Journey back from Geelong takes a dark twist but I'm alive to tell the tale
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
Get yourself to Geelong, they said. Get out of the city and catch a Country Cup, they urged. An innocent Irishman is easily led so off I cruise down the M1 for an hour and a half to see what all the fuss is about.
Gold 104.3 blaring. This is without doubt the best station since the one at Pontypandy shut down. It's like my own personal soundtrack. “We built this city, we built this city on rock 'n' rollllllllllllll”. They don't breed bands like Starship anymore. Music has evolved.
So too has horseracing. Is this Geelong racecourse or the biggest Karen Millen outlet store in the world? There are women everywhere. There were fewer females here a few decades ago, that's for sure. How many of them know that Gallic Chieftain is favourite to win the Geelong Cup? That's neither here nor there, though. The important thing is that they are here and there and in every enclosure of the course. It is Wednesday, yet it is wedged. Geelong is doing something right.
Dermot Weld did something right in 2002 when he sent Media Puzzle to the Geelong Cup as a warm-up for the Melbourne Cup. He won both. So too did Amercain in 2010 and Dunaden in 2011. This is often the place to come for Flemington clues. Sherlock Holmes himself would struggle to find them today.
Gallic Chieftain looked the only potential Melbourne Cup contender in the line-up, but he fails by a short head to reel in Vengeur Masque, who gets his head in front for the first time in more than two years. He was fifth behind Simple Verse in the 2015 St Leger in his former life back in Europe.
In my former life back in Europe I fancied myself as a tipster so I spend a few minutes studying the form for the Listed Rosemount Stud Stakes and come up with Ghisoni. He's quite a tasty price too at 11-2. Hugh Bowman arrives with a wet sail down the outside to nail Deja Blue. I've finally cracked the code to finding winners down under.
Wait, what is that on the screen? It looks like a photo-finish print with Ghisoni still behind Deja Blue. Well those celebrations lasted all of about eight seconds.
Everyone else's celebrations are lasting much, much longer. There is plenty of partying going on and, boy, do they know how to party in Geelong. There will be lots of sore heads heading into work on Thursday morning.
Having been to Caulfield, spent a morning at Moonee Valley and got a flavour of Flemington, it was good to visit one of the less lavish racecourses. Geelong is pretty and the perfect setting for racing, but more Listowel than York. It is charming in its own little way. It has its own unique characteristics.
One of my own characteristics came out to play on the journey home. Given the huge crowd, traffic chaos leaving the car park was a given. Not to worry, Gold 104.3 to the rescue again.
"Woah, we're halfway there. Woah, livin' on a prayer. Take my hand, we'll make it I swear. Woah . . ."
A knock at the window rudely interrupts the next verse and we never find out why Gina dreams of running away.
"Give us a lift will ya, mate, just down to the end of the road," says an Aussie teenager who appears to be limping. But little did I know the limp was caused by drink. Oh, I am very naive. My mother brought me up to be more streetwise than that. I've let her down. Sorry, Annette.
In hops the hitchhiker. Then another. And another. "Is it okay if my mates come too, mate?" They were in at this stage so it was a rhetorical question.
Down to the end of the road in Australia has a far longer meaning than down to the end of the road in Ireland. They spend the best part of 20 minutes in the back seat, so drunk that I can't understand any of them. They can't understand me either. The conversation over and back was about as intelligent as an episode of Sesame Street.
After failing to drop them at the pub they wanted, miles out of my way, they begin to get rather aggressive. Should you not be rewarded for being so charitable? I pull in but they don't budge. They tell me to take a right. I refuse. Finally, thirst gets the better of them and they hop out. Phew.
Off I drive back down the M1 in the safe hands of Gold 104.3. Another 80s classic helps stop the sweating.
Temperatures are back up in the high-20s now so the sweating hasn't stopped and it will only get worse when Winx heads down to the start to try to write another chapter into racing's history books at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
I will be there to witness it all. A Winx win is almost as certain as travelling home alone from Moonee Valley.
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