MELBOURNE Cup Day has arrived — and it’s a wet one.
Heavy rain is causing chaos at Flemington — and in the betting markets — but at this point the main event is still scheduled to start at 3pm.
Cross Counter wins the Melbourne Cup
Cross Counter has won the 158th Melbourne Cup in a famous finish to the race that stops the nation.
The three-year-old gelding edged to a thrilling win ahead of Marmelo and Prince of Arran.
The Charlie Appleby trained winner was piloted by Kerrin McEvoy in a ride that will long be remembered.
The Cliffsofmoher pulled up lame as the field came past the post for the first time on the first lap and was not able to finish.
Cross Counter’s win is the first win by an English horse in the Melbourne Cup and is mega-stable Godolphin’s first ever Melbourne Cup win.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, owner of Godolphin, has tried for 20 years to win the great race and has now finally broken through.
There was drama earlier in the day as wet-specialist Magic Circle was drawn into favouritism on the back of heavy downpours and Flemington officials rating the track a Heavy 8. However, as the showers cleared and the track returned to a Soft 6, early fancy Yucatan reclaimed race favouritism with some bookmakers as the track continued to dry out following Race 6.
Freedman notices concerning strain
Cup fancy The Cliffsofmoher was spotted sweating profusely as the runners went into their barriers after running up the Flemington straight.
“He’s melting like an ice-cream at the moment,” Trainer Richard Freedman said.
“He’s really sweating up badly. There are a couple sweating up out there.”
‘Bizarre’ weather turns Cup on its head
The Melbourne Cup betting markets were thrown into chaos in the final hour before the race as the sun came out and punters deserted late favourite Magic Circle.
The Marwan Koukash-owned horse was as short as $6 with some betting agencies one hour before the race — but was drawn out again as Flemington officials announced the track has improved to a soft 6.
The drying weather resulted in early favourite Yucatan returning to outright favouritism at $6.50 with Ladbrokes.
The bizarre weather might have caused some headaches for punters, but it created a stunning atmosphere at Flemington.
“It‘s bizarre isn’t it, suddenly it’s hot,” Channel 7 racing commentator Jason Richardson said.
Racing identity Francesca Cumani told Seven the atmosphere is “like nowhere else in the world”.
“It’s a bit different to 11am this morning, isn’t it,” she said.
“When there was not a soul out on these lawns because it was chucking it down but we’re now in beautiful sunshine. It’s just standing room only in the mounting yard.
“The atmosphere is electric. Like nowhere else in the world.”
We’re 15 minutes away from them jumping at Flemington.
— Telegraph Sport (@telegraph_sport) November 6, 2018
Sam Smith wows Flemington
English singer Sam Smith has left racegoers calling for more after a thrilling live performance in front of the Flemington members.
Smith’s performance coincided with a break in the weather with the sun peaking out from behind the clouds just in time for the Cup.
— Racing.com (@Racing) November 6, 2018
— RICKI-LEE (@TheRickiLee) November 6, 2018
Cup chance riding over
Jockey Mark Zahra has weighed in 0.5kg over.
Zahra chalked up a win in the earlier Bumble Stakes at Flemington on Tuesday, but his Cup horse Ventura Storm will now carry extra weight in the 3200m classic.
The five-year-old gelding will carry 54.5kg.
Race 6 — Pohutukawa salutes
James Cummings scored his first win on Cup Day when Pohutukawa held off Madame Rouge and Into The Abyss in the 1400m Jim Beam Black Stakes.
Jockey William Buick had the ride on the three-year-old filly.
Race 5 — Jockey gets big Cup consolation prize
Brett Prebble might not have a ride in the Melbourne Cup, but the jockey enjoyed a perfect run on Legend of Condor in the 1000m Schweppes Flemington Fling.
Legend of Condor held off Feared Eyes and Heaven’s Deal in a tight dart to the post.
Legend of Condor!
Brett Prebble comes straight down the centre to win R5 over the 1000m. pic.twitter.com/WckkCz3sgH
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) November 6, 2018
‘Never seen before’: Cup Chaos
A deluge of rain made for a treacherous start to the day, forcing delays to races and trains to Flemington.
