A to Z of 2020 Melbourne Cup Carnival

Tara Madgwick - Monday November 9

So thanks to Covid 19, this was the Flemington Melbourne Cup Carnival that nobody went to and everybody had the same view just like me from the couch, so what did we make of it and what bloodstock lessons were there to be learned.

Arcadia Queen, A had to be for her! She’s one of my favourites and I was broken when the rain came to Cox Plate day and scuppered her chances as she, like that other great mare of a past era Let’s Elope, does not like to get her feet wet.

Arcadia Queen - Racing Photos

Boss and Bivouac – it’s not often a horse wins so easily that the jockey has time to reach forward and pat him on the head as they go past the post. Boss is renowned for the grand winning gesture, but this one on the Group I Darley Sprint Classic was a beauty!


Bivouac carries the mark of greatness! - Racing Photos

If you look closely at this picture you will see Bivouac has the ‘prophet’s thumb’ marking that legend has it is a sign of greatness.

The marking, an indentation in the flesh, is usually found on the side of a horse’s neck, totally harmless although it comes with a story worth re-telling.

The Prophet Mohammed was wandering the desert with his herd of horses for many days, and as they approached an oasis he sent them forth to drink. But as the thirsty horses approached the water, he called them back. Only five of his mares stopped and returned to him, and to thank them for their loyalty he blessed them by pressing his thumbprint into their necks.

It’s believed that a horse with such a mark will be outstanding, being a descendant of one of these brood mares that the Prophet Mohammed particularly treasured.

Never mind the Prophet Mohammed, I’m sure Sheikh Mohammed treasures Bivouac’s mother Dazzler, who produced a full sister to the superstar sprinter this spring.

Colts were put to shame in the Group I Coolmore Stud Stakes won by Exceed and Excel filly September Run over Shamus Award filly Swat’s That with Wild Ruler the first of his sex to hit the line.

September Run gave the colts a galloping lesson in the Coolmore - Racing Photos.

Denis Pagan dared to dream big and provided the feel good story of the carnival when he won the Victoria Derby as an owner trainer with Tavistock gelding Johnny Get Angry. That was $50,000 well spent at Karaka!

Owner / trainer wins Derby with a maiden - now that's a story! - Racing Photos.

Everest again proved itself as the benchmark for spring sprint racing with the runner-up Bivouac taking out the Group I Darley Sprint Classic. It might not carry Group I status yet, but I think we all know it’s the best sprint in the country.

Free to air coverage, can’t say I watched much of it as the constant ads and crosses to people I’ve never heard of in places I could care less about left me cold, however Racing.com did a great job covering an event that for this year only was strictly about the horses.

Godolphin elected to keep their international contingent at home this year in the wake of the pandemic, but nevertheless made their presence felt with glamour colt Bivouac and the more than handy Snitzel mare Exhilarates, who has now won over $2million in prizemoney.


Horses carrying these colours, made famous by the late owner Dato Tan Chin Nam and his trainer Bart Cummings, have won all the very biggest races at Flemington over the years and this year we saw them in the winner’s circle on Purple Sector trained by John Thompson.



Purple Sector wins in the colours of the late Dato Tan Chin Nam's Think Big Stud - Racing Photos.

He’s no Saintly, So You Think or Faint Perfume, but he has won over $400,000!

Interesting stats - Throughout the Carnival 441 horses competed in 37 races, representing an average field size of 11.9 runners. The four race cards, offering nearly $24 million in prize money, saw 25 individual trainer and 19 jockeys enjoy victory, most of them Victorian.

John O’Shea was one of few Sydney trainers that enjoyed success at Flemington this year training a double on Oaks day in targeting specific niche races for his runners with Rocha Clock winning the inaugural $250,000 Inglis Bracelet and Berdibek (Fr) taking out the all greys race honouring Subzero. Read about them here.

Kicked out of the Melbourne Cup has it’s benefits. Globetrotting mare True Self won the Group III Queen Elizabeth Stakes for the second year in a row and took home a $200,000 bonus after being balloted from the Lexus Melbourne Cup.


True Self might not have been good enough for two Melbourne Cups. but she's plenty good enough for two Queen Elizabeth Stakes - Racing Photos

Loser is Prince of Arran. For the third year in a row this most likable gelding was beaten in the Melbourne Cup and yet we love him anyway… and particularly those who keep backing him.

Prince of Arran, what's not to love! - Racing Photos.

His three consecutive placings at backable odds ensure if you are on him each way, even when he loses, you win!

