I noticed today that the early entries and weights are out for the Newmarket Handicap and Australian Cup at Flemington on March 10. The fields look spectacular at this early stage but of course they will thin down with attrition over the next month. The Newmarket field will dilute with trainers not liking the weights allocated to their charges, it’s pretty much certain Black Caviar won’t run with 61.5kg and the Hay List camp seem to be filthy with the 58.5kg allotted to him. Either way, there are 11 Group I winners among the entries so the race won’t be short of quality.
I was particularly taken with the Australian Cup nominations that include the European stayers that have stayed in Australia to be trained locally such as Americain, Drunken Sailor and Manighar. Add to this the proven weight for age winners like Glass Harmonium, Efficient, Southern Speed, Zavite and last Saturday’s impressive winner, Lucas Cranach as well as emerging three year old stayers like Zabeelionaire and the race could be a classic if the field holds together.
The Australian Cup has been a favourite race of mine since I saw Saintly romp away with it as a three year old, then Octagonal won it amid a sea of cerise the following year. I’ve also been on hand to see Northerly destroy some reasonable fields and break the track record in the process. I’m too young to remember the classics involving Vo Rogue and champions of that era and before but would love to hear people’s fondest memories of the day down the years.
There is often drama attached to the Australian Cup such as when Lonhro had to get up and get going again after nearly falling or when Shocking was going to miss due to slight injury, but when the races were called off because of the freak storm, he was able to take his place in the field the following week and win the race comfortably. I can’t believe there wasn’t an Australian stud that wanted to stand him and he had to be sold to New Zealand. No doubt we’ll keep complaining about internationals winning the Melbourne Cup as well.
For me there’s nothing better than weight for age racing over 2000m at Flemington … and always remember – weight for age horses win weight for age races!!! My favourite Newmarket was when Brawny Spirit beat Sequalo down the grandstand side for purely personal financial reasons, although Black Caviar was something special last year.
I was also on hand the year Wanted won the Newmarket. I was sure that Denman would win the Guineas that day and I was ready to have a handy collect on that race. All I got from the day was a bill for hail damage to my car.
What are your favourite memories of the three big races over the Labour Day weekend at Flemington?