A true blue Aussie win may help reignite enthusiasm for the Melbourne Cup after crowd numbers fell again amid a Taylor Swift scratching, animal cruelty allegations and interstate rivalry.
The Australian-bred, owned, trained and ridden Vow And Declare repelled the international invasion to deliver an all-Australian Melbourne Cup victory.
The number of racegoers at Flemington fell for the fourth year in a row, dropping by 2000 to 81,408, the lowest attendance since 1995.
Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula said there was nothing wrong with the $8 million Melbourne Cup, blaming the decline on a range of factors including pop start Swift cancelling her planned appearance.
“I think the Taylor Swift thing didn’t help this year,” Mr Pakula told 3AW radio on Wednesday.
“I think a lot of people bought tickets and then had them refunded.”
Mr Pakula said the recent allegations of animal cruelty involving ex-racehorses, which attracted scores of protesters outside the racecourse, may have deterred some people.
“Undoubtably it’s been a tough month for racing so I think a lot of once-a-year racegoers have probably made the decision not to go this year.”
Mr Pakula said the programming of Sydney and Melbourne race meetings also had an impact, with the inaugural $7.5 million Golden Eagle in NSW clashing with Flemington’s Derby Day on Saturday.
“I think a better effort on animal welfare will bring people back and I think settling the rivalry with NSW so we’re maximising each other’s product rather than dividing it I think will have an impact as well,” he said.
Mr Pakula hoped Vow And Declare’s win will help boost interest in the Cup.
“It’s great to have a local winner because I think that will regenerate a bit of enthusiasm, when you’ve got local horses that people have seen race and have a bit of an emotional investment in.”
Winning trainer Danny O’Brien said the Melbourne Cup brought people together and was part of Australia’s history and culture.
“I’m really glad that yesterday threw up a bit of an Aussie flavour to it so everyone still feels like it’s our Cup,” he said on Wednesday.
O’Brien said no one was more distressed by the footage of racehorses being sent to a slaughterhouse than the people who work in the industry.