After week of travels, the TAB Melbourne Cup returns to Sandown Park this Thursday evening for the second Prelude series.
The 6000km, three-city promotional tour culminated in a Spring Carnival Launch event at TAB in Melbourne and coincided with the 50 day count down to the world’s greatest greyhound race.
The tour began with a trip across to the ditch for the final of the group 1 Waterloo Cup, New Zealand’s oldest running feature event, which is also an exemption race for the TAB Melbourne Cup. The Waterloo Cup was first added to the exemption list in 2015 with Bigtime Paddy the first qualifier to make the journey across the Tasman to contest the heats. The 2018 Waterloo Cup winner, Pinny Mack, is also likely to come across to contend the heats on Friday 16 November aiming to become the second dog to win the Cup after Kwik Metal was triumphant in 1974.
Click here for a wrap of the Waterloo Cup
The next day the Cup then headed north into the city of Auckland for a guest appearance on Trackside’s DogZone program – New Zealand’s version of Sky Racing’s The Catching Pen – where I joined hosts Andy McCook and Phillipa Morris to discuss the TAB Melbourne Cup, the carnival, and the Speed Star, which has really struck a chord with those in the shaky isles.
From Auckland we flew in to Sydney for a special TAB Melbourne Cup showcase at TAB headquarters in George Street. Hosted by Sky Racing’s Jason Lincoln, I was joined by Jack Mitchell from TAB’s greyhound trading team and by Heidi from the NSW Greyhound As Pets program. Before the beautiful blue greyhound stole the show, we discussed the TAB Melbourne Cup and what makes it the world’s greatest greyhound race, and answered questions from staff about the sport and greyhounds in general. It was a well attended event and all the staff were keen to their photo with the Cup – and Heidi – afterwards. It was the first time a greyhound had visited the offices and a great experience for many of the staff to meet a greyhound for the first time.
That afternoon we travelled across the Harbour Bridge to the studios at Sky Racing where we enjoyed another meet and greet before filming The Catching Pen with Luke Anderson, owner of 2016 TAB Melbourne Cup winner Ando’s Mac, sharing his memories of the night. Though two years have passed, Luke recalls the night like it was yesterday and remains his most cherished memory in the sport.
Speaking of Ando’s Mac, he was one of the stars of the show back at TAB HQ in Melbourne on Thursday. TAB held their staff Spring Carnival Launch that morning, and sitting along side TAB’s Nick Quinn for a panel discussion was Winx’s part owner Debbie Kepitis, TAB Melbourne Cup winning trainer Seona Thompson, and TAB’s General Manager of Racing and Wagering, Trevor Parkes. Ando’s Mac met the staff following the discussion and as with Heidi in Sydney before him, stole the show with everyone amazed at the placid nature of the greyhound.
Earlier, Seona and I visited the RSN studios for a chat with Michael Felgate on Racing Pulse, where Seona recalled the emotions involved in winning last year’s Cup with Aston Dee Bee, but also the work involved in preparing a Cup contender (no surprise that she nominated Poke The Bear as the dog to watch from Awesome Lodge leading in to the Cup).
Click here to hear Seona discuss the TAB Melbourne Cup with Michael Felgate on RSN’s Racing Pulse
One thing that was particularly striking during a photo shoot that afternoon was how much interest the general public had in greyhounds, greyhound racing and the Cup. It is a beautiful trophy – the best there is in the sport! – and we know how fantastic the breed is. The number of people who came over and start conversations about both the Cup and the dogs, who wanted to know more, was extremely pleasing and gives great confidence that we should continue to promote and get excited about our great sport.
The TAB Melbourne Cup will be run on Friday 23 November.