Melbourne Cup emergencies set to wait for at least another year
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Melbourne Cup emergencies set to wait for at least another year

The debate over Melbourne Cup emergencies is set to rumble on for at least another year with Australia's signature horse race to again be devoid of standby runners in 2018.

On the same day first nominations were announced for November's Melbourne Cup, Fairfax Media understands plans to introduce emergencies to offset any scratchings leading up to race morning have again been put on hold.

No emergency: Jockey Patrick Moloney and Vengeur Masque, which has missed a spot in the Melbourne Cup field the last two years.

No emergency: Jockey Patrick Moloney and Vengeur Masque, which has missed a spot in the Melbourne Cup field the last two years.

Photo: AAP

It comes less than a year after Victoria Racing Club chairman Amanda Elliott pledged to escalate the issue with Tabcorp, outlining her preference to have emergencies in place for the next renewal.

Cult hero Who Shot Thebarman was scratched from the 2017 race with an elevated temperature, meaning Rekindling led home the Cup field which totalled just 23 runners.

In a statement provided to Fairfax Media, the VRC said: "The Victoria Racing Club [VRC] supports the current review of emergencies for future Lexus Melbourne Cup fields and is working with Racing Victoria [RV] and Tabcorp.

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"This process is ongoing and will require system changes that will not be implemented for this year’s Cup. The VRC, RV and Tabcorp continue to work on the possibility of emergencies being introduced in the future."

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The multi-million dollar costs of upgrading betting technology and terminals around the country has been seen as the biggest stumbling block to the introduction of Melbourne Cup emergencies.

Asian wagering mecca Hong Kong employs a tote system where emergencies are listed without a saddlecloth number, but then adopt the one of a withdrawn runner if they come out before noon on the day prior to any race.

Such a scenario in Australia would allow a horse stranded outside the 24-horse field a chance to force their way into the race if any original runners are scratched between Saturday evening when the Cup field is declared and Tuesday morning.

Connections of impressive stayer Vengeur Masque were left frustrated when the Geelong Cup winner was stranded at No.25 in the Cup order of entry last year, having narrowly been beaten in the Lexus Stakes, which guarantees an automatic passage into the field.

Vengeur Masque scooped a $100,000 bonus for winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes on the final day of the Flemington four-day carnival, but would have contested the more lucrative Melbourne Cup had he been allowed to take Who Shot Thebarman's place.

It was the second straight year Vengeur Masque has been on the cusp of qualifying for the Melbourne Cup, but couldn't squeeze into the race.

"I can't see why we wouldn't have emergencies," Vengeur Masque's trainer Mike Moroney said. "I was surprised he wasn't in the race anyway [last year] and it seems that Australian staying races aren't treated the same as European races at the same level when it comes to the weights - and that makes it harder for us to get into our race.

"They're the rules, but surely they need to be looked at. I think I've been affected three or four times with having a horse that just misses out."

They're the rules, but surely they need to be looked at

Mike Moroney

Since the last of Makybe Diva's three Melbourne Cup triumphs in 2005, the Melbourne Cup has been affected by scratchings in eight of the last 12 runnings. Overall prizemoney for the race will swell to $7.3 million this year, up $1 million.

But it appears the chances of having as many as two emergencies for Australia's biggest wagering event will be waiting for some time yet despite 183 initial entries being taken on Thursday.

It's understood overseas betting operators would also have to invest significant amounts of money to amend their wagering infrastructure to cater for a Melbourne Cup including emergencies given the increasing popularity of the race abroad.

Owners of Melbourne Cup aspirants from the northern hemisphere fork out in excess of $100,000 to have their horse campaign in Victoria for the spring carnival, which is set to welcome its biggest international contingent yet.

European-trained horses or gallopers set to be imported under the care of Australian trainers have a stranglehold on early Melbourne Cup betting, boasting 10 of the top 12 spots for the race that stops the nation.

Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Racing writer for The Sydney Morning Herald