The news of Red Cadeaux’s passing has cut threw us like a knife. The courage of one plucky equine from Newmarket, lost, has drained the courage of an international nation of racing fans. No one can sow discordance quite like a party leader.
The moment I re-watched the 2015 Melbourne Cup I knew this day would come. I couldn’t sleep. We knew, didn’t we. It was only hope that saw us through the night, only a certain type of denial we’ve become accustomed to putting over our own knowledge of horses. I said the three little words that night, three little words none of us, least of all me, wanted to hear; St Nicholas Abbey. And we knew what those three little words meant because we know why so many horses get put to sleep on the racecourse. We know why we don’t need to reply to the ignorant and ill-informed anti-racing activists. Because there is nothing more unnatural than a horse standing still. To heal a horse is not only difficult, but it is bordering on the inhumane. And that’s where our humanity fissures. Because our minds contract ourselves at every moment; we want Red Cadeaux to live but in the same second we don’t want him to suffer. In a quote I will never forget, “Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both”.
The actions of Gerald Mosse, Werribee Veterinary Centre and the out-pouring of love from the racing community unites us in the face of such a tragedy. The picture of Gerald Mosse, walking so distressingly away from Red Cadeaux on Melbourne Cup day personified the entire racing community, worldwide. We can’t handle the possibility of you leaving us. Now perspective overrides normality. Red Cadeaux is injured. The horse that wins the race suddenly becomes unbelievably insignificant. Michelle Payne, your story is fantastic. On a normal day I would care. But, context. Loss overrules achievement. Especially when previous achievement is intertwined so deeply with the possibility of loss. You matter so much, Red. You’ve given so much, Red. We owe you, Red.
It has taken us nearly three weeks of that torturous denial before Red Cadeaux left us with only the one, painful question on our lips. Is this really worth it? To watch an animal we idolise and adore be taken away so cruelly from us? But then ask yourself, why did we idolise him. Was Red Cadeaux internationally loved because he was wrapped up in cotton wool? Or was it what he had shown to us for six years, time and time again; his tenacious, hardy, loveable, admirable qualities? Because that’s what its all about isn’t it. No one is loved for doing nothing. You don’t admire layabouts. It is far better, said Theodore Roosevelt, to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, than to not bother at all. That’s why we watch this sport. Champions are made, and they make themselves. As horses, too, they lack the distasteful and disagreeable qualities of humans. You’re perfect.
Horses have superpowers. While our emotions are held to ransom by them every day, they always answer our flailing faith. For British racing fans, this weekend of racing was simply sublime. As one treasured favourite left us, the others fought back into our hearts. Two weeks ago, Bob’s Worth. He won his first race for nearly two years. Last week, Sprinter Sacre, he won his first race since that Kempton incident that left him with so little Sprinter left. And then Rock On Ruby and Cue Card this weekend, in direct response to the void left by Red Cadeaux, tussled, brawled and wrestled their way to the front. Remember why we love them so much? Cue Card carried his head high all the way round, basically because that’s just how he his, but I read it as a show of steely defiance. You haven’t seen it all from me yet. I’ve got a little bit more, want to see? Lets put on a show. Then there’s Rock On Ruby, carrying the weight burden of eleven stone eight, with his opposition four to eight pounds lighter. Like Atlas, the world on his back, he defied it with determination. How do they do it? The equation is simple: a drop of equine courage = a grinning nation of anthropoids.
Nothing we do will make loss harder, but perspective works both ways. Put this into perspective, would we have cared if he hadn’t shown us the good times? Red Cadeaux meant so much because of what he did, not what he didn’t do. Acknowledging that doesn’t make it any easier, sadness doesn’t answer to sense, but it explains why we feel such sorrow. It also says, in one final flourishing display of defiance: enjoy the good days, enjoy what makes these horses important to us. Enjoy horse racing. There’s nothing quite like it.
The race that stops the nation(s) is back! For all loyal racing fans from across the world, an early morning awaits us.
On The Other Hoof did a bumper preview of the race with special Australian guest Andrew Hawkins, alongside panellists Michael (@mytentoryours) and Adam (@adamwebb121). If you have a spare hour (or so) you can watch it anytime via the following link, or if there’s just a specific horse you wish to get our views on you can skip using their racecard number (they were talked about in chronological order).
However, for those just looking to read my own thoughts, please scroll down for a quick summary of each horses’ chances. Best of luck!
