The Melbourne Cup Is The Ultimate Gallop Poll
Melbourne loves a party. And Melbourne loves sport. So when the two combine, as they do each year for the Melbourne Cup, a 3200-metre handicap horse race, Melburnians party like no other city in the world.
These shots were taken at the Melbourne Cup Parade on Monday. It's a good thing I'm six foot three, so I was able to hold my camera aloft over hundreds of heads to take these photographs. There were literally thousands lining the streets, so it was no easy task to get a clear shot.
This photograph (below) shows Lord Mayor John So and the famous gold trophy that is the greatest prize in Australian racing - the three-handled Melbourne Cup itself.
There were real jockeys and real horses. And yes, there were some mock jockeys on steeds that would never make it down the straight at Flemington.
There were celebrities, too. I managed to get this shot of Carson Kressley (below) as he was driven past. He wasn't difficult to spot, especially in that fuchsia shirt.
These colours (below) have a special place in the history of the race. They are the silks worn by Glen Boss, the first jockey to win three Melbourne Cups. In 2003, he won on Makybe Diva, the champion mare whose unusual name came from the first two letters of the names of each of the women in owner Tony Santic’s office.
Boss and Makybe Diva won again in 2004 and 2005 and there is now a statue of the horse at Flemington Racecourse. This is Boss (below) closest to the camera, in denim jeans and a blue jacket.
In 2006, he told Liz Hayes on Channel Nine’s high-rating 60 Minutes programme: "I've watched that tape over and over again. I still cry it when I watch it and I still get the goose bumps and I'm sure that I'll still be getting those goose bumps when I'm an old man. That is simply what this race does to you. No other race does."
Then, when his interviewer asked him if it was a dream come true for a kid from Caboolture, he replied: "Oh, it's a dream for any kid, you know. When I went past the winning post here, I remember putting my hand over my face. I just couldn't believe it, I thought, you know, it shouldn't happen but here I am. It's reality, it's real, it's history."
Not surprisingly, there was a media scrum around Australian jockey Damien Oliver (above) in sunglasses, surrounded by media keeping pace with the slow-moving convertible. He first won on Doriemus in 1995, but his victory on Media Puzzle in 2002 was one of the greatest moments in Australian sport. His brother Jason, also a jockey, had just died in a racecourse training accident, just as their father Ray had lost his life in a race fall in 1975.
But Damien Oliver flew back to Melbourne immediately after the tragedy and wore his brother’s breeches in the Cup. He rode Media Puzzle on a stirring sprint in the last 400 metres, overhauling Mr Prudent to win by two lengths and saluting the heavens as the crowd roared its approval.
Unashamed by the tears that coursed down his face, he announced over the roar of the crowd: "The Melbourne Cup doesn't mean anything to me any more. I'd give it away right now to have my brother back."
Then, while the biggest names in international racing partied in Melbourne, he boarded a flight all the way back to Perth for his brother’s funeral.
Legendary trainer Bart Cummings (pictured above, in the blazer and red tie) who will be 81 this month, trained Viewed, the winner of yesterday's big race. The horse was ridden by Blake Shinn, winning by an eyelash to hold off Bauer in a photo-finish.
Cummings has been associated with the Cup for 50 years and has won no fewer than 12 Melbourne Cups. His first runner was Asian Court, who finished twelfth in 1958 and his first winner was Light Fingers, in 1965. It's been nine years since his last Cup winner, Rogan Josh, back in 1999.
My favourite story about him goes back several years, when an official visited his stables. At the end of the visit, he fronted Cummings and said there were too many flies on the property.
Cummings, a man of very few words, just looked him straight in the eye and shot back, deadpan: "How many flies am I allowed to have?"
Fair dinkum, there's no flies on Bart Cummings.
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