Jenny - Clean


TRAINER Mark Kavanagh was trumpeting the virtues of ‘I Get Knocked Down but I Get Up Again’ after the success of Shocking in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup reversed his Spring Carnival fortunes.

“It’s not about how many times you get knocked down. In racing you just have to keep fronting up,” said Kavanagh nursing a sore head after a few too many celebratory drinks on Cup night.

‘Kav’ was complaining that someone must have substituted weed killer for champagne but his comments were spot on. He would be the first to admit that it doesn’t only apply to racing but life in general.

On the morning after the day that stops a nation thousands of punters were also feeling the worse for wear – but not because they were celebrating a win – most were left to pick up the pieces after another disastrous day on the punt.

The Melbourne Cup day meeting is traditionally a blackout for those who follow the fancied runners – be they regular punters or those having that once-a-year flutter. Those who know the Spring Carnival well found out long ago that the support program on Cup day is a minefield.

Tuesday was no exception. It started when Bart’s Maiden hope, Think Money, was sent out a hot favorite in the Lavazza. They’re still looking for her. Those who tried to recoup their losses on the ‘good thing’ of the day – Ortensia – in the next are blaming jockey Craig Williams for her unlucky second.

One, two, three strikes and you’re out! That was it for most of the big punters when Definitely Ready bit the dust in the fifth and the Cup was still two races away. The woeful run that Michael Rodd seems to be enjoying on favorites continues. Here’s hoping it changes when he partners Bart’s odds-on chance, Faint Perfume, in the Oaks. Otherwise about the only one laughing will be Michael’s future father-in-law – a prominent Queensland-based bookie.

By the time the Cup had arrived most of the punters had retired to the bar. But they bounced back for another helping with the ‘experts’ declaring that this would be a ‘favorites year’ and was certain to be fought out by Bart’s charge, Viewed and the battler from across the border in Alcopop. Viewed ran into more trouble than the early explorers and did a good job to finish seventh while Alcopop was far from disgraced but gave the impression he might have been fronting up for the big two-miler a year too early.

Not that Shocking was a ‘shock’ result for many who snapped up the $12 on offer after his easy win in the Lexus the previous Saturday. Kavanagh was confident going into the race but when Corey Brown got caught wide he thought that Spring Carnival hoodoo had returned to haunt him.

After losing the Cox Plate with hot favorite Whobegotyou, Maldivian being ruled out of the carnival and the enforced scratching of Shamoline Warrior on Derby morning, enough was enough.

With the words to ‘I Get Knocked Down but I Get Up Again’ echoing in his ears, Kavanagh bounced back in triumphant style. All of a sudden the former jumps jockey, who recalled once watching the Melbourne Cup on a television in a shop window, was being mobbed by the media. Life and racing can be a great leveler.

At a time when he just wanted to hide away in a quiet corner and enjoy the moment, Kavanagh was under siege. “You get so mobbed by the media. It is outrageous. I haven’t had 10 minutes to even think about it how it feels to win the Melbourne Cup,” Kavanagh confessed.

“After you win the Cup this guy from the VRC thrusts a list of media interviews into your hand that you are expected to do. I didn't know there were so many radio stations in Australia. They haven’t stopped ringing but it is all part of winning the Melbourne Cup,’’ he told Steve Moran on Melbourne’s Sport 927.

“Do you think something needs to be done about trainers getting mobbed by the media in the saddling enclosure?” Moran asked. “I think I should be doing it every year after I have won the Melbourne Cup,” Kavanagh replied diplomatically.

Media behavior in the enclosure is something that race club officials and the stewards are likely to address at the end of the Spring Carnival. It was raised with Chief Stipe Terry Bailey after 82-year-old Bart Cummings was almost knocked off his feet by a surging media scrum after wins by Viewed and So You Think in the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate.

Because of space limitations at Moonee Valley, which almost resembles a coliseum on Cox Plate day, the jostling for interviews post-race has always been a problem. But the number of media personnel seems to increase every year – something that those who ply their trade on a weekly basis have good reason to be upset about.

