Every year in Australia on the first Tuesday of November, we celebrate a horse race called The Melbourne Cup. It takes place at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne and is the most prestigious horse race in the world.
Here is my take on the race that stops the nation.
Disg-race that stops the nation
We’ll cough it up at Phlegm-ington,
To watch the horses bleed again,
As whips are cracked by tiny men,
And bets are placed by all,
Who strut around in tailored suits,
And gulp champagne from crystal flutes,
And snort cocaine, ‘why just a toot!’
‘We’re here to have a ball.’
Enjoy the sea of silly hats,
The handkerchiefs, the fine cravats,
The girls on stilts with glossy straps,
Oh how it makes them tall.
The fascinators fascinating,
Gleaming, glitter, masquerading,
Worn on days of mass parading,
Cheers to haute couture!
Now fists are clenched with wads of cash,
To bet on colours of the sash,
Worn by the horses made to dash,
Until they break and fall.
Now silence looms at Phlegm-ington,
As punters check, then check again,
Then hold their breaths and count to ten,
Before we hear the roar.
That mare who snapped its leg in two,
Belonged to neither me nor you,
Just melt the bastard down to glue,
And listen for the call!
We’ve bloody won it all!
The first time I placed a bet on the Melbourne Cup was when I was ten years old. My English teacher cut up twenty-four pieces of paper, each with the name of a horse running in the race, and asked the class to reach into a box and randomly select a horse.
At 3 pm on the first Tuesday of November the very excited class of children gathered around a radio to listen to the race, their pieces of paper clenched firmly in hand.
The name of the horse on my piece of paper was Jezabeel. And it won. The teacher awarded me a chocolate bar and I felt like the luckiest ten year old boy in Australia.
What I didn’t know at the time was a Singapore-trained horse named Three Crowns was euthanised after shattering a leg. It had been swamped by the stampeding pack in the final stages of the race.
Since that day, thousands of race horses have died in Australia, many racing in the Melbourne Cup.
Even more shockingly, as many as 4,000 nags in Australia bred to be racehorses end their lives in the most appalling conditions, mistreated, before being slaughtered at abattoirs to become commercial pet-food – with some of them even ending up as mince meat for the greyhound industry.
A very famous poem by Vivienne McCredie about the Melbourne Cup was penned in 1986. It is called The race that stops the nation.
I hope my poem made you stop and think.