A crowd of 90,136 took to a sunbaked Flemington racecourse on Saturday to witness history in more ways than one.
The crowd was up over 20,000 on last year’s attendance due to a combination of fantastic weather, an enhanced on course experience and great Group racing.
The feature race of the day saw James Cummings fulfill his family legacy by winning the Victoria Derby, while Godolphin import Oceanographer booked his place in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup after producing one of the all-time great finishes in a Lexus Stakes.
The fun on the track was almost superseded by the frivolity of it.
Punters on course were treated to live music and rides which created a festival-like atmosphere for the patrons.
Victoria Racing Club (VRC) Chief Executive Simon Love said AAMI Victoria Derby Day lived up to its reputation as one of the greatest days on the Australian racing calendar.
“Melbourne delivered a perfect spring day of racing, with an impressive crowd enjoying Flemington at its best,” Love said.
“The scene is now set for an exciting 156th running of the Emirates Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.”
The action on the turf was frenetic but the competition in the fashions on the field was just as competitive.
Latvian Gunita Kenina, took out the Women’s Racewear AAMI Victoria Derby Day crown in a black and white Vezzano dress and hat.
Shayne Tino from Melbourne won the Men’s Racewear competition in a three-piece double breasted grey suit with burgundy loafers and a fedora.
The pair will compete with the eventual winners from Emirates Melbourne Cup Day and Crown Oaks Day for the Victorian title and entry into the National Final.
Race day focus – Cummings makes it a four-time family affair after Derby win
The story of the day was James Cummings’ maiden Victoria Derby win, carrying on a generational legacy that dates all the way back to his great grandfather Jim.
Cummings’ great-grandfather Jim won the Derby with Comic Court in 1948, his grandfather Bart won five, while his dad Anthony won with Fiveandahalfstar four years ago.
The youngest Cummings believes it was in his blood to have success on the opening race day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
“I get a lot of confidence from the fact that my great-grandfather started training horses in 1911; there’s over 100 years of horse training excellence in the family,” Cummings said.
“That knowledge gives us confidence, but there are times when it wanes and there were times like Moonee Valley last week”
Prized Icon jumped as an $18 shot at Crownbet.com.au and defied the odds to storm past short-priced favourite Sacred Elixir; who was found wanting when the winner quickened the pace at the 200m mark.
Jockey Glyn Schofield said Cummings produced a high-class training effort to get Prized Icon up for the feature event of the day.
“James worked this horse out to a T. He came in this race with the same sort of preparations and number of rungs when he won the springs stakes as a two-year-old.” Schofield said.
“To culminate and win as a 3-year-old at the Derby is fantastic. There were anxious moments midweek when we weren’t sure whether he was going to take his part or not, but thankfully, the decision was made and he took his place in the line-up.
“I had a pretty trouble-free race the whole way around. I just wanted to get on the back of the favourite and follow it, because at the Valley last week he got last and it wasn’t really his track and I knew with the big open spaces here today, he would show his best.”
Oceanographer firms in the Melbourne Cup market after sensational Lexus Stakes win
English import Oceanographer will enter Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup as the $7 second favourite at Sportsbet.com.au after a scorching win in Saturday’s Lexus Stakes.
The five-year-old gelding will carry 52kgs into the race that stops a nation after copping a 1kg penalty for his brilliant last gasp victory over Tom Melbourne.
British trainer Charlie Appleby said he expected Oceanographer to back up the Derby Day performance with a strong showing on Tuesday.
“I say well done to the team and they have done a great job getting this horse freshened up after this last start,” he said.
“Whether he can win the Cup I don’t know, but he can back up for sure… he came out of the last race so well, bucking and kicking, and the sunshine on his back will do him a power of good.”
Oceanographer is locked on the $7 price at Sportsbet.com.au alongside Jameka who passed a veterinary exam and is clear to start in the Cup after she shifted a shoe while working on Friday.
Godolphin superstar Hartnell remains the clear favourite for the Melbourne Cup at Sportsbet.com.au at $4.50.
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