The doyen of Australian sports broadcasting, Bruce McAvaney, hosts Seven’s Melbourne Cup Carnival coverage for the 11th year in 2012. Bruce began his career as a race caller and he has also called the Melbourne Cup four times. But despite his years of experience Bruce retains an infectious enthusiasm in looking forward to this year’s carnival.
"The Cup is going to go up another level. I’m convinced this is the staying championship of the world, with a huge challenge from the international horses, and of those Australian horses, who will be left standing?" he said.
Bruce says one of the solid guides to the Cup has been the Geelong Cup, with Dunaden and Americain both winning. “Before that Media Puzzle also won the Geelong Cup. So the last three Europeans to win the Melbourne Cup came through that way, while Delta Blues ran third in the Caulfield Cup,” he said. “So, of the internationals, I really like horses that have had one run in the lead-up. Vintage Crop is the only international to have won the Cup on its first run in Australia."
Who knows, there may just be a repeat of last year’s drama when Dunaden and Red Cadeaux hit the line together. "There have only been 15 half-head or less finishes in the Cup and officially it was the closest margin ever," Bruce recalls. "There were five horses driving to the line including Manighar, Lucas Cranach and Americain, just a magnificent finish with a nose decider."
Francesca Cumani, the acclaimed international rider and daughter of prominent English trainer Luca Cumani, joins our hosting panel for the fourth time. This spring the Cumani stable brings out Mount Athos and My Quest for Peace and Francesca will be on board with Seven to deliver all the news on their form and the other internationals.
Francesca says it is officially her favourite time of year: “After spending three months in Australia in the autumn I feel more in touch with the local horses which will be a great help for my form analysis. Working from the mounting yard pre-race gave me a chance to get a good up-close look at the horses and hopefully it meant better information for the viewers on how the horses were looking and behaving.”
She believes an international or ex-international horse will take out this year’s Cup. “I think the winner will come from Gai's or Lloyd Williams’ imports or the internationals... mind you that makes up about 90 per cent of the field! I think my Dad has his best chance since Purple Moon in Mount Athos, but he’s pretty short. My Quest For Peace is a great chance at his current odds."
“Of the other internationals, I'd say Tac De Boistron , now trained by Mick Kent, could be flying under the radar. Shahwardi obviously was very impressive in the Herbert Power Stakes and trained by Melbourne Cup winning trainer, Alain de Royer Dupre.”
Winner of 15 Group one races, former jockey and racing personality Simon Marshall will once again join Bruce to dissect the form, entertaining and informing viewers in equal measure. When quizzed about one of his quirkier highlights from last year’s Carnival, Simon nominates when he and Francesca Cumani rode the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup distance on horseback with cameras attached to their heads. "The footage came up a treat on Cup day and it was just great fun to ride around Flemington again,” he said.
Simon believes this year’s Carnival is going to be the best we've seen due to the record International raiders for the Melbourne Cup. “England, Ireland, France, Italy, Dubai and of course New Zealand are all represented. And I believe the marquees around Flemington are near full, meaning record crowds, which is part of the magic of Flemington.”
At this early stage Simon says punters should look out for Its A Dundeel and Escado for the Victoria Derby, while for Melbourne Cup predictions he likes Dunaden, Jakkalderry, Ethiopa, Maluckyday and a “sneaky” Sanagas.
The Freedman name is synonymous with racing success in Australia and for the 11th year in a row Richard Freedman will work alongside Bruce McAvaney and Simon Marshall. The Freedman brothers boast five Melbourne Cup winners, along with four Caulfield Cups, four consecutive Golden Slippers and two Cox Plates.
Richard can’t see an Australian-bred horse winning the Cup, but believes a European horse with an Australian-trainer can. While reluctant to nominate a winner this far out Richard offers a tip: “Whichever international horse acclimatises best – and has run a race here – will probably win.”
Of the international horses Richard is keen to see the last two Cup winners again. “I always like to see Dunaden, he’s proved to be one of the world’s best stayers. And American always runs well. The others internationals are pretty much an unknown lot.”
In terms of seeing more Australian-bred horses in the race in the future Richard says it will take a long while to turn that ship around. “There has been a dearth in Australian-bred stayers coming for decades that won’t be fixed in the short term. You have to change the mindset of people who are breeding the horses. They’ve been breeding for speed for generations now and it’s going to take a long time to reset, there just may not be the will to do it.”
