Satire isn’t dead at The Tunnel.
It just goes to sleep for a very long time and wakes up when there’s a Melbourne Cup to write about.
So, after a lengthy spell, The Tunnel’s Ed launches a first-up assault on the Race That Stops A Nation.
Let’s do this…
Here now is The Tunnel’s 2017 Melbourne Cup Form Guide.
A citizenship scandal has cast a shadow over this year’s Melbourne Cup and at the head of the queue – and the top of the weights – is Hartnell. Despite running third in the Cup last year and endearing himself to the Nation as Winx’s punching bag, Hartnell’s dinki-di credentials are now being questioned. According to trainer James Cummings, it’s all a beat-up and Hartnell’s as true blue as Godolphin, as Aussie as Malcolm Roberts. As the Son of Bart tells it, how are Hartnell’s 12 runs in the UK as a younger horse any different to all those young Aussies working their way around the Mother Country? This Pom-bashing of Australian horses has just got to stop, I say.
There are several ways you can write a form guide. One way is to say that every horse has a winning chance so that – as happened in 2015 – you can look a genius when Prince of Penzance wins the Cup at 100-1. Or, like me, you can babble away, reduce the winning Cup chances down to 16 or so and crack Gilbert and Sullivan jokes about how Prince of Penzance couldn’t possibly win. We all know how that went so, suitably chastised by the 20 million Australians who all apparently backed the Prince, I didn’t do a form guide for The Tunnel last year. But guess what, Australia? During my year off, I picked Almandin to win the 2016 Melbourne Cup! So there!!! Can Almandin win the Cup again in 2017 with flamboyant reinsman (and reformed white line fiend) Frankie Dettori aboard? Very possibly. Can I tip the Melbourne Cup winner again this year? Not a bloody chance.
I’m not saying Humidor has a drinking problem. Just because Humidor can’t run in a straight line, no matter how much gear his trainer Darren Weir puts on him, doesn’t mean the horse spends raceday eves at Crown Casino drinking single malt scotch from a bucket. I mean, would an addled sot cruise up to Winx’s shoulder in the Cox Plate and stop trying simply because Hugh Bowman turns to him and says, “Hey mate, if you let me win, I’ll buy you a drink”? That would be a totally unAustralian thing to say about one of the best local Cup chances, whose New Zealand citizenship, like that of Barnaby Joyce, is completely beside the point. Frankly, I’m not saying anything about Humidor because, as Darren Weir insists, he’s going to let the horse do the talking. “My name is Humidor and I’m a…”
Supposedly the human interest story of this year’s Cup because Tiberian’s father, Tiberius Caesar, was a teaser pony who managed to father a child. Now pardon me for being a traditionalist – and for being a defender of human interest – but this is what Roman scholar Suetonius had to say about Tiberius Caesar:
In Caprae they still show the place at the cliff top where Tiberius used to watch his victims being thrown in to the sea after prolonged and exquisite tortures.
So the fact that the only-born son of a bloodthirsty tyrant is running in our Cup is a good thing??? If Tiberian triumphs and half the Melbourne Cup field is left exquisitely tortured in his wake, don’t blame me.
A lightly-raced English horse who, like Kristin Scott Thomas, prefers to ply his trade in France, Marmelo’s odds have been as skinny as KST since he stormed home for sixth in the Caulfield Cup. Now, if there’s one thing Peter Dutton has taught me – and surely there’s only one thing – it’s that it’s hard to say no to someone if they come to your country and show you how good they are. Not even Tony Abbott can deny Marmelo can win this year’s Melbourne Cup. I’m on.
6. RED CARDINAL
A 6-year-old stayer who can’t possibly be German because he is owned by Australians and is called Red Cardinal, not Der Rote Kardinal. Even if he is a German horse – and his German trainer swears, “Er ist nicht” – this wouldn’t be a bad thing as recent Cup winners, Protectionist and Almandin, raced there. Putting citizenship questions aside – and doesn’t the Coalition wish we all would – there are two things that trouble me about Red Cardinal. Firstly, his last start failure behind Marmelo in Europe has been attributed to a skin condition. This sounds like (a) the sort of crap excuse Donald Trump would use for bombing North Korea and/or (b) the side-effects of a 1970s East German steroid program. Secondly, and even more disturbingly, cardinal means “red”. So Red Cardinal means Red Red. Too colourful – and too tautological – a horse for my liking.
7. JOHANNES VERMEER
Famously played by Colin Firth in The Girl With the Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer is only the second Melbourne Cup runner – after Red Cadeaux – to have got it on with Scarlett Johansson. Since this brush with fame, Johannes Vermeer has had two showings in Australia, where he has made an art – see what I’m doing here? – of picking himself off the canvas and finishing in the frame. Owner and patron Lloyd Williams thinks his Vermeer looks a treat but I honestly can’t picture him winning. Many in the gallery think otherwise, so each to their own.
8. BONDI BEACH
To paraphrase Midnight Oil’s Head Injuries album:
Push start that horse tomorrow / I’ll take it to the tip yard / I’ll leave it as an equine wreck / for cats to sleep in
Then I’ll catch the bus to Bondi / Swim the beach and wonder / Who’d back him in the Cup / The field is oh so hot
And yes, I realise the last time I parodied a Melbourne Cup runner’s chances through song, Prince of Penzance won the race. Gamble responsibly.
