Reflections on the Flemington week

This time last week the 2018 Group 1 Melbourne Cup over 3200m at Flemington had been run and won in spectacular style by Charlie Appleby’s Cross Counter (GB) with Kerrin McEvoy chalking up his third Cup win.

The turn of foot that the four-year-old to southern time showed at the top of the Flemington straight has probably altered the perception of what style of runners are needed from the northern hemisphere to run in the handicap. Lowly weighted due to the careful planning by Appleby added to his speed and stamina to easily run the distance in a lethal combination.

The result was well deserved by Godolphin who have poured resources into capturing the race and as Appleby said, such has been their success this year literally around the world that he does not want the year to end.

McEvoy’s class was there on display once again and it was fitting on many fronts that he rode Cross Counter for the win. He was nurtured by Godolphin as a younger man in the UK and Europe, returned as their number one rider in Australia, lost that role which was unkind at the time, but this allowed him to freelance and become a better rider for it. Godolphin wisely brought him back into the fold.

Appleby’s colleague James Cummings also did well over the week and although Saeed Bin Suroor was not as successful last week he had contributed earlier to the ‘boys in blue’ adding considerable lustre to Melbourne’s spring.

Strides ahead and ears pricked for the line, Cross Counter (GB) and Kerrin McEvoy, picture

Accolades must go as well, and not in any sort of order, to the VRC for their new stand of great style and class. To Flemington’s track manager Liam O’Keeffe for his track surface that had everything the weather gods could throw at it and it still raced well. The Flemington roses curated by Terry Freeman are a feature of beauty and somehow Freeman gets them all to bloom on this one week.

Tony McEvoy for daring, with a smile, to upset the plans of many for a colt to win the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes with his flying filly Sunlight. She deserved the win for mightily fending off the close attentions of Zousain over the concluding stages.

McEvoy declared, with another smile, to this columnist two days later that notwithstanding winning the race with his filly, now that he knew how to win the race, he really would like to win it with a colt.

The Group 1 Victorian Derby winner Extra Brut brought great scenes of jubilation from the many owners. This really is an Australasian speciality with the many syndicates of owners bringing individuals from all walks of life into racing ownership. The Darren Weir trained winners certainly bring celebrations.

The spoils were spread around with Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahras’ Arista winning the Group 1 Kennedy Oaks. Once again there were scenes of jubilation from a large group of connections. Before the race though they gathered around jockey Damian Lane as he discussed the upcoming ride, this time there was not a sound as they watched their about to be hero with complete rapt attention.

Oaks Day though seems to have a long wait for the feature itself at 5.00pm and that spread over to Stakes Day with a lack lustre Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes. It is to be expected that the minds of the VRC, particularly Leigh Jordon will be addressing this.

The final accolade goes to the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic. It was truly a Classic race of the best of the nation’s sprinters with international flavour from Godolphin and Aidan O’Brien. This was the best of the current best and not surprisingly Anthony Freedman’s winner Santa Ana Lane producing the performance of the four days being rated at 126 by our Racing and Sports colleagues for Timeform.

Their rating of 126 marks Santa Ana Lane as the equal of Redzel and Trapeze Artist at the top of the Australian sprinting ranks at present.

The Sprint Classic, somehow it is not sponsored despite being such a good race, does finish the week off very well and it is a suitable book end to the start and freshness of Derby Day a week earlier.

The enduring memory of the week is two-fold. First Cross Counter and McEvoy. Second the playing of the Last Post in the Flemington Mounting Yard before racing commenced on Saturday for Remembrance Day and 100 years of the end of a terrible war in Europe that ultimately allowed us to enjoy the week we have just had.

Trap For Fools and John Allen between the Flemington roses, picture