The jewel in the crown of the 2019 Carnival, the Group 1 Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) on Tuesday, November 5th, saw a win for Australia, with Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien combining with champion jockey Craig Williams to win the A$8 million race with Vow and Declare.
It was a week to remember for jockey Damien Oliver who on the Carnival’s opening day won the A$2m Group 1 AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) on the Anthony Freedman trained Warning and earlier broke the record for the most Melbourne Cup Carnival wins surpassing Bobby Lewis’ 72 victories.
On Thursday, O’Brien backed up his Melbourne Cup win and Oliver secured another Group 1 of the Carnival with victory in the A$1, Group 1 Kennedy Oaks (2500m) with Miami Bound (NZ).
The Melbourne Cup Carnival came to a close with the Aidan O'Brien trained Magic Wand (IRE) under Ryan Moore taking out the A$2m, Group 1 Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes (2500m).
Magic Wand finished 10th in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup and defeated New Zealand Group 1 winning mare Melody Belle (NZ) while nine-year-old Australian hero Hartnell (GB) finished third and retires with considerable crowd applause after the race after a multiple Group 1 winning career.
Hartnell's retirement captured the public's attention and no wonder why, Godolphin's Australian trainer James Cummings picks up the story.
“He has an inordinate ability to always be figuring in the biggest races. It surprises some people that he has only won four Group 1’s, they think he has won more than that. But ten of his wins have been in stakes races, and he was placed in Group 1’s 13 times; an amazing record," he said
“His Group 1 win in the (2018) Epsom Handicap was off a strong pace. He settled many lengths off the lead, he kept chiming in and looming up the middle of the track., he joined in really strongly and thrust that noble head forward to claim victory and the 1,600m track record at Randwick.
“It was the effort of a true champion," he said.
Hartnell's record is 13 wins from 57 starts, 14 seconds and eight thirds with stakes earnings of A$7,289,499. He will be cared for by Godolphin's Flemington foreman Reg Fleming for the rest of his days. Fleming incidentally was the Flemington foreman for the master trainer Bart Cummings.
Nature Strip, trained by Chris Waller and ridden by James McDonald, cruised to victory in the $2m, Group 1 Darley Sprint Classic (1200m) and may well spearhead Australian racing with an international campaign in 2020.
Throughout the Carnival, 487 horses competed in 37 races, representing an average field size of 13.2 runners. The four race cards, offering more than $27 million in prize money, saw 26 individual trainers and 19 jockeys enjoy victory.
The JB Cummings Excellence Award went to Flemington trainer Chris Waller for his outstanding Melbourne Cup Carnival achievements, and the Ron Hutchinson Excellence Award was won by jockey Craig Williams, with each receiving $50,000.
Victoria Racing Club (VRC) Chief Executive Officer Neil Wilson said it had been a spectacular week of racing.
“The track raced safely and evenly all week and we saw impressive fields throughout. Special acknowledgement must go to Flemington trainers who accounted for 17 of the winners across the Carnival, including five of the eight Group 1 races,” Mr Wilson said.
“Despite the cold and wet weather, the four Melbourne Cup Carnival racedays were again the four most attended in the country with 276,186 local, interstate and international visitors flocking to Flemington to enjoy the racing, fashion, entertainment and hospitality of the world’s most vibrant racing event.
“We thank all those who attended Cup Week including our members who filled The Club Stand which has completed a successful first year of operation.
“The Park was a top destination for a fourth year, showcasing fashion, food and entertainment, while the new-look Birdcage, grandstands, members carparks, and lawns also teemed with racegoers enjoying Flemington at its best.”
Three cruise ships delivered approximately 6,500 visitors to the Cup. Two ships sailed from Sydney and one from Brisbane.
“The Melbourne Cup Carnival is a resounding tourism success story. This is Australia’s original major event, and it contributes to the economy like no other,” Mr Wilson said.
Coverage of the Lexus Melbourne Cup was streamed to a global audience on Twitter for a fourth straight year, with 60% of viewers from Japan. Network 10’s live coverage of the Lexus Melbourne Cup reached 2.9 million nationally, pus 490,000 live streams in its first year. While the Cup was screened at primetime into the USA on America’s biggest network, CBS.