A lover of sport since childhood, Hamish McLachlan grew up next to Lindsay Park Stud, one of the most successful training, racing, and breeding establishments in the world, where he developed his passion for racing. A Channel 7 AFL commentator and the host of AFL Game Day through the AFL season, Hamish comes from a strong sporting background with management and broadcast experience on a national and international level.
Hamish says the moment he loves most during the Carnival is the roar from the track when the gates open for the Cup.
“That and the first bounce at the AFL Grand Final are two of sports’ mighty roars. At Flemington it's a cacophony of celebration as everyone at that point has a live ticket. It's a wonderful sound, as good as any in world sport.”
For the Cup Hamish is hoping Luca, Sara and Francesca can go one better than Purple Moon and Bauer have done running second, and conjure a win.
“They deserve it - they have done brilliantly to keep finding and preparing these brave stayers who are suited to the Flemington two miles. They keep making the long haul over here where everything has to go right when so much is against them, and they've been so close - it would be just reward'.
Rachael Finch has captured the hearts of the Australian public with her vibrant personality. Rachael wowed the world when she represented Australia in the Miss Universe competition in the Bahamas but has since carved out a successful career on the small screen with Seven.
With 50 years of Fashions on the Field being celebrated in 2012, Rachael says she is excited to look at how fashion has shaped one of the biggest race events in the world.
“A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into the fashion we see trackside and it'll be interesting to see how people create something new this year. We're also expecting some exciting celebrities in the birdcage, some of which may have never experienced the racing carnival.”
Mounting Yard Presenter
Peter Donegan will be in the mounting yard where he has earned the respect of jockeys, trainers, owners and stewards over a Melbourne Cup Carnival broadcasting career stretching back to 1989. Peter's memorable moment last year was the "agonising minutes which seemed like half an hour as the tightest Cup finish in history was decided."
"Dunaden and Red Cadeaux, separated by millimetres after 3200 metres, had their connections, and the rest of Australia, breathless, wondering which way it would go. A piece of sporting theatre the Cup always seems to provide.”
When quizzed about what he’s looking forward to most this year, Peter is effusive. “The whole week! From the purists and the tradition of Derby Day, the glorious madness and excitement of the first Tuesday in November, the elegance of the ladies on Oaks Day, and the kids joining in on the final Saturday, it's the best week of the year.”
When it comes to predictions Peter says the question is posed more seriously every year: ‘do we have a local to thwart the challenge of the northern hemisphere raiders?’ “It's becoming harder as their understanding of the Cup and all it stands for increases," he said. "And even if Luca Cumani wins it, he (and Francesca of course) are almost becoming honorary locals, aren't they?”
Betting Ring Presenter
Being the son of a bookmaker meant it was almost inevitable Pat Welsh would end up involved in racing and sports. Pat will present viewers with all the happenings, movements and plunges from the Flemington betting ring:
“I can’t wait to get back to all the sights, sounds, characters and personalities that make up the betting ring. Every year we see millions change hands out there and I only hope I can collect on a few races. And share some of that knowledge with the viewers of course.”
Greg Miles is regarded as Australia’s premier race caller and he will be calling the entire Melbourne Cup Carnival for Seven for the seventh year running. But don't expect him to be any more relaxed in the moments leading up to, or during, the running of the Cup.
“Just before the gates open for the Melbourne Cup I’m only thinking about the 24 horses and the jockeys. Nothing else gets in the way, it’s just 100 per cent concentration. In the lead up you just want to get them out there. Waiting is the hard part. You just want them to get on with it."
Greg says the ever-increasing number of international horses does make his call harder.
“In years gone by we saw them in the lead up two or three times. Now with the internationals it may be the first time you see them, or maybe they've run here once. So there’s a lot of homework and looking at video replays of their overseas runs, as we don’t have that intimate knowledge we had in the past of Melbourne Cup runners.”
As for what went through his mind as Dunaden and Red Caduaex hit the line together last year, Greg says: “Don’t have a go (at nominating the winner) unless you’re absolutely sure - and I wasn’t sure. I’m glad I didn’t have a go.”
Dual Melbourne Cup winning jockey John Letts saddles up to interview the winning hoops on course. Having ridden more than 2500 winners in a 30-year career, John is more than familiar with the emotions of the jockeys - including their off-course attempts to secure the best rides for the biggest races.
