This year keeps giving us strange, history-making spectacles. Last month we saw the grand final of the Australian Football League held somewhere OTHER than the Melbourne Cricket Ground in (you guessed it) Melbourne for the first time ever. Covid-19 had sent the city into a second lock down which made holding the footy at the MCG impossible. But… the show had to go on and it did – at the Gabba in Brisbane. The name Gabba is a contraction of the suburb where the stadium is located, Woolloongabba.
With Melbourne still in lock down, one of the country’s most iconic events was also a changed creature. On the first Tuesday in November they run the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse. And they did. But there were no spectators. The stands were empty. There were no corporate refreshment tents. There were no fashions in the field. There were no bag men collecting bets. But there were horses and jockeys and strappers and trainers. All across Australia and around the world, TVs were tuned to watch the big race. Everywhere people gathered (suitably social distanced) in pubs and clubs for their own Melbourne Cup event and ran the obligatory cup sweep. It’s a tradition.
The mighty mare, Makybe Diva, made an appearance with her jockey, Glen Boss. She won the Cup three times in 2003,4, and 5, the only horse that has ever achieved that tally and at a sprightly 22, having been a mum multiple times, it looked to me she was ready to have another go. Boss had trouble holding her. She looked magnificent.
The race was run, the winner declared, and one horse, Anthony Van Dyk, had to be put down after breaking a leg.
Looking at the empty grandstand, the mounting yards, the turf around the track, I thought about the fashion houses, the catering firms, the casual jobs as bar staff and waiters in the corporate tents and all those other jobs and services that weren’t needed. It has cost Melburnians, having to run the race that way. But at least it was run.
We also got to see several ‘virtual’ races, where mighty horses from over the decades were pitted against each other. One virtual Melbourne Cup won by Makybe Diva, was aired just before the real cup. Watch it here.
But there was another version which gave (for me) the right result. Great as Makybe Diva undoubtedly was, I don’t think she could have beaten the mighty Phar Lap.
I really can’t finish without at least acknowledging the most important race in the world right now. Unfortunately, the US election has not been the landslide so many had hoped for. The counting still continues although it looks like Joe Biden will win. What will happen after that will depend upon the loser. Let’s hope that Trump departs with a modicum of dignity but that doesn’t fit the man’s character. Let us truly hope it doesn’t lead to civil war in what is now a very divided nation.