The area was drenched with more than 46mm of rain falling on Flemington before 12.30pm (AEDT), prompting fears jockeys and horses were at risk of injury.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Flemington’s rainfall on Tuesday is more than it received in September and October combined.
The track was downgraded immediately after Race 1 to a Heavy 8 and Race 2 was pushed back to an 11.40am (AEDT) start.
Race 4, the Ronald McDonald House Charities Plate, was able to jump on-time at 12.40pm (AEDT). The track was also upgraded to a Soft 7 following Legend of Condor’s win in the Schweppes Flemington Fling, the fifth race of the meeting.
It was then assessed a Soft 6 one hour before the 3pm (AEDT) Melbourne Cup.
Jockeys earlier complained they were unable to see at times during the first race of the meeting and Channel 7’s Hamish McLachlan said officials were refusing to walk on to the track because the conditions were too dangerous.
“Right now, all of the strappers have taken the horses underneath, they’ve decided not to bring them out. It’s too wet and too dangerous — there has been thunder and lightning,” McLachlan said. “It’s a Cup that I’ve not seen before.”
Trainer Richard Freedman, who has Auvray in the Cup, said the conditions and the downgraded track have completely changed the outlook for the $7.3 million feature race.
“I tell you what, this rain, it will change everybody’s tactics too,” Freedman told Channel 7. “It has changed the whole race meeting. Whatever the tips were before the rain came, just throw them out the window and start again.”
Chief steward Robert Cram has been inspecting the track before each race and expects the rest of the meeting to go ahead on-schedule and is confident the Cup will not be delayed from its traditional 3pm timeslot, according to The Herald Sun.
Channel 7 racing commentator Jason Richardson said stewards may consider a major delay to allow track staff to aerate the entire track to allow some of the surface moisture to be absorbed.
He said one slip from a horse is all it could take for jockeys to pull the pin on the meeting, citing “unsafe conditions”.
“No (the day won’t get called off), they have a choice of trying to aerate the track to try to get the water to soak in or we have a delay and try to let the showers pass and try to see if the water will soak in,” Richardson said.
The chaos extended beyond the track with suites inside Flemington reportedly leaking from the ceiling.
There are also ongoing major service delays across the Melbourne public transport system.
According to reports, racegoers have been informed to walk from a nearby station after flooding at Flemington Racecourse Station.
⚠️ Flemington Racecourse line: Major delays due to flooding near Flemington Racecourse.
Select trains may terminate/originate from Showgrounds.
Check platform displays and listen for announcements as services may be altered at short notice. pic.twitter.com/pXeXe6HKAn
— Metro Trains (@metrotrains) November 6, 2018
Punters told to walk 20 minutes from Showground station to Melbourne cup: Flemington station flooded plus power outages. Trains stopped at Showground and taking people back or told to walk/cab. @abcmelbourne pic.twitter.com/arv6E2bByr
— nathan stitt (@nathanjstitt) November 6, 2018
There was carnage on the roads too with reports of horrendous traffic delays for drivers trying to get into the main car park at the racecourse.
— Kate Tozer (@katetozer) November 6, 2018
— Rachel Baxendale (@rachelbaxendale) November 6, 2018
Meanwhile, the rain has prompted dramatic action from the bookies with Ladbrokes drawing Magic Circle into favouritism at $6.
Early fancy Yucatan has been eased out to $7.50. Cross Counter has also come into the third line of betting into $10.
The rain left left racegoers wrestling with the option of leaving the track to find some dry shelter.
Terry Evans, who has been working as a bookie for the Melbourne Cup since the early 80s, says today is the worst he’s seen in more than 40 years.
“Since 1976 when Ven der Hum won it’s never been as bad as this,” he told news.com.au from under his umbrella. “It’s just too wet to come out.”
Paul Thompson, who has worked more than 36 years at Flemington, says he’s hardly received a bet all morning.
“There has been three or four days similar to this in the past, but the rain was well spaced out,” he said.
“This is solid rain at the wrong time of the day.
“People are deciding whether they will come or not, it’s very hard to say yes to attending Melbourne Cup when you look outside and there’s heavy downpours like this.”
