Wednesday, November 05, 2008

P Is For Parade

The Melbourne Cup Is The Ultimate Gallop Poll

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

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.

For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.


Moannie said...

I know less about Horse racing than I know about Quantum physics, but you made it all come alive for me. What a wonderful country Australia must be, no wonder so many Brits migrated there on the £10 scheme, and still do.

Cheffie-Mom said...

Love the colors and excitement. I learned something new by visiting your blog yesterday and today. Thanks for sharing.(:

Retiredandcrazy said...

And no flies on you my man! Off-post, I look forward to seeing your shots on Matthew Flinders. I may even go up to his birthplace in Donington, Lincolnshire tomorrow and take an totally awful photograph of his statue there and post it on my blog for you to see.

Daryl said...

Such a small cup for such large festivities .. I bet it runneth over a lot


cheshire wife said...

It looks like you Melburnians really know how to party. We have horse races here, in the UK, but nothing like this.

virtual voyage said...

What a moving story about the jockey who lost his brother. Great shots and great post.

D Lo said...

I lived in Aus for two years and ALL I heard about was the Melbourne glad I was able to be part of it for the two years I was there!

Sue said...

Great pics! It looks like so much fun! Happy WW :)

My WW entries for today are at:

Pastyme With Good Companye

The Paranormal Blog

Nuttin' But

Please stop by if you have a moment :)

Epijunky said...

I'm with Moannie in that I know less about Horse racing than quantum physics.

This, however, looked like terrific fun. The colors are gorgeous!

Millennium Housewife said...

It was the writing more than the photos that really got me there David. I actually found myself caring about something that i didn't even know existed until now. Thankyou! MH

Maggie May said...

That was quite a show! The colours , the excitement, the mood.......
The big photos are on show again now (they were not visible the first time I tried to view)
However the little photo of your profile has completely gone!
What is going on?

leslie said...

Wonderful story about the parade and all the dignitaries. Cummings sounds like a real character - but then most Cummings'

What a tragedy for the jockey who lost his Dad and then his brother!

CrazyCath said...

That is a great commentary. I can feel the pride and the adrenalin rush of the race oozing through the words! Some real legends there David. Great parade.

Mushy said...

Is it me or does he look a little gay in that shirt?

Digital Flower Pictures said...

Great colors. I am tending the garden of a major thoroughbred breeder and racer and must admit it is a thrill to be around those majestic animals.

:lol: on being able to hold the camera above the crowd. At 6' 6" myself it is an advantage.

Sandi McBride said...

My family loves horse racing and anything to do with it...I have a horse shoe from a horse that ran in your cup race that was gift from a dear friend. It's all beribboned and we hang it over our front door each Christmas (points up so the luck doesn't run out)...don't suppose I could get you to pick me up another for the back door, lol!
Wish I had been there to see it, and one day, I intend to make the trip.

Island Rambles Blog said...

I always love a parade...this one is more interesting than most...great photos too...thanks for sharing.....we do love a party.....cheers.


nice shots... Please Visit my entry Little J with the witches here and kids at the party here

2nd part of Halloween Trick or treat at Rockwell

Lew said...

That three handled cup must be for some serious drinking!

Greyscale Territory said...

A lively, entertaining post on the Melbourne Cup! Beautifully worded and love your range of shots!

fishing guy said...

David: Really neat cptures from the parade. The fake ponies were cute. What a neat celebration.

mrsnesbitt said...

Fantastic David. My dad was a great horse enthusiast! He won too, how he studied the statistics. If he was alive today he would have definately won the lottery by now...if only he could get a message to me! LOL!

You will love mine today!

TSannie said...

What a great, informative post! I forget horse racing is a universal sport.
Your photos are very good - love the info you supplied with them.

Bear Naked said...

We all love a PARADE.
Very interesting information but now I am curious and must do research on that three-handled Melbourne Cup.

Bear((( )))

Rambling Woods said...

I love a parade!!

Louise said...

You must know I'm way behind in reading blogs from my reader. And yours is the worst because, well... not one posts as much as you. But this weekend I realized that the numbers in yours were not going up. They must just be dropping off the end, so I decided to go through at the speed of lightning and just have a quick look--who knows if I'd EVER really catch up.

But this one caught my eye. The colors are fantastic. Excellent shots. Amazing to me that you held your camera up for some of them--when I do that, things are usually quite askew.

The storeis in the commentary were terrific, too.