1 – SNOW SKY Flexible, can lead (58kg)
Not often do I recommend the top-weight in a handicap, never mind in a handicap of this prestige. But it is perhaps for that reason that a dual Group 2 winner could defy carrying top weight. His profile is not dissimilar to last year’s winner, Protectionist: slowly brought along as a three year-old, few runs in early part of four year-old career and a pipe-opener in Melbourne before the big one.
He stays at least a 2800m on a European track (as Protectionist proved he stayed 3000m in Europe) which in my book is a winning formula to stay the 3200m in Australia. Sir Michael Stoute would not send a horse without a strong chance here and with Ryan Moore in the seat (especially considering Coolmore’s entries); the only worry is any rain.
2 – CRITERION Tracks (57.5kg)
For Europeans it’s hard not to remember this horse trailing in behind our summer stars at Royal Ascot and York. However, he’s clearly a talented type and won the G1 2000m Caulfield Stakes (carrying 59kg) two starts back before following in the outstanding Winx in the Cox Plate last time. However he’s never been further than 2500m, which tempers enthusiasm. Others stronger.
3 – FAME GAME Hold up (57kg)
A very short-priced favourite. Clearly has plenty going for him having won over as far as 3400m to G3 level before second over 3200m in the Tenno Sho G1 in his native Japan two starts back. Everyone noticed how eye-catching he was when finishing sixth in the Caulfield Cup last time but his running style could find just as much trouble at Flemington this time (especially with horses capable over shorter). Worth taking on at the price.
4 – OUR IVANHOWE Tracks/Hold-up (56kg)
Only horse to defeat the very classy, but obviously not 100% Sea The Moon last year, however I’ve never been a fan and he hasn’t lit Australia alight so far. His best effort in the Caulfield Cup last time was much better but there’s more exciting runners.
5 – BIG ORANGE Leads (55.5kg)
Impressive this year, proving stamina (unsurprisingly, being European) and class when taking the G2 Goodwood Cup. Reliant on as firmer ground as possible, which he may not get here however. Also, somewhat bizarrely, he has to give Trip to Paris 0.5kg when he received around 2kg at Goodwood.
6 – HARTNELL Flexible, can lead (55.5kg)
Oh, another one of our castoffs I mean, emigrators. A Royal Ascot winner in the past, Hartnell has done well down under. There’s no question of him staying and he’s been brought steadily into this with three inconspicuous runs over shorter distances. Questionable whether he has the class for this, but expected to go well.
7 – HOKKO BRAVE Hold-up (55.5kg)
Japan’s second string, having been beaten by Fame Game in the Tenno Sho. He also hasn’t won since 2013 and has finished outside the places lately. Others better.
8 – MAX DYNAMITE Hold-up (55kg)
Racing over the sticks at Punchestown is a fairly odd lead up to the feature flat race of the Southern Hemisphere, but trainer Willie Mullins has done it before (Simenon) and Max seems fairly unexposed. However I’m not convinced the style of racing in Melbourne is going to suit him; a quick two miles may see things happen a little too quickly. I think he was beating over-the-top horses at York. That said, can’t quite sum him up.
9 – RED CADEAUX Hold-up (55kg)
Well, what can you say about old Red Cadeaux. The ‘Youmzain’ of the Melbourne Cup, but loved not just by Europeans but Australasians alike. At the grand age of nine, he is seemingly ‘pushing it’, but he saves his best for this race and I wouldn’t be discounting him anytime soon.
10 – TRIP TO PARIS Hold-up (55kg)
This horse has been called some names but I if we take that away, the bare stone cold facts are that he has a tremendous chance. This is the winner of the Ascot Gold Cup remember (a G1 over 4000m), who also placed in 2400m G1. That placing was in the Caulfield Cup, a chief lead-up race to the Cup and he still – despite the inadequate distance – had an impressive turn of foot. He showed a similar turn of foot (what I believe is the essential ingredient to a Cup winner) over 4000m at Royal Ascot. He never seems to find excuses unlike other hold-up horses, helped by this turn of foot. He is also trained by the best British trainer in the Cup’s history. What’s not to like?!
11 – WHO SHOT THEBARMAN Hold-up (54.5kg)
Finished third in last year’s cup carrying an extra 0.5kg, but he did find the gaps opening up very favourably for him there. Despite clearly staying the distance, I don’t think he has the wow factor of some of these others in this fiercely competitive renewal. Pass.
