Horse Racing: Qantas Resumption Spells Relief for Melbourne Cup
Melbourne. The organizers of Australia’s richest thoroughbred race were buoyed by a government-mandated order that put Qantas Airways planes back in the air on Monday after the airline’s labor dispute with trade unions threatened to dampen the carnival atmosphere.
The dispute, which came to a head when Qantas grounded its entire fleet at the weekend, had cast doubt over the attendance of thousands of visitors from overseas and across the country to Australia’s Melbourne Cup.
“We won’t know until tomorrow how it’s affected us. It’s too early to tell … But fortunately Qantas have now gone back so it does give people the opportunity to still make it,” Victoria Racing Club chief Dale Monteith said on Monday. “I suspect, really, that people who are determined to come to the Melbourne Cup, this unique event, if they’ve booked, they’ll get here somehow.”
The Melbourne Cup, celebrated as a public holiday by over five million people in the state of Victoria, regularly attracts crowds of over 100,000, while workplaces across the country pause for a few minutes to watch the race’s broadcast.
Like Australia’s resource-rich economy, attendance at the race and for the other three marquee days in the week-long Melbourne Cup Carnival have held up well despite turmoil engulfing much of the developing world in recent years.
Thousands of people thronged Melbourne’s city center as jockeys and trainers were ferried in a cavalcade for the race’s traditional Monday parade on the eve of the Cup, and a small but vocal group protested the use of whips in horse racing on the sidelines.
The presence of an unprecedented 11 European entrants for Tuesday’s Cup has also raised a volley of complaints from industry figures who have bemoaned the lack of locally bred and trained horses in the nation’s marquee two-mile race.
With three of the last 10 winners from overseas, the “foreign raiders” are fancied to take the trophy again.
French stayer and last year’s winner Americain is 4-1 favorite to win the Cup despite being saddled with top weight and an extra 3.5 kilograms this year.