Simon O'Donnell is a Nine Network sports commentator who played AFL and cricket at the highest level. He also has interests in some of the country's top racehorses and has come agonisingly close to winning the Melbourne Cup.
The arrival of the Spring Carnival heralds the arrival of many things, but most importantly the arrival of the world’s best racehorses.
The Melbourne Cup is the undeniable jewel in the crown and there is going to be another massive influx of horses from overseas trying to win the race.
The Cup’s last two high profile winners, Americain and Dunaden, will board the plane back to Australia for another tilt at the race, which once again promises to be of the highest quality.
Indeed, there will be limited spots available to the locals. Out of the first 30 horses in order of entry for the Cup - as it stands at the moment - only eight have been bred in Australia or New Zealand.
Where the Melbourne Cup was once an afterthought for foreign trainers, they are now preparing their horses specifically for this race. In some instances, that preparation can stretch back two years. The horses have subsequently stepped up another grade in quality. Unlike previous years when they had run only in small fields, this year’s bunch have all had experience running in big fields, better adapting them to Australian conditions. Those in the game call it ‘ringcraft’ and this year’s raiders have better ringcraft for our conditions than I have ever seen before.
It’s a shame we won’t see Black Caviar gracing our tracks over Spring, but there will be many others that will step up to excite. Already we’ve seen a weight-for-age race between the best, in Southern Speed and Manighar, decided by a mere centimetre and over the spring you can expect many more of those battles with quality depth in the weight-for-age category.
With the above mentioned, you also have Sincero, More Joyous when she comes down from Sydney and numerous others in this weekend’s Underwood Stakes that could lay claim to the weight-for-age title this season.
Manighar couldn’t be better at this stage of his preparation. The Cox Plate is his main objective and if he holds his form and performs at that level, to that stage, it would be hard to resist a crack at the Melbourne Cup with him.