Australian horses would probably have more luck batting for Australia against Pakistan than winning the Melbourne Cup today. Only two local horses are in the race, surrounded by seven Irish, five each from England and New Zealand and others from Germany, Japan, France and the US.
A foreign winner is nothing new. The first New Zealand-bred winner was Martini-Henry in 1883. And don’t forget Phar Lap’s a Kiwi too.
Over the last 20 years the jetsetters moved in to dominate, starting with 1993’s Irish-trained Vintage Crop, who flew in just weeks before the race. The French took the silverware in 2010 and 2011. The last two winners, Green Moon and Fiorente, are Irish-bred, Australian-trained nags.
Which brings us to the 2013 Cup-winning trainer, Gai Waterhouse, who explained on ABC Radio’s AM program this morning why Aussie hayburners are hopeless.
Her simple explanation is we like sprinters. Australia doesn’t breed horses for its most famous race any more. We don’t even run races that long any more, so they’re not match fit.
Journalist Alison Caldwell picked up on trainer Peter Moody’s comment that it’ll be another decade before an Australian horse is in with a chance.
Here’s what Waterhouse said in response:
We don’t train them. Where are our cup races? I think there are about two two-mile races in Australia. So we’ve cut all our staying races back to 2,400 [metres] or 2,000, so we don’t have the infrastructure to help the horses get the miles under their legs.
We breed people – even though there are some staying stallions in Australia, and I trained one that stands at Eliza Park, Fiorente, he will be marketed to Australia for his 1,400, 1,600, and 2,000 metre wins.
People in Australia want speed – and you look at the average race like at Canterbury in New South Wales, the average race there, the longest race is 1,550.
You know, we’re a bit like America: all our races are short distance races, so you can’t breed stayers if you haven’t got the races to put them in.
So if you’re thinking of betting on Fawkner or Unchain My Heart, you’re probably just paying for more Tom Waterhouse ads.