Geelong Cup is a sure pointer to next week's Melbourne Cup
The sad news that Jump racing has been abandoned in South Australia due to a paucity of horses in training is a timely illustration that our sport is only one step away from disappearing. And whilst you might say that could never happen in the vibrant UK market, don't be so sure. There has been a steady erosion of Point-to-Point fixtures and runners over the past 20 years and field sizes are at their smallest for some time even in the professional side of the sport. Nurturing pour sport at every level is essential for its ongoing well being.
Which is why the big festivals of racing - wherever they are held - are so important to bring horseracing into the public eye. And there are few bigger than the annual Melbourne Cup in Australia, a happy hunting ground previously for British and Irish runners. We're little more than a week away from Australia's most celebrated race, last brought back to the northern hemisphere by Joseph O'Brien's Twilight Payment. The Geelong Cup however may pack more Melbourne Cup betting information than you will ever find in stat sheets and expert predictions.
This year's Cup, on Tuesday November 2, won't reach the dizzy heights of attendance of previous years, when a record 122,000 attended, but the 10,000 allowed under government guidelines will add atmosphere that was sorely lacking in 2020, when the event took place behind closed doors.
Here's a look ahead to Australia's greatest race.
Dennis Pagan is hanging his hopes of going to the Melbourne Cup on Johnny Get Angry and how well the Geelong Cup turns out. If history is anything to go by, the Geelong Cup has always been a strong indicator of form for horses looking to produce in the Melbourne Cup. The 2400m distance is ideal to help trainers and pundits gauge the level of readiness of the horses. indeed, the Geelong Cup has been instructive in 2002, when Media Puzzle went on to win the Melbourne Cup after shinning in the Geelong Cup. 2010 with Americain and Dunaden in 2011 are also more recent examples we can draw from the Geelong Cup.
After his legendary Group 1 win last year, 'Johnny' has secured himself a start for the Melbourne Cup, but Pagan is not taking it for granted as he knows the horse will need to improve his form to justify his place in the Melbourne Cup. His first two starts in this preparation, at 1200 and 1600 metres, were far from his best results, but Pagan said the horse had excuses in his last start in the Turnbull Stakes when he was 29 lengths behind.
"You have to forget the Turnbull; he stepped on a nail and his blood wasn't good, as we found out the day after the race," Pagan said.
"You just have to accept that.
"Other than that, everything else was fine. He did well, so I'm just hoping for the best for tomorrow. I think he's in good shape."
Johnny Get Angry's favourite distance has always been a mile and a half or more, and Wednesday's Geelong Cup will be only the second time he has covered that distance. Pagan said that should be taken into consideration.
"This is his best distance ever. There are plenty of opportunities for him," Pagan said.
But what Johnny is mad about at home on the track is irrelevant if he can't prove his competitiveness on race day.
"His work is very good, but I learned a long time ago elsewhere that track work and training is like dancing with your sister," said the AFL's premier coach.
"If he doesn't do well tomorrow, we won't go to the Bowl, but if he does well, I'd be crazy not to. I may never be in that position again, so I guess I'll take my chances.
"You have to support him and hope he's at his best. I don't see any gaps in his preparation. He looks good, he's working well and I hope everything stays that way."
Trilly Rose, winner of Simon Wild's Bart Cummings, is the $2.60 favorite for Wednesday's Geelong Cup over Herbert Power's Hasta La War ($6.50). Johnny Get Angry is one of the outsiders in the $61 race.
Also on the card at Geelong is the Geelong Classic, a key Derby preliminary race in which Kiwi galloper Tutukaka - who finished fifth behind El Patroness in the last start of the Super Impose - is the $4.80 favourite.
So, if you're interested in racing, then the Melbourne Cup and its preamble is a must-view, wherever you live. See it, and live it, from your living room!