Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

Armchair TV viewers who are interested in both horse racing and politics face a stamina test next Tuesday, with the 160th running of the Melbourne Cup and a bout between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the US.

The action starts around 6am with the cameras — but no spectators — at Flemington racecourse in Melbourne for the “race which stops the nation”. When this writer attended the Cup in 2005 — the year Makybe Diva completed a historic hat-trick — the crowd was 120,000 strong so there will be a ghostly feel to Flemington next Tuesday.

Predictably, Victoria Racing Club is putting a positive spin on the day. Chairperson Amanda Elliott said: “While we are disappointed not to be able to welcome our members and racegoers to Cup week, we understand the government’s commitment to keeping our community safe.

“We also recognise the need for certainty and clarity for our patrons. It is possible that a small number of owners may be able to attend.

“What is certain is that the Melbourne Cup carnival will go ahead with viewing audiences watching from across Australia and around the world. The spirit of Cup week, the high quality of racing and the 160th running of the Cup will be enjoyed by millions. This year’s Cup experience will be one to remember.

“We will play our part in supporting Victoria emerging from this pandemic as Melbourne moves closer to a normal environment over summer,” Elliott said.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien’s stayer, Tiger Moth, is the 9-2 favourite for the Cup, but veteran jockey Glen Boss told reporters he felt last weekend’s Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet was capable of completing the Cox Plate-Cup double. The last horse to achieve this feat was Makybe Diva in 2005.

“He just might go a little better in a Mel Cup because in the Cox he was actually getting warmed up towards the line. He was getting quicker towards the post,” Boss said. “This might just be the tip of the iceberg as far as this horse is concerned, the only thing he wouldn’t want is too hard a track,” he added.

Trainer Danny O’Brien, who won the 2019 race with Vow And Declare, will be happy with the third-place finish of Russian Camelot and his Irish-bred import could reward each-way backers at his odds of 10-1.

There is big money up for grabs with the first home in the 24-horse field collecting a cheque for A$4.4m and prize money down to 12th place, which will pay out A$160,000.

Over in the US, the polls are predicting a win for Joe Biden in the presidential election with results from some of the 50 states expected to be filtering through by midnight (SA time). Trump knows the polls got it wrong in 2016 when he upset favourite Hillary Clinton and he will be hoping they are inaccurate once again.

The run-up to the election has certainly made for enthralling viewing with two TV networks — Fox and CNN — in different corners. Fox is pro-Trump while CNN criticises his every move. 

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