Time to improve my time-keeping to keep up with standards down under
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. Keep up to date with all the news, sights and sounds from a unique occasion over the coming weeks in his bulletins at racingpost.com
Albert has yet to convince the Aussies. Einstein's theory that "time is an illusion" has not made its way to Melbourne just yet and the message might never arrive.
Time is more popular than Alf Stewart down here. The barrier draw for the Caulfield Cup was was due to start at 5.17pm on Tuesday. It began at 5.17pm. Imagine if the Curragh made a big splash for the Irish Derby draw next year and sent out invitations for 5pm of a Thursday evening? It would be pitch dark before we knew who was in stall one.
Oh, time has a different meaning down here altogether. Ninety seconds was the latest any of the ten races on Guineas day at Caulfield was delayed by. Most went off within 30 seconds of the registered off time. It went like clock-work.
It was a similar story back at Caulfield on Wednesday. The eighth and final race was due off at 5.45 and there were just two to load at 5.44. These boys take time very seriously indeed.
Here comes Bowman
So too do those watching morning gallops at Werribee, home of the internationals. Here comes Marmelo. Stop-watches at the ready. Right, he's about to pass the 600-metre pole. Press start.
Marmelo ain't moving too quickly, chaps. He is sauntering up the home straight and takes longer to run 600 metres than I would. And I ain't no Usain Bolt.
"That is just another warm-up lap," says one clock-watcher who is convinced that Hugh Bowman will give us a better chance to spy on the speed of Hughie Morrison's Caulfield Cup contender. Wrong, mate.
Bowman and Marmelo have other ideas. They have enough done.
"I didn't do as much as last Friday," reveals Bowman afterwards. "I had a pretty firm gallop with him then. It did its job and stimulated him. He was much more on the bridle this time." You can say that again, Hugh.
Bowman's wife, Christine, is Irish so I sense an opportunity. In the thickest Irish accent I can find in my throat, I say "Howaya Hugh, what's the craic?"
It works. "You're Irish, mate," comes the reply. We're away. Christine is from Kilmacow in County Kilkenny and so too is Donagh Meyler. We chat about him for a bit. Hurling? He's been to a few games. We're flying now. Is it still too early to bring up Winx? You only live once, David.
Bingo! Bowman agrees to a one-on-one interview to chat all about the wondermare (you can read it next week, be patient!). He's engaging, refreshingly honest and, unlike most of his countrymen, time is not of the essence with him. We stay chatting for over 20 minutes. Or, in Australian time, 23 minutes and 14 seconds.
Winx is not just a mare anymore. She is the pin-up girl for racing all over the world and Bowman knows it. He fully understands her persona in public. He knows it is not about him and any praise thrown his way is batted away to Chris Waller and the rest of the team who look after her.
"I am just the lucky one who gets to sit in the driver's seat," says Bowman. What he says is true, but would you fancy driving down a motorway with millions of people in the backseat, screaming at you and telling you where to go? I'd definitely take a wrong turn or barge into the car in front of me.
One of the interviews at the barrier draw for the Caulfield Cup later that evening is almost a car crash too. The MC from Racing.com asks Craig Williams does he not feel sorry for youngster Michael Dee whom he pinched the ride on Amelie Star from only hours after his intended mount Admire Dues was ruled out of the race?
"It's happened to me many times and I know Michael will have plenty of opportunities to ride in Caulfield Cups in years to come," was Williams' clever reply. Kudos for having the kahunas to ask the question I say. I'm not sure I would have been so brave.
Speaking of brave, they don't come any braver than 70-year-old Udyta Clarke. She owned the winner of the seventh race at Caulfield on Wednesday.
How do I know that? She did a pretty good impression of our own Brendan Duke in the stands, that's why. Roaring, jumping, hugging. She did more exercise in those few moments that I've done in the last six months in the gym.
I later find out that this was the same Udyta Clarke who saved a foal called Caspa six years ago. She came to the rescue during a distressed delivery from his mother, blowing into his nostrils and doing chest compressions for 25 minutes until his heart started.
After his mother died from the injuries of labour, Udyta had to feed Caspa through a tube every two hours and cuddle him to keep him warm. Vets said he would not survive. He did, you know.
People like that deserve to own winners so it was great to see her receive a rousing reception from the crowd after Rich Crown got up in the final stride to land the Listed contest over 1200 metres.
You can do things late in Australia after all.
And, before you ask, I am a terrible time-keeper. This article is already an hour late.
If you were interested in this, you can catch up with David Jennings' previous bulletins:
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