There was not much give in the ground on Derby Day, prompting calls to water the track ahead of the Melbourne Cup. (AAP: Hamish Blair)
The state of the track at Flemington has been raised ahead of Tuesday’s $7.05 million Melbourne Cup, with Yucatan representative Nick Williams calling for officials to “turn the taps on”.
Williams, son of owner Lloyd Williams, urged the Victorian Racing Club (VRC) to act to soften the track after a Derby Day of racing where the track was rated the third-hardest, a good three.
“I was fortunate I was a spectator there yesterday [on Derby Day] and I’m pleased we didn’t have any of our horses there … I guarantee there’s a lot of sore horses out of that race day,” Williams told reporters on Sunday.
“I spent a bit of time in the mounting yard, and I probably had 10-15 jockeys come up to me and tell me it was “ridiculously firm”.
“I think it’s something the authorities need to look at down here. Let’s not worry about that because I’m sure they’ll get it right on Tuesday. Turn the taps on!”
Yucatan’s trainer, Aidan O’Brien, cast a different note, however.
Speaking to RSN Racing radio from the Breeder’s Cup meeting in the United States, O’Brien emphasised the five-year-old stallion’s comfort on harder ground.
“He loves fast ground and [that’s] another reason he might not have got that ever there [Europe]. The better the ground, the better his chance,” O’Brien said.
The forecast into the Cup
Monday: Showers (Potential 5-15mm rain), 15-27 deg C
Cup Day: Showers (Potential 5-15mm rain), 17-20 deg C
“Everything seems to be going well so it will be very interesting to see, with him.”
Racing Victoria chief handicapper Greg Carpenter said it would be an interesting time over the next 48 hours for track manager Liam O’Keefe.
“He’s moving the [running] rail out two metres [after Derby Day],’ Carpenter said on ABC’s Offsiders.
“His decision is whether [or not] and when to water, and how much to water.”
Track rating system
From hardest to softest going
- Firm 1 — Dry hard track
- Firm 2 — Firm track
- Good 3 — Track with good grass coverage (rating for Derby Day)
- Good 4 — Track with some give in it
- Soft 5 — Track with reasonable give in it
- Soft 6 — Moist but not badly affected track
- Soft 7 — More rain-affected track
- Heavy 8 —Rain affected track
- Heavy 9 — Wet track
- Heavy 10 — Heaviest track, very wet
The weather forecast for Melbourne for the next few days suggests that 10-30mm of rain could fall over Monday and Tuesday.
Rainfall at the top end of that range could see the going for the Cup go to a soft rating from the good three at Flemington on Derby Day.
Yucatan was not a star in Europe, taking eight races to earn his first win at the Curragh.
His first start in Australia after being bought by owner Lloyd Williams was a devastating win in the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield, which resulted in the horse becoming the hot favourite for the Melbourne Cup.
The barrier draw has thrown some doubt into people’s minds, however.
Magic Circle is shortening in the betting, and the chance of rain before the Cup would only improve his chances. (AAP: James Ross)
Melbourne Cup betting odds
- Yucatan $5.50
- Magic Circle $8.50
- Cross Counter $9
- Muntahaa $11
- Avilius $13
- Best Solution $13
- The Cliffsofmoher $16
- Marmelo $16
- Youngstar $16
* Prices from Tab.com.au
Yucatan has drawn one from the outside in 23 — only two winners have ever come from that gate, the last being Van Der Hum back in 1976.
Since being as short as $4.20 on Derby Day ahead of the Cup barrier draw, Yucatan has drifted out to $5.50 in the betting on Sunday.
Magic Circle — whose last two starts in England produced impressive wins in the Chester Cup and Henry II Stakes — has been the mover in the markets, coming in to a clear second on $8.50.
Connections of the seven-year-old bay gelding will have no concerns about possible rain or watering of the track.
Magic Circle has an excellent record on soft ground, winning six and being placed twice from 12 starts. If the rain does come, his price is likely to drop further.
Godolphin hopeful Cross Counter is on the next line of betting at $9, followed by the John Gosden-trained Muntahaa at $11, and the other two Godolphin chances — Best Solution and Avilius — at $13.