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Melbourne Cup seeks global attention -

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Melbourne Cup seeks global attention

AM - Saturday, 30 October , 2004 08:20:00

Reporter: Rafael Epstein

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Well, it's almost upon us - that one time of the year when most of us struggle
with the alien language of form guides and handicaps, and suddenly focus on a certain horse race on
a Tuesday afternoon.

The organisers, Racing Victoria, hope that the race that stops the nation will soon become the race
that stops much of the world. And for that reason, they've continued their push to attract foreign
horses with one of the racing world's richest jackpots.

In Melbourne, our reporter, Rafael Epstein, went to Flemington to get some last minute tips from
the Chief Executive of Racing Victoria, Robert Nason.

ROBERT NASON: Horse racing's been part of Australia's culture, basically, since settlement. The
Melbourne Cup was as big 150 years ago as it is now in terms of the population interest, and of
more recent times, I think fashion's become a really big part of the event.

Australians like to have a punt, they like to, even if it's once a year, to have a look at the
horses. And the Melbourne Cup has always had that special significance, I think, and the interest
that is the race that stops the nation. I love to have a bet on it... you do very well if you can
pick the winner of it, because the pools are so large, and it's very much a fun day out.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: A couple of the imponderables - the Maribyrnong River that's very close to here and
to the track nearly flooded the course during the week. Is that going to make a big difference?

ROBERT NASON: Well no, I think the weather forecast is looking pretty good, I think we're going to
have a fine derby day. We will get rain, as you do in Melbourne - every second day we get rain, so
it'll rain some time in the week, but we're not expecting anything significant to dampen the crowds
or the turnover or the quality of the racing.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Bart Cummings is one of those trainers, or one of the few trainers with a household
name, he had a bit of a go during the week about the way the horses are handicapped, saying that
the overseas horses get a bit of favouritism. Do you think that's legitimate criticism, and do the
overseas horses have a better chance?

ROBERT NASON: History says that the foreign horses don't do well. When they come out they're under
a big handicap - travelling the distance. Some would argue the foreign jockeys aren't helpful,
they've got to acclimatise as well, and I think the weights are very fair, so I think the best
horse will win on the day.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: So is that just psychological warfare from Bart Cummings?

ROBERT NASON: The trainers always do that, like... trainers are like farmers - they're never happy.
It's either too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry... I think we've got to do the job very objectively
here at Racing Victoria in setting the weights, and I think we do that.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: It's a tough gig, though, for the international horses, isn't it? Last year one of
them didn't run. This year one of them hasn't eaten. Is it worth all the effort you put in? What
does it bring the race?

ROBERT NASON: Yeah, again, we are the only international event in the horse racing calendar that
doesn't pay subsidies for horses to come, so the horses that are here are here for the prize money.

If they don't win, they go home empty-handed, and I think we're moving to an era where we're going
to have the whole world stopping for the Melbourne Cup, not just all of Australia, and I would hope
we're moving into that with the way that people can watch the race now, and there's about 170
countries taking it this year.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: How often do you pick the winner of the Melbourne Cup?

ROBERT NASON: Look, I've been overseas the last few years, but I've had a pretty good run just in
the last few years, but this year I'm not as certain. I liked Mckybey Diva the year before it won...
I said that looks like the cup winner, and that came in, but I've had... the last two or three years
I think I've got them, and I haven't had much luck before that, so maybe my run's run out.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: The chief executive of Racing Victoria, Robert Nason.

(c) 2006 ABC