it’s a race that draws everyone together. To see how passionate people were about the race proves how important it is, not just to the city, but also to the fans who travel across the country to watch the race that stops the nation.