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Capital comes out to play for Cup

Date

David Polkinghorne

Melbourne Cup day at Thoroughbred Park. Click for more photos

Melbourne Cup Day at Thoroughbred Park

Canberrans gather at Thoroughbred Park to celebrate the race that stops the nation. Photo: Rohan Thomson

It's called the race that stops the nation for a reason and the Canberra racing industry predictably shut down for a couple of minutes for the Melbourne Cup.

Trainers and strappers in the mounting yard crowded around a TV with no sound, turned down so it didn't spook the horses getting ready for the next race.

The jockeys - perched on the anything-but-comfortable wooden benches in their quarters - had nothing better to do than watch Australia's most famous race.

Unable to leave their quarters between races, the 77-minute gap between race three and four at Canberra was more of a drag than anything else.

Normally, there's about 45 minutes or less between them.

''We're workaholics, we get bored sitting around,'' one jockey quipped.

But as soon as the turf had settled and Green Moon had made the bookies' day, it was back to business.

Horses needed their saddles for the next race, while the jockeys donned their silks.

Queanbeyan trainer Mick Smith had Star Hawk running in Canberra's race following the Cup.

Last year, Smith had ducked down to the bar to watch it and was given a stern talking to by the stewards for his horse's tardy arrival in the mounting yard.

He didn't want to risk a repeat.

''Down in the saddling area there's a television that's got no sound because the sound scares the horses,'' Smith said.

''So I'll be watching it and trying to figure out who's who and then trying to get the horse saddled because as soon as the race is over we have to have our horse saddled and in the enclosure for the race here at Canberra that follows. Last year I got in trouble with the stewards for sneaking up here to watch the race. They'd probably frown on me if I did it two years in a row.''

It might have been the Melbourne Cup that drew the thousands of people to Thoroughbred Park, but the prizemoney on offer in Canberra was a far cry from that being forked out at Flemington.

The Cup boasts a total purse of $6 million - $3.6 million of which went to the connections of Green Moon.

Each race at Canberra was for $10,000, with just $6500 going to connections.

But local trainer Peter Wiggins said it wasn't about the money, it was about being part of Australia's special race day.

It was about having a winner in front of Thoroughbred Park's second biggest crowd of the racing year.

''It's not about the 10 per cent [of the prizemoney the trainers win], if it was about the 10 per cent, if we were in it for the 10 per cent we wouldn't be here,'' Wiggins said.

''Ten per cent of the Melbourne Cup is a lot of money [$360,000], 10 per cent of that is $650, but the buzz the owners get when they get a trophy and get into the members' enclosure is [what it's about].

''The whole idea is to have fun.''

Trainer Matthew Dale had a similar tale to Smith's one.

He had enough time to watch the race, before getting Signoret ready to run in the same race as Star Hawk.

Signoret bolted in by six lengths and took her earnings past $54,000 from 13 starts.

''I was just about to saddle a horse, but obviously watched the race,'' Dale said as he rushed back get to get his next runner ready.

''It was great to see Australian connections hold onto the Melbourne Cup.

''Lloyd [Williams] puts a lot into racing and tries extremely hard to win this race and he's done it with Green Moon.

''I think Tommy Berry's ride on Glencadam Gold was outstanding … I was just about to saddle up Signoret and luckily got the result.

''Everyone wants to win on Melbourne Cup day, it's the biggest day in racing, so the owners will be rapt.''

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