Surprise Winner of Melbourne Cup – Eventing Ends Decimated Year
The Melbourne Cup is the best known race run each year in Australia. Always coinciding with the end of the horse trial eventing season, the two events bring the reality that the end of another equine sporting year is soon to come to a close. Christmas, new year and then we start all over again.
Racing – The Melbourne Cup
There is always huge excitement surrounding the Melbourne Cup, a Group 1 handicap race run each year on the first Tuesday of November, and this year was the 160th running of the race. There is always a good turnout of runners for this race, and despite being held behind closed doors with no spectators or even owners allowed, this year was no exception with 23 runners going to post for the 2 mile contest. Again, there was an ample representation from Europe as seven of the twenty three were from Ireland and the UK.
Aidan O’Brien has never won this race and he had two contenders in Tiger Moth and 2019’s Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck. Son, Joseph also sent out a brace of colts to take their chance, Master of Reality and Twilight Payment. Others from the UK or Ireland included those from Charlie Fellowes, Andrew Balding and Willie Mullins. The rest were Australian trained.
On a sunny day at Flemington Park and good, even perfect racing ground the twenty three runners started to make their way home with Twilight Payment quickly taking the lead. Jockey Jye McNeil steered his mount at a sensible gallop throughout and maintained his lead by a margin of ½ a length at the finish. This must be another galling result for the Australian home team as it is the second time in three years that Joseph O’Brien has won the race, the last in 2017 with Rekindling. In that year, Joseph beat his father Aidan into second place, and it was no different this year. Aidan was responsible for the second home, Tiger Moth ridden by Kerrin McEnvoy. Kerrin kept up well with the leader and tried to press him in the last furlong, but just didn’t have the legs to complete the job. The third home was British trained Prince of Arran, who ran a gutsy race throughout, trained by Charlie Fellowes. This is a race which attracts plenty of betting, and the favourite was Surprise Baby, sent off at 5/1; trained by Paul Preusker. Tiger Moth was second favourite at 11/2, but the winner was totally unfancied at 25/1. The best of the Antipodean horses home was The Chosen One trained by Murry Baker and Andrew Forsman who came fourth. Sadly, Anthony Van Dyck fractured a fetlock during the race and had to be put down. Although the horse received immediate veterinary care, the injury sustained was so bad that he was unable to be saved.
The win must have been particularly sweet for Irish trainer and breeder Jim Bolger, who not only bred the 7 year old gelding, but also trained him until he sold him in 2018. Twilight Payment is by the Jim Bolger trained Teofilio out of an Oasis Dream mare Dream On Buddy. Joseph O’Brien, watching the race at home in Ireland said afterwards “that he could hardly watch, but it was a fantastic ride by Jye and a fantastic effort by all the lads with the horse”.
This win for either British or Irish trainers was the fifth in the Cup’s history; the other wins were in 2018, 2017, 2002 and 1993.
Eventing of 2020
As eventing winds down in the northern hemisphere and all the major Horse Trials have been completed, we look at the year and discuss the highlights. Whose done well, what horses have been in the spot light and look forward to the next season. However, this year, the whole season has been virtually written off due to the Corona virus.
In January, February and most of March, the only eventing really happening was the low grade indoor eventing and while that was happening, most riders were getting their steeds fit and ready for another gruelling season. This year, just before the resumption of the 2020 outdoor season, Covid lock downs became the order of the day throughout most of the world. This meant that there could be no events, and the casualties were frankly eye-watering. None of the five star events due in April, May, June, July, August and September could run, which saw the end of Kentucky, Badminton, Luhmuhlen and Burghley, all cancelled.
The only survivor, and that was behind closed doors with a very disappointing turnout was at Pau in France only a couple of weeks ago. Despite the low turnout, there were most of the world’s top riders competing and the winner, Laura Collett from Great Britain riding London 52 will always have the pleasure of winning her first 5 star event, beating the likes of world ranked athletes, Oliver Townend, Tim Price and Christopher Burton.
By and large, the FEI world rankings were rather pointless as the names at the top never changed from the end of 2019. Oliver Townend form Great Britain remained at number one with Tim Price from New Zealand in two and Piggy French – now March from Great Britain in third spot. Normally, there are thousands of points which are earned for different events with the winner getting two or three thousand points to make up the position. This year, the winner is proclaimed with just 577 points with the second only 2 points behind and Piggy with 556. This just shows how the season has been completely destroyed by the world pandemic.
Sadly, with this season, there is little more to comment on – so while there have been little niggles here and there, but no actual sport we can only end in hope that 2021 will be a much more productive season. The omens are good as recently, it has been announced that The Horse Trials at the iconic Badminton Event will be running in 2021. It is hoped that the world will have moved on considerably before early May, when Badminton is to take place, and there will be spectators, and things will be far more normal. But we will just have to see what the next few months bring and hopefully, all the other 5 star events will soon announce that come what may, they will run.