Tag Archives: horse racing

Let’s hear it for the girls

Makybe Diva

Makybe Diva

It’s Spring Carnival time in Australia – especially in Melbourne, home of the Melbourne  Cup, Australia’s greatest horse race. The news is full of horses, and trainers, and odds, and chances. And one of the chances was Winx. Here’s her profile. She won the Cox Plate last year – and won it again this year, at a canter. Then she was set for the Caulfield Stakes. There were only three horses in the field – nobody wanted to bother with a run they couldn’t win.

Winx has now won 13 races on the trot (if you’ll excuse the pun).  That’s not bad for any horse. Even the mighty Phar Lap only won 14 consecutive races, (only) and it’s nowhere near the 25 races won by Black Caviar. Whereas Winx was beaten once (I think) as a filly, Black Caviar never lost a race.

And hand up anyone who can tell me the name of the only horse to win three (3) Melbourne Cups? You at the back there… no, not Phar Lap, Carbine, Peter Pan, Rainlover, Think Big… Makybe Diva. A mare. Her at the top of the page. Bear in mind that the Melbourne Cup is a handicap, so Makybe Diva had to carry more and more weight every time she ran the 3200m race. In her third and last Cup run she carried 58kg – a weight-carrying record for a mare.

So what is the point of all this? Folks, Winx and Black Caviar and Makybe Diva are MARES. Girls. Females. The weaker sex. Black Caviar was the darling of Australia, not just the racing set. As her record of wins increased racetrack attendances were at an all time high every time she ran. Fans turned up wearing her colours – salmon pink with black polka dots. Immediately after her 25th win, her connections retired her. Now, like Makybe Diva, she’s a brood mare and producing very expensive foals. She has her own  Facebook page.

I guess it was inevitable that a three-time winner of the Melbourne Cup would be a gelding or a mare. Stallions have won the race twice, but that’s enough profile to guarantee enormous stud fees, and owners don’t want to risk injury. After all, a stallion can cover a *lot* of mares in a season, while a brood mare can only manage one foal a year (at most).

Seems that people are starting to realise that the ladies can make the grade if given the chance. Last year (2015) the Melbourne Cup winner (Prince of Penzance at 100/1 odds) wasn’t female – but the jockey was. Michelle Payne finally broke the jockey’s glass ceiling, putting paid to the myth that women aren’t strong enough to be jockeys. As she said at the time, it’s all about developing an understanding with the horse. The other very special point about the 2015 race was that the horse’s strapper, Michelle’s brother Steven, has Downs Syndrome. Here’s a link to the story.

And while Michelle didn’t get a ride in this year’s cup, (Prince of Penzance was injured and will probably never race again), she won a race on Ladies Day. May she win many more.



Forget about Hallowe’en – it’s nearly Cup day

Poster for Melbourne cup dayHallowe’en is no big deal in Australia – despite the best attempts by the retail stores. No, we set our sights on much more important matters than the Day of the Dead. Next Tuesday, the first Tuesday in November, the Melbourne Cup will be run and won. It’s a horse race, dare I say one of the most famous handicaps in the world. Run over 3200 metres (2 miles), these days it attracts stayers from around the world. But we’re a parochial bunch in Oz and we always prefer our own to win.

Australia has a love affair with sport, and horse racing gets a gig in the calendar all its own. Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival fits in nicely between the end of the football season (AFL and rugby league) and the beginning of the cricket. They run the Oaks, the Derby, the MacKinnon Stakes. But the Melbourne Cup’s the thing. They say it’s the race that stops a nation – and believe me, it does. Melbourne has a holiday on Cup day and for any other places, it might as well be. Restaurants, pubs and clubs around the country have Cup Day lunches, where you wine and dine and watch the Cup on the big screen. Even if you have to go to work, there’ll be a special spread of chicken and champagne and you’ll gather around a TV for the ten minutes it takes for the starters to go out on the course, run the race and return to scale. You’ll find a Cup sweep in every tin-pot country town, Aussies all over the world collecting in pubs and bars or around a tinny radio if there isn’t anything else. And for many, many people, it’s the only day in the year they’ll bet on a race. Forget about the form guide. What colours is the jockey wearing? What number is on the saddle cloth? What was last night’s dream about?

The popularity of this horse race is immense. The crowd on race day is expected to be over 100,000 people. That says something in itself, in a city with a population of about 4 million. But the first time the crowd stood at 100,000 was in 1926, when Melbourne’s population hadn’t quite reached 1 million. Think on that. One person in every ten was at Flemington racecourse at around 2pm on the first Tuesday in November.

So all you folks around the world, if you can’t get much sense out of an Aussie mid-afternoon next Tuesday (Eastern Daylight saving time), you’ll know why. Raise your champers, say ‘cheers’ and join the race that stops a nation.

Do you guys have anything similar? Please share.