Race Day

by Alissa

It’s the first Tuesday in November.

In Australia that means one thing: the Melbourne Cup.

I didn’t know that until the night before, when Ace mentioned that there would be some kind of party at the office involving prawns and champagne and watching a horse race on TV in the middle of the workday. He’s had a bad case of swimmer’s ear on top of the cold O and I had last week, so he wasn’t too keen. But the Melbourne Cup has been in the air for at least the past month–pubs, cafes and restaurants have all been advertising specials on food and drink for the event and “in house bookies”, whatever those are. There were even Melbourne Cup balloons–horses all around!–at the craft store a friend showed me last week. I spent my money on something shimmering and pink called crystal organza floss to make fairy wings instead, but I was tempted. So many horses. We could have spun them around all day.

Ace said the whole thing was over in a couple of minutes. If you want to read an account of the race, try this one from the Australian. A small taste to get you started:

GREEN Moon has won the $6.2m Melbourne Cup with Brett Prebble on board in a race run under the shadow of a betting scandal.

The win gave prominent owner-breeder Lloyd Williams his fourth Melbourne Cup and was a win for an Australian-trained horse in a field crowded with European-based stayers.

The Hong Kong-based Prebble said after the race it was his “life dream” to win the Melbourne Cup and now felt as though he had now won racing’s pinnacle on the Irish-bred stayer.

Shocking a field of foreign stars, Green Moon, trained by Robert Hickmott, won the two-mile classic by a length from Fiorente and Jakkalberry, with Kelinni fourth.

Green Moon started at $20. Fiorente started at $31 and was the third Cup runner-up for trainer Gai Waterhouse. The unfancied Jakkalberry started at $81.

There is animal poetry here, arithmetic, gambling, some kind of jockey scandal, and the Duchess of Cornwall bestowing the Cup on the winner. I don’t know what half of it means, but it sounds thrilling.

My Australian sources* were mostly disinterested in the whole event, but they explained to me that for many it is a day of excitement, fashion, dissipation, and commercial opportunity. It is the next day now, and the hair salon down the street from us still had their “Get glam for Melbourne Cup!” sign out today, although perhaps tellingly the salon appeared to be closed.

The thing about racing is that sometimes an unexpected horse will sneak up and win, as happened with Green Moon. Not like the other first-Tuesday-in-November race just winding down in America tonight. We haven’t lived in the States since 2005, but as near-Canadians, we followed the results closely. What happens in America touches us all, even in Australia. While watching the speeches, O got really excited and shouted “I’m Canadian! Is that Canadia?” In her defense, the flags were all tiny on the computer screen across the room, and we have emphasized her Canadian heritage in the narrative of her first two years. We were pleased to remind her that she’s American, too, like us. At least she knows the sight of democracy at work is something great. In honour of Obama’s reelection, we had leftover soup for dinner and  finished a bottle of wine. Some things are better the second time around.



*One Novocastrian and other playgroup mums with 1-10 years experience here.