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Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

I don't like moaning about Moonee but the best horse rarely wins

Everybody wanted a look at Winx before the Cox Plate
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The Racing Post has dispatched Ireland correspondent David Jennings to Australia for a month-long assignment to cover the Spring Carnival, building up to its highlight, the world-famous Melbourne Cup, on November 7 at Flemington. Be sure to keep up to date with all the news, sights and sounds from a unique occasion at racingpost.com

I have barely got a Winx of sleep since I was last talking to you. She has her own brand of ice-cream, her own cocktail, her own clothing range and managed to cajole hundreds out of their cots before 6am last Tuesday morning just to watch her work out. She is dynamite down under. 

A third triumph in the Cox Plate was not expected, it was guaranteed. It was why Moonee Valley sold out. It was why racing took up half of the Herald Sun's front page. It was why only seven stood up to her. Any mention of defeat was laughed off in the same hysterical way as when I showed them my solitary dance move of dropping my right shoulder and clicking my finger. 

This was not Celtic winning the Scottish Premier League or Jordan Speith holing a putt inside six feet. This was the golf ball sitting just inches away from the rim and ready to drop with just the slightest touch from the putter. 

Even the opposition has consigned themselves to defeat. Ben Hayes, trainer of Seaburge, said: "It will be fun watching Winx win." 

It was indeed fun watching Winx win but there was a brief moment, 100 metres from home, when that fun looked like it might descend into depravity. Blake Shinn had Bambi cornered but he was unable to spoil the happy ending and she got away. Only just. 

Winx got us up before 6am last Tuesday morning. She is dynamite down under

Moonee Valley is an amazing amphitheatre and the perfect place for emotion to be portrayed. The crowd clapped her out onto the track, cheered her down to the start and oohed and aahed as Humidor threatened to spoil the party. Relief rained down on everyone after she clung on. 

The Moonee Valley crowd let their feelings known. They don't keep their thoughts tucked inside. They let it all out. We saw and heard that the night before when Chautauqua was withdrawn before the start of the Manikato Stakes after getting his leg caught over the stall. 

The poor vet who made the call was about as popular instant coffee, as the decision to withdrawn the seven-year-old grey was met with a chorus of boos. They adore their stars down here and Chautauqua is very much part of that category. 

Hey Doc eventually won the drama-filled sprint but nobody seemed to have found the cure. He was 20-1. 

I've already told you that Moonee Valley was an amazing amphitheatre but it is also a petrifying place for punters. The best horse rarely wins, unless you are Winx or vastly superior to your opponents. 

Where would you chose to be during a race? Tucked in third, on the rail and using up as little energy as possible, right? Wrong. If you do all those three things in Moonee Valley you never get out. Ever. 

It was a tale of woe for punters on Friday night and the theme continued on Saturday. The first six stakes winners returned at odds of $11, $21, $6.50, $8.50, $7.50 and $9. Run those same races tomorrow and none of them would win. Believe me. 

The Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley racecourse was full of drama from the off.

You need an element of luck in any race, you need nothing but luck at Moonee Valley. Perhaps that is what makes the place so charming. It's tight, intimate and the run-in of 173 metres means there is little margin for error, or a clear run. It's just lucky Winx can win anywhere. 

Next stop on the Spring Carnival cruise is Flemington. 

The Melbourne Cup carnival was lavishly launched there on Monday morning where the witty Jason Richardson and stunning Rachael Finch, both Channel 7 presenters, hosted affairs from The Park at the back of the Flemington stands. 

ITV's very own Francesa Cumani was there too and she hit the nail on the head when she said: "The way you do racing events over here is just bigger and better than anywhere else in the world. You are just always trying to make it better". 

Making the launch better could be tricky in 2018. How can you top some interactive fun with Bar Schweppes and the Flemingo Croquet Lawn, hang out with Nova in The Park, experience some virtual reality racing at TAB, or get glammed up at the Cosmopolitan Glam Pit before hitting the Myer Fashions on the Field enclosure for some fabulous fashions?

Or how could you top food from 400 Gradi, 8bit, Dexter, Hector’s Deli, Rice Paper Scissors and Zero Gradi, with thirst quenching activations from Lavazza, James Squire, James Boag, Absolut, A’Tivo, Schweppes, Wolf Blass, and The Pony Bar? Now that will be one mammoth task. 

Some say Mick Goodie has the most mammoth task of all. He is the racecourse manager at Flemington and has to ensure the track is in pristine condition for the big day on November 7 as well as the other three fixtures which sandwich the big staying showdown. 

Unlike the official launch at The Park, Goodie is not one to go over the top. He's relaxed, insightful and really good company as he walks us up the home straight of his Kentucky Blue Grass track which has three different types of ryes in it. 

There is a lush covering of grass and proper cushion. "The root system is key," explains Goodie. "It is like a belt, it holds your belly up". 

I don't know why he was looking at me when he said that, but I instantly felt the urge to suck in. Sure how could I possibly have put weight on? I've been running to the local Thai take-away every second night, lifting the heaviest pints I can manage of a Saturday and Sunday night and putting low-fat milk in my five flat whites each day. I could teach that Atkins fella a thing or two about dieting let me tell you.

It's past my bed time. Where is that room service I ordered?


For complete coverage of racing and bloodstock in Australia and New Zealand, download ANZ Bloodstock News every day


 

Any mention of defeat was laughed off in the same hysterical way as when I showed them my dance move of dropping my shoulder and clicking my finger

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