Mares took centre stage in the Group I Empire Rose Stakes and what a great race it was with Not a Single Doubt surging further ahead on the Australian General Sires List following the win of his four year-old daughter Shout the Bar at 30-1. She was a rare long shot success for powerhouse duo of Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott.

Shout the Bar wins in a thriller - Racing Photos

Nicks that click – that story highlighting some of the best is done and dusted and you can read it here.

O’Brien – three of the last four Cup winners have been trained by an O’Brien, two by Irishman Joseph O’Brien ( son of Aidan O’Brien, who has twice trained the runner-up) and one by Aussie bred Danny O’Brien, who is no relation.

Seven of the 23 runners this year were trained by an O’Brien, so if you want a tip for 2021, back one of theirs!

Personal went into this carnival the perennial bridesmaid and came out of it an Oaks Queen!

Bugger being a bridesmaid, when you can be the bride! - Racing Photos

Question – why do horses die in the Melbourne Cup? If I’ve been asked this by non-racing friends once, I’ve been asked it a million times. The loss of Anthony Van Dyck was a tragedy, but the sad reality is freakish accidents happen despite everyone’s very best efforts to ensure they do not.

The Australian showjumping world was recently shocked by a similar incident involving a very popular and successful young stallion that suffered a life ending accident while training at home, why did that happen?

Ron Hutchinson Excellence Award for jockeys was a tie between Hugh Bowman and Damien Oliver, but it was great to see some of the young guys in the Group I spotlight such as Jye McNeil, Damian Lane and Lachlan King.

Shelby Cobra caught the eye of good judges Paul and Mike Moroney at the Inglis Premier yearling sale for his uncanny resemblance to his sire Toronado (IRE), who finished the carnival with a flourish siring a stakes double. The success of Shelby Cobra in the Listed Amanda Elliott was followed later in the day by Affair to Remember in the G2 Matriarch Stakes.

The resemblance is unmistakable! - Racing Photos

Victoria might have lost Written Tycoon to Arrowfield Stud in the Hunter Valley, but they still have Toronado at Swettenham.

Twilight Payment and Trump have certain similarities in that both faced a massive challenge and adopted a go hard or go home approach in a bid to vanquish their rivals by brute strength and stamina. The big difference is Twilight Payment is a winner!

Twilight Payment breaks hearts in a fast run Cup - Racing Photos

US Election was followed as closely by many Australians as the racing at Flemington.

The process had more twists and turns than the Victorian road map to recovery and whatever you thought of the outcome, it’s safe to say it won’t be four more years of the same.

Victoria Quay became the first filly stakes-winner for her sire Dundeel when taking out the Group II Wakeful Stakes. Dundeel also sired Ain’tnodeeldun to win a Listed race on Cup Day giving him a stakes double.

Victoria Quay gives Dundeel a female SW - Racing Photos

Victoria Quay is one female stakes-winner in a total of 12 stakes-winners, so vendors looking to sell Dundeel fillies at 2021 sales, will be hoping she’s the first of many.

If there is one thing we do know about sex biased sires it’s that they always even up to some extent as their career unfolds, so it might be time to start backing and buying those Dundeel fillies!

Written Tycoon was the most successful sire over the four days of the carnival producing three new stakes-winners – Written Beauty, Rich Hips and Finance Tycoon – while his sire son Rich Enuff chimed in with new 2YO stakes-winner Dosh.

Written Tycoon sired three new stakes-winners during the carnival.

X!%@*****@!# is just one of the things punters had to say about the TAB’s performance on Stakes Day.  A massive black eye with the loss to the industry sure to be in the millions.

Yet another weird and unpredictable source of chaos in a year that has become synonymous with weird and unpredictable chaos.

Yulong have made a big impact in Victoria through their thoroughbred investments and have established a first class stud standing two exciting young stallions in Grunt and Alabama Express, so they would have taken great satisfaction from seeing their colours race to Group I success in the VRC Cantala Stakes (1600m) aboard South African bred import Yulong Prince (SAfr).

Yulong Prince wins the Cantala Stakes - Racing Photos

It was their first Group I success in Australia and is likely to be followed by many more.

Zabeel always makes his mark on this carnival and he did so this year as the leading broodmare sire with his daughters producing three stakes-winners – Johnny Get Angry (G1), No Restriction and Purple Sector.

He had to share the honour though as Danehill Dancer (IRE) equalled that number siring the dams of stakes-winners - Victoria Quay, Written Beauty and Fiesta.

All images sourced from Racing Photos - thanks to their outstanding team of photographers that brought us some truly special images.

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