Australia: Melbourne Cup to Carry On Despite Equine Influenza

The equine influenza outbreak has not been able to penetrate the outer shell of excellence of the Melbourne Cup. In fact, the Aus$5 million ($4.6million) Cup, run over two miles on Nov. 6, features as good a field as ever.

There are 24 runners lined up for the race that is so important to Australia that a public holiday is declared each year, and there are about 18 horses with a good chance to win this year.

The early favorite, surprisingly, is English visitor Purple Moon. He has come up the $6.90 favorite on the eve of the Cup. But overnight, there has been continued strong backing for Sirmione, who as the 88-1 shot trained by Cup king Bart Cummings, defeated a high-class field in the $700,000 LKS McKinnon Stakes, a traditional prep for the Cup.

But it is the weather and not equine influenza that is looming as the party spoiler this year. A few showers occurred Nov. 5, following a lot of rain the previous night. The weather is expected to clear by post time, but the damage might have been done if more downpours occur.

"It's looking pretty good at this stage," Flemington track manager Terry Watson said. "A few track walkers were pleasantly surprised how good the surface is, so we are just hoping that the clearing forecast by the weather bureau comes true."

More than 12 million Australians will watch the race live with an estimated global audience of 210 million. It is the race that literally stops the nation; in fact, two nations, as residents of New Zealand are very much involved.

(Originally published at  

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Ric Chapman

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