I'm off to the Cup today. This must be about the 15th I've attended as child and adult, maybe more. This time around I was reluctant to attend despite it being the 150th running, and the probability that this is the best field to ever start. I agreed to attend as a favour, grumbling as I did so, preferring, I thought, to spend the day quietly planting my summer tomatoes and getting over my jet lag.
Now I'm sitting here at my desk fully kitted up – suit, tie, cufflinks and freshly polished shoes – and I'm more positive towards the day. It's special after all, if not the most special day of racing worldwide – that's probably Derby Day – then it is certainly the most extravagant race in the world today.
I'll enjoy all the usual festivities, have a flutter or two, get stuck into the bubbles and have the odd nibble. Somewhere along the line I'll likely have a flirt or two with some of the racy fillies attending, dressed up to the nines and in a party mood.
There is an additional appeal today in watching the much acclaimed So You Think take on the field. I watched last year at Moonee Valley as it turned on the after-burners to clean up a smart field in the Cox Plate. I thought it was a pretty special horse after that. This year has been better. While I was away it won the Cox Plate again going away, and on Saturday easily won the Mackinnon. It comes into the Cup today after winning five on the trot. Can it go the distance? That's the question.
I don't think I'll be backing it – too short for me – but I hope it wins. That's the great thing about the Melbourne Cup. It is the prover of horses. So often talnt must overcome adversity to win. More often than not it means class must be matched by courage. It means sometimes that an outsider will win, aided by the handicappers weights, but mostly i's a pretty decent horse that gets up.
That's what people want to see. Australians like to see the underdogs prevail. or at least give a good show, in just about every sport. Horse racing is slightly different. We like to see the champions win. To hear the whoof of the crowd as the favourite looms on the straight is spine tingling. To stand amongst them as they acclaim a champion such as Makybe Dive, Might and Power, Northerly, Octagonal, and so on, is an affirmation of the hope people hold inside them. It's a kind of love, and to see these mighty horses win is the proof of that love.
So You Think may be near the best of them. If it wins today it's an out and out champion. It's had done great in 11 starts, but this is more. We mau be seeing the dawning of a great equine career – I think we are – and it would be nice to be there to see it win for wily old Bart today.