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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Melbourne, you've been mighty, but home is calling

Golden moments: Joseph O'Brien, alongside winning rider Corey Brown, is overjoyed after pipping his father Aidan to the post with Rekindling in the Melbourne Cup
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The Racing Post dispatched Ireland correspondent David Jennings to Australia for a month-long assignment to cover the Spring Carnival and, fresh from an Irish 1-2-3 in the Melbourne Cup, here is his final instalment 

You are only young once, yet Joseph O'Brien seems to have been young forever. 

Still so young, in fact, that some of Flemington's security mistook him for Rekindling's groom. That made much more sense than the reality. The reality made no sense at all to the locals.

The hosts needed help getting their heads around it all and they turned to the thickest Irish accent they could find. The fella who constantly took the 'h' out of three. Yes, you guessed it, they turned to me.

"What age is he? How long has he been training? Is he based in the same stable as his father? Was he any good as a jockey?" The queries came thick (or tick in my case) and fast.

Each answer was greeted with a gasp. Just 24. Only training 16 months. Completely independent of Aidan and with his own yard in a different county. He rode 518 winners, including 30 Group 1s and ten Classics, and was Irish champion twice.

It was not just about Joseph, though. This was an Irish invasion. Johannes Vermeer and Max Dynamite completed the unthinkable tricast. The Aussies had been whitewashed.

The only homegrown story was a sixth Melbourne Cup for the billionaire Lloyd Williams, but he had used up so much ink in years gone by that his story was becoming stale. Something fresh was required. The winning trainer was the best tale in town and everybody wanted a piece of him.

"You can see what happens down here on television back home but really to appreciate the atmosphere and the enormity of the race you have to be here. The amount of media obligations you have to do after the Cup is ridiculous," admitted O'Brien on Wednesday morning at Werribee, where he was attending another media obligation. It is lucky he has a clear head. There are perks to being a pioneer.

Myself and O'Brien probably don't have much in common but we did on Tuesday night. Neither of us touched a drop of alcohol. It was a greater achievement for me as I know every word to the Fields Of Athenry and would have given my left arm for a good knees-up to celebrate a golden moment in Irish sport.

The flipside was a fresh head for some sightseeing on Phillip Island the following evening. I clapped eyes on koalas for the first time, caught up with a few kangaroos and bought tickets to see penguins coming in from the shore once darkness descended. Well, at least I think they were penguins.

It was so dark and they were so small that it could have been rabbits scampering across the sand for all I knew. That was the worst value for A$25 since Ben Allen thought he was sitting on Zenyatta and not Thomas Hobson in the Melbourne Cup.

Thursday was Oaks day, more about style among humans than substance among horses. Aloisia was supposed to have style as well as substance but it turned out she has neither and trailed in sixth behind Pinot in the main event. It was a first Oaks for Gai Waterhouse. Very little left to add to that CV now.

A first visit to St Kilda beach was still missing on mine, so Friday seemed the perfect time to top up the tan. Sitting on sand and reading Joey Barton's autobiography sounds fun, doesn't it? It wasn't. The bloody flies wouldn't leave me alone. Note to self: stop putting gel in hair. It appeared to be a popular place for insects to host their own beach parties.

There is always a party when Redzel runs and, while the Emirates Stakes was the second richest race at Flemington during the Spring Carnival, it was the Darley Classic that got everybody giddy.

The Triple Crown syndicate, of which there are dozens, were easy to spot. Red ties, red caps and even some red suits. John Allen is well into his 70s and Josh Tinning is still in his 20s. The syndicate is made up of all shapes and sizes.

Peter Piras has leukaemia but he forgot every bit of pain for the 68 seconds it took Redzel to repel all challengers and make it six wins in a row. The Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot could now be on his radar next summer. Come on over, lads. The story is just as fascinating in the northern hemisphere. 

Speaking of the northern hemisphere, it is about time I returned to it. It is tipping 30 degrees and I have just overheard a couple planning to spend Christmas day on the beach with a barbecue. Get your head around that as you de-ice your windscreen tomorrow morning.  

It's time to watch Mountainous crawling over the line at Chepstow with mud up to his knees and there was a rumour going around Richmond that Faugheen is supposed to return at Punchestown next Sunday. 

Melbourne, you've been mighty, but home is calling me. You can take the boy out of Navan but you can't take Navan out of the boy. Mammy, put on the spuds!

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


It's time to watch Mountainous crawling over the line at Chepstow with mud up to his knees

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