Ten reasons why you’re not fair dinkum if you don’t go to Cup week once in your life.

November 3, 2012

There are some things you have to do before turning your toes up.

Sing a John Cash song in public. Go to an Eagles concert. Swim on the Barrier Reef. Have a beer in an outback pub. And go to Melbourne Cup week.

I consider myself blessed. All five boxes ticked. Those who have had to listen to the singing bit might suggest other holy terms.

At the top of the list, is the Cup carnival. Not just the first Tuesday in November. It’s much more than a day.

It’s been a decade since we soaked up the Melbourne magic. But I remember as if it was yesterday.

Six of us, having an absolute ball.

Do I hear doubt on the other end of the line? Are you not convinced? Let me give you some examples of why there is no better fun to be had standing up.

The locals are happy. Even with all of us there. They love Cup week. For the most part, they don’t mind sharing.

The build up starts days earlier. You get to go to Derby Day to warm up. The best racing all year. With 100-thousand others.

You can go to that Chinese restaurant we found that has karaoke upstairs. Around the corner from that pub. If you’re a little rowdy, like we were, they’ll let you have the room to yourself. And the fridge.

It’s ok to be a little dusty the next morning, because everyone else is. Breakfasts are big and tasty. Recovery comes easier on a full stomach.

You’ll attend the best sporting lunch in the land. Any one of five. Sunday after Derby Day. You’ll hear Simon Marshall, or Miracle Mal, or Shane Dye, or one of the Freedmans, or Mighty Mick Dittman. There’ll be a phantom call, and you’ll cheer. I bet you win some racing gear in the raffle.

Monday is a rest day, of sorts. Watch the magnificent parade. All the old winners. Horses, jockeys and trainers. Keep an eye out for the joy on the faces all around you. Melbourne does a parade like no other city.

Cup Day. Early start. You’ll be crammed into a train, and get a tip in the first minute. Don’t forget it.

You’ll have your first drink at 9am. Like everyone else. If the beer isn’t cold enough, you might have to have one Bundy and coke. Just the one. And no-body will think any less of you.

You will win, at some stage in the day. Enough to get back to that Chinese restaurant. We’ll take the upstairs room again thanks.

Tuesday night, there’ll be a nice little pub with a band playing. Some of the old stuff. People will tell you hard luck stories. For the only time all year, you’ll offer genuine sympathy.

Every chance you’ll fly out on Wednesday. Battered, but triumphant. Unless you’re one of the truly lucky ones, who gets to stay all week. My heroes.

Need any more convincing? Of course you don’t. I can hear you booking your trip now. If not for tomorrow, next year. What fun we’ll have.

All that’s left now is to sip that beer in the dust, do some reef swimming, and join in an Eagles sing-a-long. I’m assuming you’ve already belted out Ring of Fire in front of your mates.

Happy Cup week. And don’t forget – there’s a special edition of Hold All Tickets this Monday morning.

A truly unique look at the race that stops the nation. Detailed form for every runner. Some made up. Essential reading for anyone who needs to pretend they’re an expert on Cup Day. Don’t miss it.

No Black Caviar. No movie stars. And empty pockets. Sandown, you need to woo me.

November 12, 2011

Saturday at Sandown after the Flemington Spring carnival is a bit like visiting your second favourite pub.

You know they do things better down the road, but you’re still happy enough to drop in for a pie and a pint.

It’s the same scenario for State of Origin players, heading back to club footy after a Suncorp Stadium triumph. You have to do it. But it’s not quite the same.

I run into similar problems after Stradbroke Day in Brisbane. Just seven days later, we’re in the massive crowd for Ipswich Cup day. Trying to work out which weekend the favourite was actually set for.

I’ve never been to Sandown. I’m sure it’s pleasant, and that they put on a fine show, like every other big race day in the southern capital.

It should be said, however, that my instinct at this time of year is to spell myself, to recover from the flogging I endured over Cup week.

For the purposes of research only, and in the interest of you, dear reader, I shall ignore that instinct, and saddle up again.

So how do we find a winner, with only the sounds of coins jangling in our pockets? Good question.

In most races, we have to decide whether they were unlucky over the carnival, or just not good enough.

Would they rather be picking buffalo turf in the paddock, reminiscing about chasing a Group One rump, instead of trying for a Group 2 or 3 consolation?

The Sandown Classic provides an annual headache, for those of us still trying to work out how we did so badly in the Melbourne Cup.

Usually, we see a stack of horses backing up from the great race, and every year I forget how the form will stack up.

Stayers who’ve been trained to the minute for the great two-mile race, dropping back in distance at the tricky Sandown track.

No such problems this year. Only five runners will face the starter. How does that happen? Hardly makes for a memorable day.

And that’s a shame. For the first time, the race will be known as the Zipping Classic. Yes, another name change. That great old horse deserved better.

Americain will win easily, at no price. Connections must be giggling. Easy pickings for them, but not much fun for the punter.

I hate to be negative, but the rest of the card is hardly inspiring either. We’ll do our best to find a winner, as always. And it’s still better than fixing the bathroom tiles.

The problem, you see, is that we’ve been spoiled. It’s hard to move on, after the greatest week of racing on the planet. But accept it we must. Remember, there’s only one Cup week.

Yes, it would be nice if we were still at Flemington. No use complaining I suppose. After all, the beer is still cold at your second favourite pub.