To say Melbourne’s Spring is capricious is an understatement with the weather last Saturday being quite unpleasant, an overcast sky, a sharp cold wind and occasional torrents of rain spoiling the carnival atmosphere at Caulfield.
Yes, it was Caulfield Cup day, one of the time honoured races in Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival.
The weather was tough, but so was assessing the Caulfield Cup field to find a likely winner, with half the acceptors being International raiders having their first start on Australian turf in the race. It was victory for Japan when the appropriately named (considering the weather) Mer De Glace won the prize from locally bred Vow and Declare and the British trained Mirage Dancer.
As the Caulfield Cup was scheduled to run late afternoon at 5.15pm, I took my time getting to the track, arriving around 2.00pm.
The other big race of the day was The Everest at Randwick, and I must admit it was more interesting to contemplate than the Caulfield Cup, with the bulk of the field being familiar to Australian racing fans. Sydney has stolen the limelight from Melbourne’s Spring Carnival, diluting fields that would in the past have top Sydney performers as part of the action.
No wonder this year’s Spring Carnival is somewhat underwhelming so far.
Anyway back at Caulfield, the first race I witnessed was race 5, the Alinghi Stakes for fillies and mares run over 1100 metres. Despite the crowd, I managed to find a spot on the fence easily to photograph the race. Whilst waiting for it to begin, the bloke standing next to me showed me a video on his phone of his foal gambolling in a paddock – very cute.
Vinicunca was the favourite for the Alinghi Stakes, but failed to run a place, Humma Humma won by a length from Demerara and Prophet’s Thumb.
The Group 3 Ethereal Stakes was the next to jump. A race for three year old Oaks bound fillies it is run over 2000 metres. A close relative of the mighty mare Winx , named Vegas Jewel was the starting favourite, but she was narrowly beaten by Gamay, with race leader Celestial Falls running third a length behind.
Miss Leonidas started as the warm favourite for Race7, the Caulfield Sprint (1000 metres) and didn’t let her supporters down, leading from the start to the finish to win by a half length from God of Thunder and Malibu Style.
There was an extended break between races after the Caulfield Sprint to allow for the running of The Everest in Sydney, scheduled for 4.15pm.
We hung onto our spots on the fence and watched The Everest on the big screen. Three year old, Chris Waller trained Yes Yes Yes won the riches ($6,050, 000) from favourite Santa Ana Lane and Melbourne Racing Club candidate, Trekking.
There was a short wait after The Everest before Race 8, the Group 3 Moonga Stakes (1400 metres) was set to run. Irish horse Royal Meeting, unbeaten in his only two starts, was highly fancied to win. However, locally bred Streets of Avalon proved the victor, beating Variation by a length with Royal Meeting running third a little behind.
Dark clouds were threatening rain as the Caulfield Cup pomp and circumstance pre-race ceremony was underway. Girls marched down the straight carrying flags bearing the silk colours and names of the Caulfield Cup starters.
The Cup itself was carried behind by Neale Daniher and his daughter
It started to rain as the Caulfield Cup contestants were making their way to the starting gates and persisted throughout the race. It was very chilly too and I saw more than one flimsily dressed young racegoer wearing a puffer jacket over her outfit.
Understandably it made photography challenging.
I did not stay for the last race and made it home before 6.30pm, connecting trains coinciding nicely.
Next Saturday is my favourite race, the Cox Plate. It’s the first Cox Plate in four years without Winx, so it should make an interesting change. The field was finalised this morning and looks very classy on first glance. I might write a preview, time and inclination permitting.