Melbourne Cup: Hopes for Verry Elleegant win
November 2 is a day where people traditionally adorn all kinds of fancy dress and head to the pub or sporting venue for the annual Melbourne Cup Day races.
The Melbourne Cup is Australia's most famous annual Thoroughbred horse race. It is a 3200-metre race for three-year-olds and over, conducted by the Victoria Racing Club on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria as part of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
Twelve months on from having his first runner in the Melbourne Cup, Auckland racehorse trainer Nick Bishara is just as excited as he was last year before the running of the race that stops a nation.
Bishara, who prepared nine-time Group I winner Verry Elleegant for her first three starts in New Zealand and retained a share in the champion mare when she was sold and sent to Australia in September 2018, believes this could be her year after the daughter of Zed finished an unlucky seventh last year, just over two weeks after winning the Caulfield Cup.
Trainer Chris Waller – who started his career in New Zealand before shifting across the Tasman – and the mare’s syndicate of owners confirmed their second tilt at the Cup late on Saturday afternoon and Bishara is keen to see her perform up to her best on Tuesday.
“I think the signs are all positive for her, and she is going to go the race of her life,” Bishara says.
“She is 30-40kgs heavier than last year and is a more mature product, while she gets the best in the business back on her with James McDonald now confirmed to ride.”
Like Waller, McDonald is a Kiwi who has gone to the top of the ranks in Australia.
“JMac was on fire at Flemington on Saturday with four wins, three of those for Chris, so the ‘A’ team is firing on all cylinders just when you need them to be.
“James worked her on Saturday morning and was delighted with her, while all the latest reports have been positive, so I’m just fizzing for the race.”
Bishara acknowledges the enormous task ahead of the mare as she carries 1.5kg more than last year and has drawn barrier 19.
He is keen for McDonald to ride her positively after she was caught near the rear last year for jockey Mark Zahra and made up plenty of ground to finish a close-up seventh.
“I am convinced that JMac is the key to the whole thing as he just knows her inside and out,” Bishara says.
“The barrier draw is a shocker but that means he has to get into the race by coming wide with some cover and if she is somewhere near them on the corner, then it is game on.
“She finished third in the Cox Plate last time which was a massive improvement after disappointing a little when only fourth the time before that, so she should be absolutely spot on for Tuesday.”
While Bishara is excited to have a Cup runner again, he stills has a pang of disappointment that he and his fellow New Zealand-based owners, including breeder Don Goodwin of Auckland, can’t be at Flemington to take in the spectacle.
“I completely understand the whole Covid situation and the reasons for our restrictions, but there is a little part of me that is gutted that we can’t be there,” he says.
“We’ll have our family and stable staff bubble around home to watch the race and celebrate win, lose or draw, but I do feel for the other owners who are in the same boat as us.
“Poor Don Goodwin and his wife had followed her to every racetrack before Covid struck and now they are stuck at home.
“They are in their 80s and may never get another Cup runner, so that does strike a bum note for me and takes some gloss off the whole thing.”
Always one to look on the positive side, Bishara was overjoyed by the news that Verry Elleegant’s half-sister, Black Lace, has successfully foaled a Zed filly at Arrowfield Stud in Australia, making the foal a three-quarter sister to the great mare who is also by the underrated Grangewilliam Stud stallion.
“We just heard that Black Lace has successfully delivered a filly and she is a bloody cracker,” he said.
“I’ve seen a picture of her and she is a long-legged filly, who is the spitting image to Verry Elleegant, so that is very exciting news at just the right time.”