Race 4 — Shraaoh sprints clear
Kerrin McEvoy piloted Shraaoh to a win in the 2800m Ronald McDonald House Charities Plate.
Shraaoh sprinted clear at the 300m to finish two lengths clear of Steel Prince and Azuro.
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) November 6, 2018
Race 3 — Darren Weir continues winning form
Fifty Stars has continued trainer Darren Weir’s strong winning form after saluting in the 1400m Grinders Coffee Roasters Trophy at Flemington.
Fresh from celebrating Extra Brut’s win in Saturday’s Victoria Derby, Weir’s runner charged home ahead of Manuel and Haunted.
Cumani scores in Race 2
Trainer Matt Cumani’s One More Try saluted in the $120,000, 1700m TAB App Trophy.
Jockey Linda Meech steered the four year old mare to the post ahead of Seductive Miss and Miss Siska.
— Racing.com (@Racing) November 6, 2018
Jockey: Track ‘as bad as it gets’
Jockey Mark Zahra should have been celebrating piloting Bella Rosa to a win in the first race at Flemington on Tuesday — but was instead left lamenting the awful conditions and the impact it will have on the Melbourne Cup.
Zahra pushed home on-board Bella Rosa to win the Group 3 1000m Bumble Stakes ahead of Lankan Star and favourite Champagne Boom.
However, when interviewed in the misty conditions on track immediately after his win, Zahra was scathing of the dodgy Melbourne weather. “The weather’s obviously very bad,” he said.
“Geez, I tell you it’s close to an eight right now. It’s probably more of a feel because of the surface water but if it keeps running like this in that race, you’d think it would be as bad as it gets for the Cup.”
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) November 5, 2018
Bruce goes rogue with phantom call
Aussie sporting icon Bruce McAvaney is going out with a bang.
The legendary caller left Sunrise hosts David Koch, Sam Armytage and racing identity Francesca Cumani in stitches on Tuesday morning when he performed his customary phantom call of the race that stops the nation.
The 65-year-old racing tragic confirmed earlier this week Tuesday’s Cup will be his last as a commentator.
He’s still as sharp as ever — as shown by the hilarious reaction surrounding his predictions for the big race.
The Seven identity has actually tipped favourite Yucatan to win the $7.3 million race, but called home eccentric billionaire owner Dr Marwan Koukash’s runner Magic Circle during his phantom call.
“Hang onto your G-strings,” McAvaney called when asked to predict the final dart to the line.
“Hold onto your G-string because we’re at 200 to go and Yucatan’s taken the lead from Avilius. Who Shot Thebarman’s coming home hard. And here’s Magic Circle. Oh No, Yucatan, just in front of Avilius. Magic Circle goes up. They get to the line. Oh, it’s a photo finish. It’s Magic Circle by a G-string.”
Koukash famously declared during Saturday’s barrier draw that he will strip down to a G-string and strut around Flemington when his horse claims the Cup.
McAvaney quipped it will be interesting to see if Victoria Racing Club (VRC) officials try to stop him.
“I think we’ll see something like we’ve never seen before — an owner gelded on Melbourne Cup day,” he said.
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) November 5, 2018
Heavens open in soggy Cup start
Flemington was drenched first-up on Tuesday morning as the showers arrived early.
The Bureau of Meteorology says some pockets of Melbourne have been hit with as much as 18mm of rain in the space of an hour.
Up to 20mm was forecast to hit Flemington today, but the showers are expected to clear in the afternoon and evening, giving racegoers hope that the 3pm Melbourne Cup will run with clear skies overhead.
More than 46mm had fallen on Flemington by 12.30pm (AEDT).
A top of 20C with a morning temperature of 17C is still on the cards.
The Bureau forecasts that the passing showers will result in heavy downpours — but nothing like the record rainfall recorded at Flemington on Cup Day when 46.5mm fell in 1942.
The Flemington track was still considered a Good 4 when first assessed this morning, but by 10am it had been downgraded to a Soft 5.
Just minutes before the Bumble Stakes was set to run at 10.50am, the track was downgraded again to a Soft 6.
It prompted immediate action in the betting markets with high-profile punter Tom Waterhouse declaring the wet weather could see Magic Circle start equal favourite alongside early-fancyb Yucatan.