“It always ends up being musical chairs. What a lot of people don’t realise is the big races only happen once a year and jockeys are committed to getting the best rides, but there will be some people offended.”
He recalls his favourite moment from last year which of course was straight after the Cup had been run. “When I pulled up next to Dunaden and Red Cadeux, trotting back on Banjo, I said ‘I think it’s a dead heat’. There ended up being a megapixel in it. Neither knew who had won. I’m a big fan of Michael Rodd, who unfortunately went down by the narrowest of margins.”
The ever-popular 'Lettsy' tips Green Moon to be the winner of this year’s Melbourne Cup. “He’s done everything he needs to, he'll peak on the day and his owner Lloyd Williams has won the cup on a few occasions.”
Following a sporting career as a world class swimmer, Johanna Griggs has built an outstanding career as a sports and lifestyle presenter and will again work on Seven’s Melbourne Cup Carnival coverage catching up with all the celebrities in the Emirates Marquee.
“I'm looking forward to catching up with loads of people I only get to see once a year, and who are always in a great mood around the carnival time. The fashion should be interesting as so many prints and bright colours are the big trend right now, so it should be even more colourful than usual,” Joh said.
Surviving Cup Day last year “without actually killing anyone with my rather large headwear” was a highlight for Joh. That and sneaking trackside for the main race, which she doesn’t get to do often. “I spent half the race watching the field and the other half watching the crowd. It was such an awesome experience to look at the stadium which was packed with people and all of them focused on one point in the track. I still get tingles thinking about the roar they made as the horses came around the last bend into the straight. It was fantastic.”
Matthew White has a diverse sports background having worked on a variety of telecasts including the V8 Supercars, the Melbourne Cup and AFL Grand Finals. He’ll be at Flemington for Today Tonight and also showing viewers the glamorous side of the Carnival with celebrity interviews.
Reflecting on last year’s Carnival, Matt says he’ll never forget the extraordinary reception for Black Caviar. “They were 10 deep at the stalls just to get a glimpse of her – and I’ll never forget when she powered home along the famous Flemington straight with the crowd roaring her on. It’s hard to upstage The Melbourne Cup, but Black Caviar came very close to being the headline act last year.”
Turning to this year’s Carnival, Matt says he’s looking forward to finally getting some winning tips from Joh Griggs before the races, not after. “And also seeing what moves Hamish McLachlan will bust out in our closing credits.”
Matt says punters should listen to Pat Welsh from the betting ring. “Pat gave me a last minute tip on a horse I’d never heard of in race one on Cup Day and I got a very healthy return from the bookies. It paid for my entire Carnival.”
A journalist for more than 35 years and over 20 years on television, Neil is one of Australia’s great storytellers, plying his craft on almost every major sport from the Olympics and AFL, to the Commonwealth Games and of course, horse racing. Neil is always telling great Carnival stories and last year was no different when he captured an emotional reaction from Red Cadeuax’s travelling foreman Robin Trevor-Jones.
“My favourite moment from last year was filming and interviewing the foreman for the Red Cadeaux stable on the track as he waited to see whether his horse had won the photo finish. As it turned out, Red Cadeuax was beaten by the smallest margin in the 151-year history of the Melbourne Cup. His reactions told the story.”
As always Neil is eagerly anticipating another Cup. “We've had so many exciting, historic and amazing Cups over the 10 years that Channel 7 has covered the Melbourne Cup Carnival that it's hard to imagine how this year could top what we've seen. But inevitably it does. The Cup has so many aspects – drama, humour, intrigue - that undoubtedly there'll be some terrific stories."
At this early stage Neil tips one of the horses trained by Luca Cumani to win. “He has trained two second place getters and he’s due for a win. I'd say Mount Athos is the one most likely.”
Master of ceremonies
Sandy Roberts has an enviable reputation as one of Australia’s most respected and knowledgeable sports broadcasters. His role at Flemington is as Master Of Ceremonies, introducing the winning trainers, owners and jockeys to the fans trackside, where he’s sure he will again see some different moments:
“On the lighter side I’m looking forward to the reception that Prince Charles and Camilla receive when they arrive in the mounting yard on Cup Day”“There’s a group of fans who plonk themselves to the side of the mounting yard each day and courtesy of their witty chants and signs, often get to have a chat with the high profile visitors. It will be a moment for the ages if they can manage to snare a moment with the prince.”
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