Garry’s Corner – 01 November 2019

Garry Chittick

Well, after 30 odd years of attending the Melbourne Cup and Derby Day we are giving it a miss. Perhaps it’s a sign of old age, but that doesn’t inhibit my attendance at local meetings. Is it because a number of my generation find it just too hard? I don’t think so. I have always believed racing is very inter-generational; with the horse as the common denominator, we mix and debate the merits of the just run race.


During my four years as chairman of the Racing Board I was constantly barraged with the view we need more young involved in racing. Well of course we do, but who is really in a position to own a racehorse when educating kids, paying off the mortgage and establishing their business or career? Those who can are the over 50’s, they have usually put those challenges behind them, their golf handicap is reflecting their declining strength, more importantly; their wife’s only opportunity to justify the enhancement of her wardrobe is the daughter’s wedding, someone else’s wedding, but then bugger, all of them get married; then a more sombre purchase to attend the next generation’s funerals or on a happier note, the races.


Is there a moral to this? It’s obvious, make sure the wife has a non-cost share in a horse. Don’t tell her until it’s showing some form, they love winning. If at first you don’t succeed, get another. I am confronted regularly with owners lamenting their current lack of results. Get another I say, you don’t have enough!


So why no Melbourne Carnival? Well the racing on Derby day is world-class. More importantly, a quick walk anywhere on the course and you will renew many acquaintances of all ages, that’s reason enough to be there. Yes, the club has sold multiple sponsorship packages to people who probably only attend on that day. It’s still a great day, the Cup, on the other hand, is not a great racing day. The Cup itself is a great event but a poor race. I won’t dwell on the unknown form or the qualifications required to get a start, except to say, none of the racing people I know attend any longer. It is now a well-orchestrated event, I am not saying I would object to picking up the winners cheque but even that will be less than Saturdays Iron Jack Golden Eagle at $7.5m for four-year-olds. A race I would love to win, with the horses given equal opportunity rather than a cunningly placed handicapper.

Are they maintaining the mana and excitement of the great race? Well the tote says no. There has been a steady decline with the inability to pit your judgment against the handicapper. My understanding is, to maintain State Government support for the four days they must maintain attendance at a certain level. Sure, there is an imposed legal ceiling which by my guess is only reached on the first two days.


Perhaps I am wrong and good luck to the club, but I am not wrong about the demographics of the attendees on Cup Day, Mary and I wandered around on our 34th and 35th Cup, we can tell you who was there.


One regular whom if he goes will be lucky, one of my regular companions at cup time has taken up the challenge of farming cattle over 500,000 acres. Now I know it’s hard when you have to locate your cattle in only four paddocks, but when you are worried about ten steers that have escaped your three-wire boundary fence, therefore, forcing you to venture into unknown territory to retrieve them, the result was predictable. Being lost in 42 degrees is one thing, leaving the satellite phone back in the charger is another. But having to ration your water with your well-meaning mate really will test your relationship. Never mind, all is well that ends well, they were found. Five of the ten recovered cattle escaped. What’s the moral of this? Regardless of who may now be attending the cup, the cattleman would be safer at Flemington, but would he? He’s been lost there; I know, I was with him.


Cheers, Good Racing.


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