With less than a week to go before the Melbourne Cup, there are many racing commentators in Australia beginning to express their concerns about the many foreign entries making the starting line up for the richest flat handicap in the world.
Much of the debate has centred around the Australian based trainers and owners, who are accused of being more interested in buying and training sprinters rather than the staying pedigree to win the nation’s most famous race. This trend, should it continue, might well cost the Melbourne Cup its reputation of a ‘race that stops a nation’, due to a growing lack of local interest, particularly in foreign-bred winners. This, in despite of the fact that only a handful of non-Antipodean bred horses have won the race.
This trend will be particularly highlighted on Saturday when the Melbourne Cup runners become known following the final acceptances. This is likely to reveal that only two Australian bred horses will make the final 24, when not too long ago, the race would have had nothing else but…
Only a handful of thoroughbreds from outside Australia and New Zealand have won the Melbourne Cup, three of those have come in the last ten years, with the most recent one, Americain, winner 12 months ago, looking almost certain to start as the favorite to win the race again this year. His chances were enhanced after winning the Group 2 Drake International over 1m4f at Moonee Valley last Saturday. In winning he looked very much like a horse that could carry top weight of 58kg to victory even though he will be the only the third horse in Melbourne Cup history to do so. He would also be only the sixth horse in the 151 year history of the race to win the more than once.
Parochial feeling is therefore understandably negative towards a fourth non-Australian-bred winner in a decade, taking off the huge cash prize to foreign parts, moreover they are concerned that this could become the trend in future cup’s. This is why they are now calling upon Australia’s racing authorities to take action to restrict foreign success in the Melbourne Cup, which after all is a major part of the Australian sporting culture. Many Australian racing commentators are currently urging two particular incentives, firstly, giving greater acknowledgment and weight for domestic race results as well as a cap on foreign runners in the final 24 acceptors.
The counter argument of course to this problem is based simply on the fact that race horse owners in Australia these days prefer to invest in sprinters, particularly as traditional staying races are becoming discontinued or increasingly shortened in trip. The big money is no longer the preserve of the staying races and although the Melbourne Cup is a unique race, even that is becoming less of an attraction to Australian owners!
This is an argument that can only continue, although it could well be put on hold if one of the two Australian bred horses gets past the post on the first Tuesday of November at Flemington Park next week but if one of the Northern Hemisphere bred runners wins, expect the debate to rumble on.