VOW AND DECLARE FLIES AUSSIE FLAG
A SOLE Australian-born, bred, owned and ridden horse will today carry the hopes of a nation against a swarm of international raiders trying to plunder the $8 million Melbourne Cup.
Vow and Declare will start the race as the only all-Australian chance at a Flemington course he calls home, among a field of 11 international challengers.
Several of today’s 24 starters may have an Australian connection, but only the four-year-old horse jockey Craig Williams climbs aboard before a crowd of up to 100,000 is totally true blue.
Williams has a shot at a special homegrown story in the 159th running of the great race, as he chases the Cup glory that has long eluded him.
“My horse ... [has] got the weight of Australia on his back because he’s one of the few Australian-bred horses taking on the rest of the world,’’ he said.
Potential storylines abound among a field of contenders including a jockey who has vowed to streak the Flemington straight if he wins.
Jockey Michael Walker said he always thought he would head off to a pool party in Las Vegas if he was to win the Cup.
But, with his family in tow as he takes command of $19 outsider Prince Of Arran, he conceded his post-race celebration may change.
“Now that I’ve got my daughter and my son here, I don’t think I will be going to Vegas, I will probably have to put it off to the middle of December,’’ he said.
“But I might have to do a streak. I will do something anyway.’’
Three-time Cup winner Damien Oliver, who joins South Australian Kerrin McEvoy in chasing a fourth victory, hopes the famous trophy stays on home soil regardless.
“I think it always feels better as an Australian if there is some kind of Aussie connection to it, whether that be an owner, trainer or jockey,’’ Oliver said.
“Because I think then the people of Australia can relate to it a little bit better.’’
Jockey Damian Lane would complete a historic “Grand Slam’’ of Melbourne majors aboard Japan’s Mer de Glace if he can add the Cup to the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate he has already won this spring.
A partly cloudy day with a 20 per cent chance of rain and a top of 19C has been forecast for Melbourne today.
Police will use drones to help keep an eye on crowds in and outside the racecourse, and have warned protesters they will be hit with the full force of the law if they attempt to disrupt proceedings.