Melbourne Cup preview: cream of world racing descends on Flemington

From hangovers to foreign raiders, 2017 promises more of the same against the backdrop of stellar Spring racing

Can Frankie finally do it? Can Aiden O’Brien finally do it? Can Sheikh Mohammed finally do it? Yes, it’s Melbourne Cup time, when the land down under goes over the top for a horse race and when the world’s racing elite ply their annual quest, before going home wondering what the hell happened, again. This is that peculiar Australian festival of wanton abandon to the punt and the plonk; a hangover from another era, that gives annual licence to a national hangover. No other national event can so conjure Australia’s historic and reckless will to party.

The scene was set for the first Cup of the Trump era on Saturday, when Australia’s foreign minister, the Honourable Julie Bishop, made her annual usually taxpayer-funded appearance on Victoria Derby Day, wearing the millinery equivalent of a spy satellite on her head. “I’d rather be a horse at Flemington than a refugee at Manus Island,” one Twitter wit cracked, referencing Australia’s international controversy du jour. It was the would-be PM’s “let them eat cake” moment as she joined Australia’s bunyip aristocracy for their annual roll call at Flemington; ladies in silly hats, gentlemen in morning coats, as if Royal Ascot had magically appeared on the banks of the Maribyrnong. Beyond the exclusive marquees, the rest of the 87,000 patrons were busy drinking themselves into oblivion. This is the coterie Australian racing mandarins are keen to court these days. It is a magnificent farce that adds nothing to the spectacle out on the track.

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