“I like the favourite (Yucatan) but I think it will be odds tomorrow,” Waterhouse said on Monday.
“But if we get a stack of rain, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts at $7. If it’s dead to good, it’s probably around the right price around $6.50.
“If it rains, Magic Circle could start around equal favourite. I think it’s a wide betting race.”
English stayer Magic Circle has made 10 starts on soft tracks, finishing with five wins and two placings.
At 11am (AEDT) Magic Circle was into $7.50 with Ladbrokes on the second line of betting below Yucatan ($6.50).
The only girl in the race
There’s only four local horses in the 24-strong field — but it’s even harder to find a female.
There’s only one mare in the race this year, the Chris Waller-trained Youngstar.
Rated a $15 chance at the TAB, she has drawn well in barrier eight and has performed strongly in four appearances this campaign without saluting.
One of those results was particular credible, when she finished second to superstar Winx at the Turnbull Stakes.
“She’s got the credentials as a Queensland Oaks winner,” Waller said. “She has a light weight and a lightweight rider which is a key. And she ran second to Winx and that’s the best form in the world.”
Veteran Aussie jockey Craig Williams has the ride as he looks to secure an elusive Cup win.
“She does tick a lot of boxes but we have got a big job to take on these international raiders,” he said.
Melbourne Cup: The field
1. Best Solution (Barrier: 6, Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor, Jockey: Pat Cosgrave)
2. The Cliffsofmoher (B: 9, T: Aidan O’Brien, J: Ryan Moore)
3. Magic Circle (B: 17, T: Ian Williams, J: Corey Brown)
4. Chestnut Coat (B: 4, T: Yoshito Yahagi, J: Yuga Kawada)
5. Muntahaa (B: 13, T: John Gosden, J: Jim Crowley)
6. Sound Check (B: 16, T: Mike Moroney, J: Jordan Childs)
7. Who Shot the Barman (B: 18, T: Chris Waller, J: Ben Melham)
8. Ace High (B: 22, T: David Payne, J: Tye Angland)
9. Marmelo (B: 10, T: Hughie Morrison, J: Hugh Bowman)
10. Avilius (B: 11, T: James Cummings, J: Glyn Schofield)
11. Yucatan (B: 23, T: Aidan O’Brien, J: James McDonald)
12. Auvray (B: 1, T: Richard Freeman, J: Tommy Berry)
13. Finche (B: 15, T: Chris Waller, J: Zac Purton)
14. Red Cardinal (B: 5, T: Darren Weir, J: Damien Oliver)
15. Vengeur Masque (B: 2, T: Mike Moroney, J: Patrick Moloney)
16. Ventura Storm (B: 7, T: David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig, J: Mark Zahra)
17. A Prince of Arran (B: 20, T: Charlie Fellowes, J: Michael Walker)
18. Nakeeta (B: 3, T: Iain Jardine, J: Regan Bayliss)
19. Sir Charles Road (B: 14, T: Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott, J: Dwayne Dunn)
20. Zacada (B: 24, T: Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, J: Damian Lane)
21. Runaway (B: 12, T: Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, J: Stephen Baster)
22. Youngstar (B: 8, T: Chris Waller, J: Craig Williams)
23. Cross Counter (B: 19, T: Charlie Appleby, J: Kerrin McEvoy)
24. Rostropovich (B: 21, T: Aidan O’Brien, J: Wayne Lordan)
Complete Flemington race card
Race One — Bumble Stakes (1000m), Group 3, 10.50am
Race Two — TAB APP Trophy (1700m), 11.30am
Race Three — Grinders Coffee Roasters Trophy (1400m), 12.05pm
Race Four — Ronald McDonald House Charities Plate (2800m), 12.40pm
Race Five — Schweppes Flemington Fling (1000m), 1.15pm
Race Six — Jim Beam Black Stakes (1400m), 1.50pm
Race Seven — Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m), 3pm
Race Eight — Furphy Plate (1800m), 4.05pm
Race Nine — MSS Security Sprint (1200m), 4.45pm
Race 10 — The Hong Kong Jockey Club Stakes (1400m), 5.20pm