By Tom Peacock in Melbourne
Rich Ricci keen on his Cup crackers:
Rich Ricci will have plenty to occupy himself over the coming weeks and months with his outstanding string of jumpers including the soon-to-be-returning Faugheen and Douvan.
On Tuesday, though, he seems confident of landing one of the world’s biggest Flat prizes with Max Dynamite (a general 16-1 chance) and Thomas Hobson (12-1) safely in the line-up for the Emirates Melbourne Cup.
The charismatic owner believes the pair’s prospects vary according to the pace of the race.
Of the former runner-up Max Dynamite, he said: “He’s a good horse who likes the track, he’s going well. If he’d had the same campaign as Thomas Hobson, who’s race hardened, he’d be a much shorter price. I think he’ll run a big race.
“He’s had niggles, nothing big. He wasn’t right all last year, he’s come right now and we’ve decided to take our chance. He works with the best horses in Willie Mullins’ yard and here we are.
“I think Thomas Hobson is well-handicapped. He’s drawn out wide but if we can tuck him in and get some cover, he’s got a big chance. But he needs a good pace. If it’s run at a muddling speed, Max Dynamite has the turn of foot to get there. If it’s run quickly, I’d fancy Hobson.”
Herbert a Libran man:
They don’t come more British than Harry Herbert but the smooth-talking racing manager will be cheering on one of the home team this time.
Herbert’s Highclere syndicate switched Libran, formerly trained by the late Alan Swinbank, across to Chris Waller a couple of years ago and he warmed up for the race with a good second behind the evergreen Who Shot Thebarman last week.
Libran is a 50-1 shot who does at least have a good draw in stall 7 and Herbert suggested that “hopefully he will give everyone a shout”. That ‘everyone’ includes the woman in charge of Flemington, Victoria Racing Club chairperson Amanda Elliott.
“He’s won over a million Australian dollars,” said Herbert. “We bought him to see if he could run in the Cup and he’s got there. It’s our fourth attempt at it and I think that even if you can just take part, you’ve drunk from the Cup.”
The national TV station covering the meeting was clearly not exactly sure who Herbert was, describing him in a caption as ‘former racing manager for Queen Elizabeth II’.
All about the Birdcage:
While the most exclusive area at Ascot is close to the winning line in the Royal Enclosure, the place to see and be seen at Flemington is a couple of furlongs up the track and many people in there will not even watch a race.
No expense is spared in The Birdcage, a couple of streets of what are referred to as marquees representing pretty blue-chip brands such as Lexus and Lavazza. Marquees do not even begin to describe these temporary gin palaces, with each company attempting to outdo each other in terms of how large and ostentatious the building and how many famous names get on the guest list.
A walk through it is great for people-watching, with a rather high count on cosmetic surgery, bow ties and shoes without socks (a sartorial rule which was only relaxed for this year).
Rather more of the celebrities seemed to be from the reality TV end of the spectrum until a certain Usain Bolt made an appearance while the racing was on. Unfortunately, the best I managed was the actress who played Martha in Home & Away.
Clarke the star of the show:
It is worth having a look on social media for the post-race reaction of trainer Udyta Clarke following her victory in the final event at Flemington on Saturday to see how much winning a race means at this meeting.
Clarke is a very small owner-trainer with only a handful of horses and absolutely dotes on Rich Charm, who took his biggest step up to date in the Group Two TAB Multiplier Stakes.
First she was sobbing almost uncontrollably and unable to talk before revealing that she was so disheartened when looking at her horse’s rivals in the paddock that she almost gave up
“He’s so little! I was going to send him home, they’re so big and strong and mine’s just a pony,” she said.