12 – SKY HUNTER Tracks/Hold-up (54kg)
This Prix du Jockeyclub placer of 2013 has gone very much under the radar, having only run twice this year with a G2 win in Meydan and a G3 place at Newbury. Those runs were over 2400m and he’s never been further than 2600m. He clearly has the class of these but the stamina questions will only be answered here. Hard to work out.
13 – THE OFFER Hold-up (54kg)
Surprised how unloved in the betting The Offer is, considering he was the one-time ante-post favourite for the race last year. He won the Sydney Cup over today’s distance with ease back in April 2014, but has needed to drop to Listed and G3 level to get his head in front since. He hasn’t returned to the 3200m distance since that win however, so you could pin your hopes on that. Each-way possibility.
14 – GRAND MARSHAL Hold-up (53.5kg)
From one Sydney Cup winner to another, Grand Marshal won this year’s renewal over the 3200m distance but hasn’t had a single bite of the cherry since, finishing eleventh in the Caulfield Cup last time. Upping him back to this distance is a positive but others should have him covered, thus not hard to dismiss.
15 – PREFERMENT Hold-up (53.5kg)
Never got a look in in the Cox Plate last time but clearly better than that having won a G1 at Flemington the time before. Question mark as usual has to be asked about whether he will appreciate the huge step up in trip, though his ‘grinding style’ (he seems to take a bit of winding up) suggests the distance will not be an issue. Nevertheless, those who can act faster may have flown before he hits second gear.
16 – QUEST FOR MORE Tracks/Hold-up (53.5kg)
Despite the Trip to Paris form line, QFM is no way near what I would have as a Melbourne Cup winner. Unlike the former he is still yet to really prove himself at Group level and was annihilated at Geelong two weeks ago by Almoonqith (finished 16th of 17). Move on.
17 – ALMOONQITH Hold-up (53kg)
Hard not to be impressed with the way he won the Geelong Cup, though that race isn’t held in nearly as high regard as other lead-ups. Nevertheless, second placed Dandino does give the form a little substance to familiar European eyes. He’s extremely hard to sum up from that however and his previous run over 3200m doesn’t help either. Brown Panther in Dubai trounced him that time, but he was set with a lot to do and made up eye-catching ground towards the end. If he gets too far behind again here his chance is virtually gone.
18 – KINGFISHER Hold-up (53kg)
A master-class was delivered by Aidan O’Brien when he got Kingfisher to place in the Ascot Gold Cup this year, especially considering how little luck he got in running. He’s not backed that up with much since back at 2400m the last twice and, although he’ll clearly be primed for this day, he’s never going to get much love from me.
19 – PRINCE OF PENZANCE Flexible, can lead (53kg)
The first one you can skim over fairly swiftly. No idea about the distance (never raced further than 2500m) and a class below quite a few of these.
20 – BONDI BEACH Hold-up (52.5kg)
Stats time. With the exception of the Prix Kergorlay, Bondi Beach has ran in two of the best trials for the Melbourne Cup; the Geoffrey Freer (3 placers from 7 runners) and St Leger (a winner and a placer). However, his attitude has to be called into question following both of those races. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him place but he seems to question whether he wants to win or not and you can’t have that in a race like this. Strong place chance.
21 – SERTORIUS Hold-up (52.5kg)
22 – THE UNITED STATES Hold-up (52.5kg)
Surely the most unexposed horse in the field, or at least the winner of the most ‘steadily brought along’ title. He shot himself into the Melbourne Cup picture with an impressive Moonee Valley Cup win breaking the track record. He’s going to need much more here upped to 3200m but can’t be discounted.
23 – EXCESS KNOWLEDGE Tracks/Hold-up (51kg)
I couldn’t have Amralah, who beat him two starts back, winning this and I can’t see Excess Knowledge (formerly trained here) being classy enough. Doubt he stays, too.
24 – GUST OF WIND Tracks (51kg)
Got tapped for toe when they quickened in the Caulfield Cup, but was helped by a prominent position and stayed on for fourth at the line. Looks like she’ll stay on that evidence and despite the featherweight on her back, she appears inferior to some hot rivals.
Unlike last year, when (much to my 150/1 ante-post bet glee) Protectionist made a mockery of the field, this year looks an extremely strong and competitive renewal. I strongly believe Ryan Moore could produce 1Snow Sky (50/1) to keep his gloves on the Cup, while I cannot look away from the reliable and yet still classy 10 Trip to Paris (7/1). 20 Bondi Beach (20/1) has strong place claims, even better if his temperament improves while 6Hartnell33/1 completes the chosen quartet.