The last time I attended the Derby meeting was in 2019 and the weather was shocking – heavy rain and a heavy track. The feature event was won by Warning at big odds.
This year the weather was not as bad, though throughout the afternoon rain showers had the attendees running for cover several times.
My arrival at Flemington coincided with the running of the third race, the Group 3 Rising Fast Stakes , but sad to say I missed it, being held up entering the course,. This was due to the newfangled mobile ticketing that I was obliged to accept when paying for my ticket on Ticketmaster. The trouble was that the ticket would not open in the Ticketmaster App on my phone at Flemington – quelle horreur!
All was not lost as I managed to get a printed ticket at the Ticketmaster booth at the entrance and could eventually enter.
The race had been run and won – I was pleased to note – by Argentia.
I’ve been to many Derby Days in the past and they’ve all been jam packed. This year there were not as many people, no doubt due to the iffy weather. There were no patrons spread out on the grass, which made it easy to get around.
I ended up spending most the afternoon close to my favourite spot just past the clock tower on the public lawn
The atmosphere was predominantly cheerful and friendly.
Race 4 was the Group 2 Wakeful Stake, for three year old fillies run over 2000 metres.
Star jockey James McDonald rode four winners at Flemington on Saturday and the winner of the Wakeful Stakes, Zennzella, was the second of them.
She and Pavitra fought out the finish down the straight with Zennzella prevailing by a narrow margin. As Time Goes By ran third, two lengths behind.
Run over 1400 metres, the Group 3 Linlithgow Stakes resulted in another win for James McDonald who rode Old Flame to victory over Poland and Ironclad in the rain.
The first of the Group 1 events was up next. This was the Coolmore Stud Stakes, a sprint over 1200 metres.
Again James McDonald was successful aboard blueblood Godolphin filly In Secret, who registered an impressive 2 length win over C’est Magique and Buenes Noches.
The feature race of the day was of course the Victoria Derby, a race for young stayers over 2500 metres.
James McDonald’s mount Sharp ‘n Smart started as favourite, but he was upstaged by the Chris Waller trained Manzoice who came in at big odds and caused a boilover result. Nothing new there, as the Victoria Derby often ends up in a long shot winner. 100/1 shot Aberfeldie Boy ran third.
A race over 1600 metres, the Empire Rose Stakes was the final Group 1 event of the afternoon. The last time I saw it 2019 star New Zealand mare Melody Belle won it in torrential rain.
In this year’s edition, Icebath ran from the back of the large field, sneaking along the rail to seize the lead close to the finish line and hold on to win narrowly from Mirra Vision with Excelida running third.
Icebath dumped her rider, Craig Williams, shortly after the finish, but registered a long overdue first Group 1 victory.
I headed for the station and home after the Empire Rose Stakes, having enjoyed a pleasant, if rather damp afternoon at the races.
Tomorrow is the Melbourne Cup. I haven’t a clue as to who the winner will be, but am glad I will not be there to witness it. The weather is predicted to be miserable – cold and wet.
I will however be returning to Flemington next Saturday for Champion Stakes Day, and hope my mobile ticket works this time.