The Muse: Musing on The Cup of 2019





It was Cup day today and I have mused over a few Carlton Draughts and a Capstan ready-rubbed. Stop worrying, I am not out of Abbotts Longnecks I wouldn’t waste them on Cup Day, it’s a poor day’s racing from a purist’s perspective, Abbotts are for Derby and Stakes Day.


I digress. The Race that used to stop the Nation before such time-honoured races as the Everest and The Golden Pigeon emerged still stops the Nation aside from some Sydney Racing Administrators. We all know it has turned into an International Quality Handicap and we all know that Australian bred horses can’t win it anymore because it’s put on for the sons of Galileo and Frankel and Camelot. It is also put on for the owners of the sons of the aforementioned stallions who comprise old racing money and of recent times the newly rich who seem bored with cocaine and are trying to buy a rush people on New Start have never contemplated.


Twenty-four horses paraded  in the mounting yard today. Stayers always parade beautifully, heads down relaxed loping strides, bereft of the fidgety nervousness of sprinters, jeez if you were off to war you would conscript them for the Light  Horse Brigade.  Of those in the Parade  only three had credentials to being Australasian-bred, Surprise Baby, Vow and Declare and The Chosen One.


The O’Briens had eight runners between them:


Aiden the legendary trainer from County Tipperary [it’s a long way from Flemington to Tipperary btw]  had three runners


Joseph son of Aiden from County Kilkenny had 4 runners .Joseph has been a good jockey and has already trained a Melbourne Cup Winner. He is 26 and methinks he might bleed to death if he had a close shave given acne is his most powerful facial feature.


Danny O’Brien late of near Kyabram or KY as we know it and more recently of far-flung places such as Barwon Heads and Flemington all of which are a long way from Tipperary  had one runner Vow and Declare one of the great Aussie hopes to stop the International invasion. He had drawn the car park but he had a good man on board none other than Craig The Freckler Williams. The Freckler is a very good jockey and could never be accused of lacking initiative.


Well they jumped and in a race run at a pace not suited to the sons of Galileo, Frankel and Camelot The Freckler managed to adroitly manoeuvre Vow and Declare from barrier 21 into the first four leaving the straight. Not only that, he got him to settle and relax under him despite the lack of pace .


Les Carlyon [he of the pen that spoke] may have described the last 200 metres thus:


As they got to the clock tower The Freckler decided to go for home on Vow and Declare. He put two lengths on a labouring pack behind him, most of whom were off the bit . For a moment it looked like The Freckler and the $45k colonial-bred had stolen the Cup. Then they emerged from the pack those of the regally bred.  Prince of Arran and Master of Reality were the first to challenge. The Prince who is the Australian favourite of the International horses charged down the centre of the track ridden by the Kiwi Michael Walker who didn’t spare the shillelagh and Master of Reality challenged and momentarily hit the front. Vow and Declare hung on like a Welsh pit pony dragging the last bucket of coal for the day. Then Il Paradiso, who had left the gates at the same pace a snail emerges in spring looking for its first lettuce, commenced a withering run and drew up to Vow and Declare’s hindquarters and searched for a gap. A marvellous thing happened for Australian racing when Frankie Dettori, who may well be a champion jockey in Europe where they ride a quicker tempo and give each other plenty of room, continued to ride Master of Reality hard with no care or consideration for fellow jockeys or horses. Not only did the gap close for Il Paradiso but he got poleaxed in the process.


The Freckler rode Vow and Declare straight and hard to the line, Frankie wrecks Il Paradiso’s chances and Vow and Declare gets a squeeze and responds as a good colonial horse should, stretches his sweat-stained neck one last time and becomes a hero. The Freckler brings him back to scale blows kisses to the adoring crowd along the way and looks as proud as a pit boy after that pony has saved the miners after a mine-collapse


I digress but the only contribution Dettori has made to the Melbourne Cup over the years has been to mar at least two runnings by causing interference. He rides Flemington the way Nero rode the Circus Maximu .


Enough of that. The $45k passed-in gelding has temporarily restored our faith in our ability to compete with the regally bred International horses. Thirteen people from Gympie to Melbourne have taken the thrill that money couldn’t buy this year for those who spent $2M [That’s what Finche cost his Australian owners 12 months ago].


As for The Freckler, he thanked everyone from the trainer to his wife and family to the car park attendants. He always does which is a good thing in contrast to Glenn Boss who thanks 3 people after a big win. In no particular order he thanks Glenn Boss, Bossy and himself .


Danny Boy [I bet they are singing that tonight] as usual carried himself with the dignity befitting an Irish boy from somewhere near Kyabram just as he did when the cobalt mess was going on. Bit of a family win given his wife was also front and centre supporting him at that time and I did laugh when his son said ‘I have been waiting all my life for this.’ Twelve years is a long time to wait for the youth of today. On matters Ky I assume Danny is now up there with Garry Lyon and Jim Higgs as a famous Ky sportsperson.


Bit of a rambling muse but it was a Great Day for the [Australian] Irish.


For the record I backed Mustajeer and Surprise Baby.


Cheers all
Hayden Kelly



To read other pieces by Hadyen Kelly (aka The Muse), click here.






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  1. roger lowrey says

    Marvellous piece Hayden.

    My favourite part was the reference to Les Carlyon as “he of the pen that spoke”. Les was an author I dearly loved to read. You always knew the words were put the way they were for a reason. A marvellous role model.

    As it happens, there are two of his pieces framed in our toilet. There are seven such framed pieces altogether – his two, one from Ron Reed and four of JTH’s. Yeah OK, he gets a head start because of the Cats. Mind you, it hasn’t stopped him from including a photo of our dunny in his CV as I understand.

    Now I think of it, I could possibly conjure up a readable little column on these curiosities. Guests new to our household invariably ask about them in a rather bewildered manner.

    Franky Dettori’s likeness to Nero was another deft touch.


  2. Hayden Kelly says

    Thanks Roger
    Les was just a beautiful writer with the ability to paint a picture with his words and then allow you to draw your own conclusions rather than forcing his opinion on you . When Les wrote about horse racing it took the reader from the lounge room into the mounting yard . I wrote a piece the night Les passed away ,i will try to dig it out .
    Cant say my toilet has framed pieces from writers i admire in it . I am fairly sure the suggestion wouldn’t get past the chief stipendiary steward .

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