‘Never seen before’: Cup chaos

Punters make their way past the statue of three-time Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva, a well known mudlark.  icture: Jason Edwards
Punters make their way past the statue of three-time Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva, a well known mudlark. icture: Jason Edwards

Jockey Mark Zahra should have been celebrating piloting Bella Rosa to a win in the first race at Flemington on Tuesday - but was instead left lamenting the awful conditions and the impact it will have in the Melbourne Cup.

Zahra pushed home on-board Bella Rosa to win the Group 3 1000m Bumble Stakes ahead of Lankan Star and favourite Champagne Boom.

However, when interviewed in the misty conditions on track immediately after his win, Zahra was scathing of the dodgy Melbourne weather.

"The weather's obviously very bad," he said.

"Geez, I tell you it's close to an eight right now. It's probably more of a feel because of the surface water but if it keeps running like this in that race, you'd think it would be as bad as it gets for the Cup."

The Flemington track was again downgraded immediately after Race 1 to a Heavy 8.

Race 2 was pushed back following public concern from jockeys who complained they were unable to see at times during the first race of the meeting.

Wet conditions in mounting yard.
Wet conditions in mounting yard.

Channel 7 commentator Hamish McLachlan said officials refused to walk onto the track because the conditions were too dangerous.

"Right now, all of the strappers have taken the horses underneath, they've decided not to bring them out. It's too wet and too dangerous - there has been thunder and lightning," he said.

"It's a Cup that I've not seen before."

Trainer Richard Freedman, who has Auvray in the Cup, said the conditions and the downgraded track have completely changed the outlook for the $7.3 million race.

"I tell you what, this rain, it will change everybody's tactics too," Freedman said. "It has changed the whole race meeting. Whatever the tips were before the rain came, just throw them out the window and start again."

Chief steward Robert Cram has been inspecting the track before each race and expects the rest of the meeting to go ahead on-schedule and is confident the Cup will not be delayed from its traditional 2pm timeslot, 

Melbourne Cup punters were brave souls.
Melbourne Cup punters were brave souls.

Channel 7 racing commentator Jason Richardson said stewards will have to consider a major delay to allow track staff to aerate the entire track to allow some of the surface moisture to be absorbed.

He said one slip from a horse is all it could take for jockeys to pull the pin on the meeting, citing "unsafe conditions".

"No (the day won't get called off), they have a choice of trying to aerate the track to try to get the water to soak in or we have a delay and try to let the showers pass and try to see if the water will soak in."

Terry Evans, who has been working as a bookie for the Melbourne Cup since the early 80s, said the rain is the worst he's seen in more than 40 years.

"Since 1976 when Ven der Hum won it's never been as bad as this," he saidfrom under his umbrella. "It's just too wet to come out."

Paul Thompson, who has worked more than 36 years at Flemington, said the rain had impacted on betting activity.

"There has been three or four days similar to this in the past, but the rain was well spaced out," he said.

"This is solid rain at the wrong time of the day.

"People are deciding whether they will come or not, it's very hard to say yes to attending Melbourne Cup when you look outside and there's heavy downpours like this."

Melbourne Cup: The field

1. Best Solution (Barrier: 6, Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor, Jockey: Pat Cosgrave)

2. The Cliffsofmoher (B: 9, T: Aidan O'Brien, J: Ryan Moore)

3. Magic Circle (B: 17, T: Ian Williams, J: Corey Brown)

4. Chestnut Coat (B: 4, T: Yoshito Yahagi, J: Yuga Kawada)

5. Muntahaa (B: 13, T: John Gosden, J: Jim Crowley)

6. Sound Check (B: 16, T: Mike Moroney, J: Jordan Childs)

7. Who Shot the Barman (B: 18, T: Chris Waller, J: Ben Melham)

8. Ace High (B: 22, T: David Payne, J: Tye Angland)

9. Marmelo (B: 10, T: Hughie Morrison, J: Hugh Bowman)

10. Avilius (B: 11, T: James Cummings, J: Glyn Schofield)

11. Yucatan (B: 23, T: Aidan O'Brien, J: James McDonald)

12. Auvray (B: 1, T: Richard Freeman, J: Tommy Berry)

13. Finche (B: 15, T: Chris Waller, J: Zac Purton)

14. Red Cardinal (B: 5, T: Darren Weir, J: Damien Oliver)

15. Vengeur Masque (B: 2, T: Mike Moroney, J: Patrick Moloney)

16. Ventura Storm (B: 7, T: David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig, J: Mark Zahra)

17. A Prince of Arran (B: 20, T: Charlie Fellowes, J: Michael Walker)

18. Nakeeta (B: 3, T: Iain Jardine, J: Regan Bayliss)

19. Sir Charles Road (B: 14, T: Lance O'Sullivan and Andrew Scott, J: Dwayne Dunn)

20. Zacada (B: 24, T: Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, J: Damian Lane)

21. Runaway (B: 12, T: Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, J: Stephen Baster)

22. Youngstar (B: 8, T: Chris Waller, J: Craig Williams)

23. Cross Counter (B: 19, T: Charlie Appleby, J: Kerrin McEvoy)

24. Rostropovich (B: 21, T: Aidan O'Brien, J: Wayne Lordan)

Complete Flemington race card

Race One - Bumble Stakes (1000m), Group 3, 10.50am

Race Two - TAB APP Trophy (1700m), 11.30am

Race Three - Grinders Coffee Roasters Trophy (1400m), 12.05pm

Race Four - Ronald McDonald House Charities Plate (2800m), 12.40pm

Race Five - Schweppes Flemington Fling (1000m), 1.15pm

Race Six - Jim Beam Black Stakes (1400m), 1.50pm

Race Seven - Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m), 3pm

Race Eight - Furphy Plate (1800m), 4.05pm

Race Nine - MSS Security Sprint (1200m), 4.45pm

Race 10 - The Hong Kong Jockey Club Stakes (1400m), 5.20pm