Love the Big Field, Big Races of Australia

October 19, 2013 04:15pm
Fawkner Caulfield Cup
Photo: AAP Image: Hamish Blair


Americans love to complain. “My soup’s too hot.” “My soup’s too cold.” “Someone’s been eating my soup.”  A nation once known for its rugged, can-do attitude, has become a country of whiners. Case in point, our Kentucky Derby. Instead of embracing what could well be the greatest race in the world, all I hear are complaints.

“The field size is too big.” “20 horses is just too many in one race.” “It’s not fair.” “Someone is going to get hurt.” “Too many poor trips caused by the 20-horse field.” “I can’t handicap a ten-horse field, let alone double that.”

C’mon, America … get a grip. The Derby is as good as it gets, and the cavalry charge, double gate spectacle makes it all that more uniquely special. A 12-horse field in the Kentucky Derby? No thanks.

You know what got me thinking of all this almost six months removed from last year’s, and more than that for next year’s Derby? It was staying up to the wee hours of the morning to watch the first of three huge gigantic races of springtime in Australia. And I’m glad I did.

Today’s Caulfield Cup was positively glorious. A cornucopia of sights and sounds for the senses, this year’s edition featured a brigade of colorfully silked riders on talented horseflesh lining up 400 meters from the wire. After well more than a mile of generally uneventful action, it all came down to a mad dash to the wire, over the emerald green turf. The whole scene put a smile on my face as I watched on my Asus laptop computer screen. 

The final order of finish went like this: Fawkner-Dandino-Dear Demi-Jet Away-Royal Descent-Mr. Moet-Hawkspur-Silent Achiever-Kelinni-Moriarty-Mr. O’Ceirin-Tuscan Fire-Ethiopia-Glencadam Gold-Manighar-My Quest For Peace-Walpark-Julienas.

Did you count them? 18.

And you know what? Everytime I watch one of these big races from Australia, the Melbourne Cup, the Cox Plate, or the Caulfield Cup, the field size is large. Kentucky Derby kind of large. Yet, I don’t hear the complaints from the fans about it to being too many. Even the connections don’t seem as quick to the draw with an excuse of tough trips and bad beats due to just too many horses. It’s refreshing. Did I mention how beautiful these races are to watch?

Is the field size of the Kentucky Derby too large? No. Just look to the Australians, my friends.

As for my selection in the Caulfield Cup, Jet Away, he ran a big race, but moved way too early for my liking, and faded to finish an uncashable fourth … can I get a little cheese with this whine? 



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Older Comments about Love the Big Field, Big Races of Australia...

any rider who goes to sleep on the rail, deserves what they get......Most moves come in the 4 5 6 lanes
Thank you for the suggestions, Ann Maree ... We are always striving to improve HRN.
The only probelem I have with the 20 horse field is the start for the horse in post position one. If he runs straight, he hits the rail. Just ask poor Lookin At Lucky who was much the best a couple years ago. I feel that Churchill should do whatever it takes to fix that issue if they want to run 20 horses.
Five horses have 10 points for next year's Derby. Wow, that almost gets them into the 20 horse field!
There really is a rather large contingent of fans of overseas racing here in the U.S. It's nothing for us to stay up until 2 to 3 a.m. to catch a big race in Australia or Japan, or Hong Kong. The time difference is not as bad for Europe (5 hours for the UK/6 for France ET), which is perfect to watch overseas racing in the a.m. and NA in the afternoon. None of the major online publications provides in-depth coverage -- would love to see HRN step up and have a separate section dedicated to it: commentary, race analysis, posting of (simple) graded stakes calendar, offering some regular coverage. Coverage in the U.S. of overseas racing now is almost an after-thought. Racing overseas has to rise to the level of the Melbourne Cup or the British Derby to make it into a few inches of newstype. Anyway, just some thoughts. Love your new "look" and content is great. Keep up the great work!
Big fields in Oz...more mature horses.
The Caulfield course does have banked turns, Jane, but you are right about the width. Churchill is 80 feet wide, while Caulfield is approximately 98 feet wide.
But their tracks are made bigger to accomodate - width is wider by at least 10 ft, turns are wider, more sweeping, etc. and I dont think their turns are banked like they are at CD.
Agreed, Yuki, seeing the crowds that show up for even a G3 in Japan is pretty unreal, particularly the chanting (not that I have any idea what they're saying haha). This is only my first year following Japanese racing, but I have only come across maybe five or so graded stakes in Japan that have less than 15 horses in the field
Perfect timing! Final lef of Japanese Triple Crown Kikura Sho is tonight! Nothing like Japanese fanfare at start of races!
Welcome to racing overseas, where racing is a lot of fun and so easy to access. I've seen some races overseas with as many as 30+ horses. Talk about a cavalry charge! I love overseas racing -- Royal Ascot in June, summer and fall races, British Champions series, Irish and British TC seasons. Racing overseas is cleaner in that raceday meds aren't an issue, the turf seems to be kinder to the horses and not as many breakdowns (my perception), Australia racing is also fun. Half the races overseas are 1 1/4 mi or longer, fewer sprints (which may account for some of the reasons for fewer breakdowns). I even like German, French and Japan racing (it helps when they post the English translation!). Japan has some dirt races. Hong Kong broadcasts in English. Watching races all over the world is becoming easier and easier. Presents some interesting possibilities for the future of the sport through advances that give fans more choices. Be sure to check out the Hong Kong Jockey Club web site...unbelievably simple...easy to read forms, FREE replays. I watch so much overseas racing I know the horses there as well as the ones here in the U.S. Would love it if your site would produce an international racing calendar similar to what the old Thoroughbred Times used to produce. It would list the U.S. races for a particular period of time, and then at the bottom of each day's list of North American races, they would post in italics the important overseas races! Made it a lot easier to organize my race viewing.

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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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