Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cup day

The 151st race of the Melbourne cup was run today. Cup day is undoubtedly Australia'a greatest day of celebration. Cynics also call it Australia's only honest horse race. It is certainly true that outsiders often "get up" at the Melbourne cup. And so it was today with the favourite not even making it into the top three.

I went into a couple of sweeps but the horses I drew might as well not have existed. Sweeps are the most honest gamble there is as there is no third party to take a "cut". So even an old Presbyterian like me can justify joining in.

Joe was held up from returning to Canberra by the Qantas lockout so he took the opportunity of extending his stay by a few days -- and came and joined me to watch the cup on TV. He had never even heard of sweeps before so I helped improve his education about cup matters.

I did invite Paul to come and watch too but after more than a week of social occasions connected with Vonnie's visit, he felt he had to get back to business. He must have found that hard.

It was of course an amazing race with an incredible finish. The winning horse -- Dunaden, a French entry -- literally won by a nostril. In the days before photo finishes it would have been announced as a tie. The stipes* had to use extreme magnification to separate Dunaden from English horse Red Cadeaux.

The victory lands Dunaden's Qatari owner Sheik Fahad al Thani $3.6 million plus a trophy worth $175,000.

I was mildly surprised that there was no Royalty present -- as the Royal Family are a very horsy lot. Princess Diana attended the 1985 Melbourne cup, for instance. Perhaps the fact that the Queen had just left our shores a few days ago had something to do with no other Royals being present.

But Her Majesty was well represented by her vicereine, our Governor General, Quentin Bryce. She gave a very patriotic speech which pleased me greatly. Australians do have a lot to celebrate -- all founded on the hard work and good sense of our forebears of course. Some of those forebears were my ancestors so I know how hard they worked and what they took on.

In his miserable carping book, Donald Horne said that Australia is a "lucky" country. But luck had nothing to do with it. It is true that Australia has considerable natural resources, but so do Africa and South America -- and it would be a brave soul who would call them lucky. No. Australians today owe their enviable lifestyle to the dogged British and Irish people who settled this country for most of the first 200 years of its recorded history

I didn't tune in early enough to follow the other great race of the day: The "Fashions on the Field" contest. But I caught a bit of it on video. I thought the winner, Sarah Schofield, was an odd choice -- a rather plain outfit -- but what do I know about fashion? She is herself a fashion designer so I guess expertise in such arcane matters won out. There is a video here in which she appears about half way. And a still picture below:

* "stipendiary stewards"

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