The attraction of $6 million in prizemoney for horses who would otherwise be sitting at home shivering and letting their hair grow long or leaping over obstacles in jumps races is obvious.
But it is more than just money that attracts the Europeans to Melbourne for Australia’s greatest horse race.
“Melbourne Cup day is possibly the greatest race day anywhere in the world,” said English trainer Luca Cumani who is on his sixth trip and still trying to win the race.
“There is nothing like it in England, nothing like it anywhere I have taken a horse.”
The Melbourne Cup will never produce the breed-defining equine aristocrats of the Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe or the Epsom Derby, but its reputation as a contest and the respect it commands around the world, makes it unique.
David Redvers, the racing manager for one of Europe’s most prominent owners, Sheikh Fahad al Thani who won the race last year with Dunaden and is trying to win it with the same horse again this year, says it is the keenness of the competition that makes the Cup what it is.
“The Melbourne Cup is rapidly turning into the greatest horse race on the planet,” Redvers said.
“There is nothing else like it anywhere for real racing.”
And nothing like it for earning a trainer respect, according to leading English horseman Ed Dunlop.
The man who trained last-year’s runner up Red Cadeaux and who is back again with the same horse, campaigned the mares Snow Fairy and Ouija Board successfully on three continents.
But he said the credit he and his team received in Melbourne outweighed anything he had experienced elsewhere.
“After last year’s Cup I went to Japan with my champion mare Snow Fairy and won a very good race over there,” Dunlop said.
“But we received more credit for running second in the Melbourne Cup than for winning in Japan.”
But perhaps the greatest testament to the race comes from legendary Irish trainer Dermot Weld who has won it twice and is on his 10th visit.
Weld’s tribute to the Cup doesn’t come in glowing praise, it is shown more in his his word-perfect, post-race, bar-room recitations of Banjo Patterson poetry.
One of which he is, no doubt, preparing for Tuesday to celebrate the performance of his Cup runner Galileo’s Choice.
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