Racing / Melbourne Cup: Drum role popular at carnival: Europe's equine challengers are welcome visitors but face searching questions

NO ONE in the Australian state of Victoria this week has underestimated the size of the task awaiting Drum Taps and Vintage Crop, Europe's first ever runners in tomorrow's Melbourne Cup. All agree that this mission is, in local speak, 'a big ask'.

Unusually though, a victory for either the British or Irish horse would be welcomed in this land where Pommie sporting visitors are more often reviled. Australia is isolated in racing terms and needs these challengers to promote global acceptance.

Whoever is lured in future will receive a shock to jerk the needle on a seismograph. The Melbourne Cup, the motive for a public holiday in the state, is the focal point of a racing carnival unparalleled in Europe for its intensity.

There is a local radio station devoted solely to racing and powerful help has been sought on other wavelengths: the weekend's Racing Fraternity Mass offered prayers for the prosperity of the racing community.

Parties and pageants abound in the days leading up to the race and today past winners of the Cup parade through the streets. In recent years included in this procession has been the 1930 victor, Phar Lap, whose stuffed form in a glass case has been wheeled out for the benefit of huge crowds.

Flemington racecourse itself would also present some surprising contrasts to British visitors. At the Victora Derby meeting on Saturday, the track by the Maribyrnong river was graced by a thick carpet of rose petals from the many floral displays but also one of plastic glasses crushed underfoot.

Aussie racegoers take revelry seriously and are not hampered by official constrictions. If Ascot's bowler boys ever tried to operate here the hats would soon be at Freddie 'Parrot-face' Davies level.

When the 100,000 spectators arrive tomorrow for the 132nd Melbourne Cup (run at 5.20am GMT), the richest handicap in the world, and listen to Waltzing Matilda being played as the runners go to post they will share a scepticism about the preparation of Drum Taps and Vintage Crop. Neither has performed for seven weeks, which makes them sloths compared to the local runners, many of whom will be having their third run in a fortnight. Those who fancy Saturday's Mackinnon Stakes winner, The Phantom, the Cup favourite, will be buoyed by the statistic that 17 of the last 20 winners have run at that meeting.

If the build-up has been incongruous, so will be the movements of Lanfranco Dettori and Michael Kinane atop the European challengers. Australia's jockeys have a style to themselves, with the whip being looped round in the home straight in the manner of a crazed bandsman. Riders here earn sobriquets such as 'The Lion Tamer' and 'The Enforcer', and the toll on horses has been such that a repentant ex-jockey once marched up the course with a double-barrelled shotgun and a box of cartridges to persuade former colleagues to alter their techniques.

Dettori, Drum Taps's rider, fears a damaging response if his mount fails to reproduce bouncy work of earlier this week. 'If we finish last they'll laugh at us,' he said yesterday.

Whatever the outcome, the young Italian is enjoying being part of racing's equivalent of a Captain Cook expedition. 'It's great for me to be part of this, part of the first people to come to Australia,' he said.

Apart from 23 opponents, Dettori believes there are other factors which may bring about defeat. 'He's got to overcome the travelling, the quarantine, a different climate and the track, we've got a lot of things against us,' he said. 'But I've been on him and he seems to be in good form.

'There will be a lot of horses out there and I just hope I'm following the right one when we turn into the straight and not one that dies in front of me. Then I'll just go for it.'

Drum Taps, unlike Vintage Crop, stepped off his plane as if pampered in club class, and his trainer, Lord Huntingdon, put that down to the eight-year- old's well-travelled past. 'Our horse is an experienced traveller and once a horse has flown as many miles as he has, he knows what he's in for,' the Queen's trainer said. 'He knows there is nothing too rough at the end of the journey.'

Huntingdon, though, knows the wheel is against him. 'It's a daunting task,' he said. 'A bit like an English Test team coming out to try to win the Ashes. And we haven't got a bodyliner tucked away with us.'

Dermot Weld, Vintage Crop's trainer, feels like a man going into the middle without a bat, as his gelding has been sorely debilitated by his journey. 'The horse is well and I'm satisfied, but he's still a couple of kilos lighter than his ideal racing weight, and I'd like another week here with him,' he said. 'His weight is coming back, his blood picture is getting better and if I'd had a few more days I'd be confident.

'I've been trying to nurse him to put on weight, trying to get a balance between getting work into him and trying to get him eating. Now I can only hope he'll win.' And that's a big ask.

(Photograph omitted)

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Financial Accounting Manager

£300 - £400 per day: Argyll Scott International: I am currently recruiting on ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Based Sales Surveyor - OTE £40,000

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Based Sales Surveyor is...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: UI Designer/ User Interface Designer (UI, User Flow, Design)

£6000 - £60000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: UI De...

Investigo: International Finance Analyst

£270 - £300 per annum: Investigo: An exciting opportunity to join an internati...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?