I can remember the situation getting so out of hand at the Magic Millions Carnival on the Gold Coast one year that then chief steward, Steve Railton, warned Queensland Racing that someone could end up getting kicked and badly injured by a horse with a resultant legal action.

Access to the enclosure had become too easily accessible with dozens of pretty young things from surf radio stations, who knew nothing about racing, running around shoving microphones in the faces of anyone who looked important and asking idiotic questions. It made the job of those legitimately covering the Millions that much more difficult.

Sitting back and watching the action unfold in Melbourne this spring, one has to feel sorry for the likes of Cummings and Kavanagh. Can you imagine the media being allowed to storm onto the court after Roger Federer had just won Wimbledon? Not likely.

There are no similar scenes to those we have watched at Flemington, Moonee Valley and Caulfield when the biggest race days outside Australia are held in Hong Kong and Dubai.

It is time for a restriction on mainstream media access to trainers and jockeys straight after big races. Only allow access immediately to a couple of interviewers who are experienced enough to ask the right questions (the likes of Bruce Clark from TVN). Have a feed to the media room and when the dust has settled organize press conferences at which the key players are required to attend.

This has to be done in such a way that the print media does not feel left out of the exercise. As it stands the free-to-air network with the rights to the meeting – a la Channel Seven at Melbourne Cup time – gets exclusive access to mountain yard interviews which is a bit of a joke. Sky and TVN should at least have equal rights and it shouldn’t be forgotten that racing writers for major newspapers have deadlines to meet as well.

Having sat back at home and channel-surfed the Derby and Cup day coverage on free-to-air and pay television I can see why many people are turned off by Channel 7. The emphasis of their coverage this year has shifted alarmingly from the horses to the fashion and the celebrities.

If you prefer to watch the action from the comfort of your lounge room to the local club, pub or track and you want to see the racing live then you have to watch it on Seven. TVN and Sky are allowed to feed the live racing into their pub and club outlets but have to show the Flemington races on delay through Pay-TV into homes to protect the rights of Seven, for which the network pays big money.

In the Seven coverage team Bruce McAvaney and Pat Welsh are terrific and the calls of Greg Miles are priceless. But leave me out of Simon Marshall and Richard Freedman despite the fact they obviously have a legion of fans. The added bonus this year for those who like a little glamor is Francesca Cumani, daughter of European trainer, Luca.

Francesca has been a favorite of the racing media since she started to become a regular at the Spring Carnival in Melbourne. To put it crudely they sniff around her like a pack of dogs from the time she steps off the plane – not that any hot-blooded male would blame them.

The contribution that Francesca has made to the Seven coverage is informative and classy – in fact they could easily have given her more air time and dispensed with Simon and Garfunkel altogether.

Things weren't much better over at Sky Channel where ‘Mute Button’ was in full swing with his incessant chatter causing most thinking punters to all but wear-out their remote controls getting away from him.

TVN had the delightful Caroline Searcy hosting the show with Terry Bailey (not the chief steward) wearing a cap that made him look more like a clown than a commentator. He’s the one that Dr Turf continually takes the ‘Mickey’ out of on the Valley Friday night show. He should stick to calling races.

After two big days of watching wall-to-wall TV racing coverage enough is enough. We’ve been subjected to everyone from weather girl, Fifi Box (what an unfortunate name) threatening to crash tackle Nash Rawiller and interviewing an Ugly Betty lookalike who only knew the way to the Champagne Bar.

We’ve seen simple Simon trying to sing and re-living his exploits in the saddle and then his mate ‘Garfunkel’ telling us that Michael Rodd was standing down from a ride to be refreshed for his mount in the Melbourne Cup when he didn’t have one. And too many of those nauseous ads for Seven 2.

What we need for the perfect carnival television coverage is more of the horses in the parade ring – expert commentary from form analysts like Shane Templeton and Steve Moran; expert interviews by Bruce Clark; a touch of comedy from Dr Turf; the female presence of the knowledgeable Caroline Searcy; and why not add that English babe Francesca Cumani. She's got a contribution to make?

If nothing else Francesca would ensure that the male ratings – and a few other things – were on the rise and they wouldn’t even need those silly ads to make it all happen.




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