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By Damian Browne | Friday, November 13, 2020

Three months ago, if the question had been asked if we were even going to have a Melbourne Cup … I was one of the ones who would have said, ‘no … there is no way they can!’

At that stage, I didn’t even think they were going to have the carnival and, even if they found a way, I thought the odds would be a million to one of having any internationals here.

The logistics of it all must have been a nightmare for so many people.

It is easy for those of us not based in Victoria to forget how tough they had to do it, but the way Racing Victoria dealt with all of the problems that arose and overcame major difficulties was an outstanding effort.

I take my hat off to them.

So, here we are now, able to look back at the Melbourne Cup carnival which produced some great racing. The quality of the race fields and the stories that came out of the individual races as horses and riders grasped their opportunities … it was a true Melbourne Cup week in all but one aspect.

Yes, we all missed the crowds but, in reality, it was only in the pre-race and post-race moments that we actually noticed their absence. While the actual racing was on, the full focus was on that so during any race it was no different to a normal race-day.

Yes, those who wanted to be there had to watch from another vantage point. The most compromised section here were the connections of the horses involved but, even they, would surely concede that they would rather have the race without them than no race at all.

It was all about the racing and racing was still able to be showcased … to the credit of all concerned.

Notable winners on the last day of the Carnival were Arcadia Queen, Bivouac, and Sneaky Five.

Some might remember that Arcadia Queen actually started second favourite in The Everest last year as part of a three-race preparation for trainer Chris Waller which also included the Golden Eagle.

She had been trained from the outset by Grant and Alana Williams, who landed five wins from six starts with Arcadia Queen before she switched to the Waller yard. After the Golden Eagle Arcadia Queen returned to the Williams yard and they produced her to claim two Group 1 wins this campaign … the Caulfield Classic and the McKinnon Stakes on Saturday.

It just shows the versatility of the horse, behind a second favourite in a top-class sprint over 1200m and then winning the McKinnon over 2000m … and it also shows what good trainers Grant and Alana Williams are.

It was a great effort.

As far as Bivouac is concerned, the Darley Sprint was one of those races where you see at the 300m he was just going to win and win easy.

People are talking him up … and rightly so, but to say a horse is the best sprinter in the country, I think a horse has got to dominate … or at least be close to it … over a period of a season or two.

Bivouac has established himself as the benchmark sprinter at the moment, but you also can’t argue with what Gytrash has been doing … so I think that best sprinter crown is still up for grabs.

We might lose Bivouac though, just as we lost Classique Legend to Hong Kong, as I see plans are being considered to take him to Dubai and Royal Ascot.

If that happens, whether he stays over there or comes back for another The Everest … who knows?

The Ciaron Maher/David Eustace training partnership nabbed to Golden Gift in Sydney with Sneaky Five.

Incredibly the horse has won two starts in just a couple of weeks in lucrative races to send his stake-earnings soaring to $883 000.

The stable has had quite a dominant season with his two-year-olds. They seem to be winning most of those better races.

Maher has always been a very good trainer, but over the last eighteen months to two years the training partnership has gone to the next level … ah la a Chris Waller type progression … where he is becoming a dominant factor in multiple cities.

That’s hard to do … so they are doing very well.

The only hiccup on the last day of the carnival was the technical issue related to the TAB service.

It was a big hiccup … but, in this day and age of technology, these things sometimes can’t be helped.

Being an ambassador for the TAB for the last eighteen months since I retired from riding, I know how hard these guys work and how personally they take it when things are not up to speed.

I really felt for them because it would have been a nightmare day for them.

Thankfully, for them and for us, it is a rare occurrence.

After the Cup Carnival … it seems a bit like the day after New Year’s Day now.

There is a bit of winding down … and then you start thinking about what is coming next.

For us in Queensland, we’ll be focussing on our Summer Carnival … which has obviously been revamped over the last couple of years.

Hopefully, that will translate into exciting races leading into the Magic Millions which will come around again before we know it.

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Damian Browne
Damian Browne
Queensland's Own www.horseracingonly.com.au Queensland's Best