Melbourne cup is said to be ‘the race that stops the nation’. Today this legendary adage came true, as the first female jockey, Michelle Payne, rode to victory on Prince of Penzance, a horse that started with the longest odds on the field. It was a tear jerker of a race, not only to see Michelle’s sensational win, but to see the pride and joy on her brother’s face as well. Stephen Payne, who has Down’s Syndrome, is the horse’s strapper. Interviewed shortly after her win, Michelle commented,’ It’s a chauvinistic sport’. Michelle is not short for words.
My father loved the Melbourne Cup and the Spring Racing Carnival leading up to it. He enjoyed a weekly flutter on the horses and had a special ‘system’ based on numbers. His flutter, never more than $5.00 or so, was to test ‘the system’ as much as anything else. During the last year of his life, his cancer necessitated admission to hospital on occasion. I recall being there with him in the admission ward, trying to fill in one of those endless bits of paperwork that hospitals demand. I asked, ” What shall I put in answer to this question, Dad?” With a twinkle in his eye, he replied, “just write down number 6, in the last race at Randwick. No one is going to check it”. He was never one for jokes during his long life but enjoyed amusing us towards the end.
As a dyed in the wool Melburnian, I catch Spring racing fever every year. I try not to, but it’s in the air we breathe here. It’s our Palio, our traditional holiday dedicated to a horse race. The gardens are at their best, the weather is usually temperate, and the need to party begins on this day, this first Tuesday of November, as the year marches all the way downhill to Christmas.
Did you watch the Melbourne cup race today? Did it bring a tear to your eye?