Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Race That Stops a Nation

The Melbourne Cup, first held in 1861 and won by Archer after being walked to Melbourne (which he also won again in 1862) is Australia's most famous annual horse race. A 3200-metre race for three-year-olds and over, it is the richest "two-mile" handicap in the world and one of the richest turf races. It is held at 3.00pm on the first Tuesday in November each year. 

Personally I couldn’t care less about it, in the past I used to wait until the announcer said “And they’re off and racing”, then I would start ringing colleagues just to piss them off - “What sort of dickhead rings now??!!” - but most of Oz goes gaga so I will contribute my two bob’s with a bit of poetry about the Cup. 

Although the race is frequently referred to as "the race that stops a nation", that phrase is of recent origin, coming from the title of Sydney-born writer Vivienne McCredie's poem from 1986: 

(Unfortunately for overseas readers there are a lot of local references.) 

The Race That Stops a Nation 

- Vivienne McCredie 

But once a year at Flemington 
A horse race stops us all 
And we hold our breaths and listen 
To the commentator’s call 
For never has there been a race 
That holds such fascination 
Than the race they run at Flemington, 
The Race that stops the nation 

We Aussies are a funny lot, 
The things we hold so dear – 
Like Rosewall, Hoad, the Opera House, 
A glass of Fosters beer 
Let’s not forget the Great White Shark, 
And Lillee – in full flight, 
The Wallabies, the Kangaroos, 
The Harbour Bridge at Night, 
Of course it’s something special 
When we say the name of ‘DON’, 
Our Bradman was the best they’ve seen; 
His legend carries on 

On a Tuesday in November, 
The first one to be sure, 
As the winner flashes past the post, 
You’ll hear the thousands roar. 
For never has there been a race 
To catch imagination 
Than the race that’s run at Flemington 
The race that stops the nation! 

It’s called “the Cup” – the Melbourne Cup. Beginning naturally 
When a horse called Archer walked 
Into a place in history. 
And since that year of ’61, 
We find no explanation 
As to why it is this two mile race 
is the one that stops the nation 

For down the years its history, 
How losers come and go – 
And horses who with bursting hearts 
Can make the legends grow 
The memories of champions 
Will always linger on – 
Immortalised forever by 
The race at Flemington! 

Some names are so familiar 
It’s easy to recall – Like Rising Fast and Kiwi, and 
The greatest one of all for Phar Lap is synonymous 
With all that’s brave and bold – 
And little men can treasure all 
The stories that are told. 

When Phar Lap graced the turf, and won, 
We Aussies felt elation – 
We loved him, – so in death, he then 
Was mourned by all the nation. 
A century has been, and gone, 
And still the horses run, 
To the cheers and acclamation 
Down the straight at Flemington 
Now o’er the seas, on moors and downs 
Hooves pound in expectation, 
Through early morning mists that veil 
Their great determination. 
The best will come to challenge 
The antipodean horse 
In the gruelling race of two miles – 
On the famous Melbourne course. 

The ‘Might and Power’ of thundering hooves 
Defines a champion – 
Whose courage and tenacity 
Is shown to all the nation! 
And once a year, that single race 
Creates the situation – 
Where we share all the nostalgia of 
The race that stops the nation 

That’s it, readers, enjoy your Melbourne Cup parties and boozy extended lunches; your listening to, or watching, the race and, if your phone should ring at the moment that the nation is stopped, take the time to answer it – it will probably be me.

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