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Organisers hope severe winds won't mar Melbourne Cup -

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ELEANOR HALL: On this Melbourne Cup Day, let's go now to Victoria, where the State Control Centre has just issued a severe wind warning for Melbourne this afternoon.

The change, with damaging winds around 75 kilometres per hour, is expected to hit Melbourne at 4pm.

That should mean it won't stop the race which stops the nation, but horses don't like wind, so organisers are hoping all the races will all be over by the time the weather hits.

The favourite in the Melbourne Cup remains the Japanese-owned and trained Caulfield Cup winner Admire Rakti, which will be carrying 58 kilos in the world's richest handicap race.

Most of the 22 starters in today's cup are foreigners, but that's not worrying the punters.

As Alison Caldwell reports from Flemington.

ALISON CALDWELL: Over 100,000 people have come to Flemington for the 154th Melbourne Cup.

The race has been declared more open than ever before, with 22 starters, many older than usual and many from overseas, including the Japanese favourite Admire Rakti.

There's a German horse here too, the five-year-old, Protectionist. He's been compared to previous winners Americain and Dunaden.

German journalist Niels Bungen has been busy swotting up on horse racing.

NIELS BUNGEN: Niels Bungen, German TV RTL.

ALISON CALDWELL: German horse, Protectionist? What was its name?

NIELS BUNGEN: Yeah, of course, yeah, Protectionist is its name and I'm happy that he's one of the favourites. Yeah.

ALISON CALDWELL: If Protectionist wasn't here, would you be here?

NIELS BUNGEN: Probably not, although it's still nice and very exciting, but we're all interested in Protectionist.

ALISON CALDWELL: What can you tell me about him?

NIELS BUNGEN: Ah, I think he's five years old. He costs probably more than a million; he's one of the three-four big favourites, and he has a very well experienced trainer, and probably a very rich owner.

ALISON CALDWELL: The racegoers themselves also come from far and wide.

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR: Sydney, just to have fun, experience the atmosphere and really enjoy ourselves today.

ALISON CALDWELL: Have you ever been to a Melbourne Cup before?

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR: No, I'm a virgin so I can't wait. Yeah, so I'm really looking forward to it.

ALSION CALDWELL: Have you put any money down?

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR: Yeah, I've done 22, 24, Valentina and Signoff.

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR 2: I'm from Luscombe, outside of… between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. I just thought there's a first time for everything.

ALISON CALDWELL: And what about you? Are you from Queensland as well?

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR 3: I'm from Brisbane. Yes.

ALISON CALDWELL: Your first time at the Cup?

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR 3: Yes, it was on my bucket list and I saw the trip advertised so I thought, this is for me.

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR 4: Number 12: Who Shot The Barman?

ALISON CALDWELL: Because of the name, or…?

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR 4: Sharron is, through marriage, we're related to Glen Boss. So, last time I saw him, I think he was 2 years old, so (laughs).

(Sound of bookmaker shouting)

ALISON CALDWELL: Where are you from?

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR 5: Nelson, New Zealand. Just across the ditch.

ALISON CALDWELL: You've never been to a Melbourne Cup before?

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR 5: No, this is our first time.

ALISON CALDWELL: Weather Bureau has issued a sort of emergency warning for really, really strong winds before four and five o'clock this afternoon, like marquee-tearing apart sort of winds.

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR 5: Oh excellent. Oh good!

FLEMINGTON SPECTATOR 6: We'll be waiting for the bus at that point, holding on to our fascinators.

ALISON CALDWELL: Bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse says Admire Rakti is still very much the favourite with the punters.

ROBBIE WATERHOUSE: It's the most likely to win. Sad but true.

ALISON CALDWELL: Simply because of the Caulfield Cup?

ROBBIE WATERHOUSE: Well it's the only race we know, but its form in New Zealand and Japan was very good. He ran fourth in the Japan Cup.

ALISON CALDWELL: What about this German horse?

ROBBIE WATERHOUSE: Protectionist is an improver and will run a very good race. I don't know the form terribly well.

I'm hoping for a horse called Signoff that won on Saturday. I thought it was very impressive.

ALISON CALDWELL: Signoff has got that Brazilian jockey who's supposed to be very good.

ROBBIE WATERHOUSE: Very good rider. Well, he has a different stance to Australian riders. Whether that's good or bad, but his record is sensationally good.

ALISON CALDWELL: Are you worried about the fact that there's so many foreigners in the race these days?

ROBBIE WATERHOUSE: I'm delighted at the fact that there's so many foreigners in the race.

ALISON CALDWELL: In America, a lot of the smaller races, race meets are dying because of online betting and casinos. Only really the big ones get raced now. Are you concerned that that might happen here?

ROBBIE WATERHOUSE: Crowds have fallen off in country race meetings, so it has happened here.

ALISON CALDWELL: But the Melbourne Cup?


ELEANOR HALL: Alison Caldwell reporting there from Flemington.