Cup raiders’ wild Aussie encounter

Japanese trainer Tomoyuki Umeda thinks nothing of handling half-tonne racehorses but finds a wombat a bit of a handful.


“It’s so heavy,” the diminutive trainer of Melbourne Cup favourite Admire Rakti said as he cradled the big marsupial.

The foreign raiders here for a shot at Tuesday’s Cup met some of the local wildlife during their morning workout on Sunday.

With the hard preparation work done, the internationals had a light canter around Werribee – the modest track 40km outside Melbourne that has been the home base for their Cup campaign.

Racing officials arranged the animal encounter, giving the teams behind the Irish, English, Japanese and German horses the chance to meet a wombat, a baby crocodile and an olive python.

“Oh my god what’s this? Oh it’s a possum – it’s a koala,” Englishman Ed Dunlop, trainer of Red Cadeaux puzzled as Dozer the wombat was carried past.

Mr Dunlop is more familiar with Australia than his wildlife spotting would suggest: Red Cadeaux is down under for a fourth attempt at winning the $6.2 million race that stops the nation.

Red Cadeaux travels the world for races but apart from the Dubai World Cup, the Melbourne race is the richest opportunity on offer.

“We know he likes it here,” Mr Dunlop said.

“And the owner (Hong Kong lawyer and businessman Ronald Arculli) loves the idea of it – he’s infatuated with the race.”

Home-grown heroes are thin on the ground for the 2014 Cup.

Bart Cummings’ Precedence is a sentimental favourite, but at odds of $101 is not rated a strong chance of delivering the Cups King a 13th trophy.

That leaves the likes of Japanese Admire Rakti and English Red Cadeaux as the high-profile contenders.

There are a record 11 international horses in the Cup and the field is also one of the oldest, with a record four nine-year-olds in the running: Red Cadeaux, Cavalryman, Precedence and Royal Diamond.

Making those horses look like spring chickens at Werribee on Sunday was another novelty visitor – 1992 Cup winner Subzero.

Now a sprightly 26 years of age, “Subbie” was happy to pose trackside with this year’s gold cup, possibly remembering that he’s already got one of his own.

And that one, at least, is staying in Australia.