9. MAX DYNAMITE
Second in the Melbourne Cup two years ago, Max Dynamite has had a somewhat unorthodox preparation since, running only four times, in unsuitable races, most recently in a two-lap jog around the Killarney school oval. That said, Max Dynamite looked pretty good beating up on a bunch of Irish kids. It’s hard to say how that form will translate to a 3200 metre race against horses at Flemington but it’s also hard to say “marshmallow” with two marshmallows in your mouth. Either way, the answer’s probably Marmelo.
10. VENTURA STORM
The Matt Canavan of this year’s Cup field, Ventura Storm accidentally won an Italian Derby whilst holidaying there during an unexpectedly long 13 run stint in Europe during 2015 and 2016. Supporters of the horse have pointed to Ventura Storm’s lacklustre 13th in the Caulfield Cup as incontrovertible proof that he’s 100% Australian and not a well-performed, European stayer here to steal the Melbourne Cup from us. He’s convinced me.
11. WHO SHOT THEBARMAN – SCRATCHED
Was set to run in his fourth Melbourne Cup before drawing three gates inside Tiberian. Shortly after the barrier draw, Who Shot Thebarman developed “a cold” and has been scratched from the race. This will look a very sensible move when the whips – and Tiberian’s sword of vengeance – start cracking on Cup Day.
12. WICKLOW BRAVE
Irish runner from the Willie Mullins yard, who won last year’s Irish St Leger before running a diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistant fourth in the same race this year. Failed in the Melbourne Cup last year and was a long way back in this year’s Caulfield Cup. If I had to make a case for Wicklow Brave, it would be 17 hands high and about one-horse wide. But, look, I can’t make a case for every horse in the race – geez, I can barely hammer a nail into a piece of wood properly. Next!
13. BIG DUKE
Sydney Cup placegetter who changed his name to Big Duke after landing in Australia 12 months ago. Not to be confused with a similar-looking horse called Swashbuckling who raced in the UK. Obviously, that horse was not an Australian citizen whereas Big Duke is one of us. Just like Fiona Nash. Sure, Big Duke’s recent form is very respectable, he has a light weight and a good gate but, look, you can’t tip every single one of these overseas types. And we certainly shouldn’t be electing them all to parliament.
14. US ARMY RANGER
This year’s Melbourne Cup parlour game requires punters to drink every time a tipster/broadcaster/blogger says that US Army Ranger has had a disappointing career. (Drink!) Now, I’m no European form expert – or am I? – but US Army Ranger ran second in last year’s English Derby to Harzand. And since then, he’s placed in three group races and in a race at Royal Ascot this year. That’s hardly terrible form, especially for a race where Rekindling, 16th in this year’s English Derby, is one of the favourites. As far as I can see, the real disappointment with US Army Ranger is that the winner of the English Derby is guaranteed to have sex for life with mares across the planet. Whereas, the poor horse who runs second in the Derby has to fly to Australia and abstinently chase home Marmelo.
15. BOOM TIME
Forbidden from working on climate change, Australian scientists are now desperately trying to solve the riddle of how Boom Time – a horse who was unplaced in a restricted staying race at the Gold Coast in January – won this year’s Caulfield Cup. I suspect it has something to do with Adani, gas emissions and/or The Matrix. Given that better Caulfield Cup winners than Boom Time couldn’t do The Double, it’s hard – and positively bizarre – to think that he might manage it in 2017. Expect Tony Abbott to take over the nation’s airwaves if Boom Time and Max Dynamite run a “Soft on Terror” Melbourne Cup quinella. Fortunately, I suspect that neither of those horrifying scenarios will eventuate.
French for “surrender”, Gallante is definitely not in the Melbourne Cup to act as pacemaker for his Lloyd Williams-owned stablemates, especially not Almandin. Let’s face it – it’s a fact of life that if you own lots of horses like Lloyd does, it’s hard to give them all the same amount of attention and, inevitably, one of them will get all shirty on race day and run ahead at the front of the field and neigh, “Look at me, Mr Williams” and set up the race for Almandin. Give poor Gallante a break, or better still, a spell. In terms of his winning chances, I’d suggest spoonerising the name of his jockey, Mick Dee.
Guaranteed to get one-twelfth of the astrological punting dollar, Libran is as Aussie as Senator Stephen Parry. Ran a nice second in the Moonee Valley Cup, which is what Prince of Penzance did a couple of years ago, but, on exposed form in Australia, you couldn’t have him winning this. Plus I’m a Cancer and I don’t like Librans.
Hailed as La Femme Nakeeta after using only a pair of hooves to get out of a tight spot in this year’s Ebor Handicap in the UK. The worst thing about Nakeeta winning the Melbourne Cup would be Channel 7 endlessly playing Elton John’s “Nakita” over slow motion footage of Glyn Schofield waving his whip as, in the background, Tiberian slews sideways wreaking imperial vengeance on the rest of the field. Actually that sounds like pretty good TV. And I don’t mind the song. In fact, I like it better than Nakeeta the horse, which probably says something about its winning chances. And about me.
19. SINGLE GAZE
If all the horses with dubious claims to Australian citizenship were barred from this year’s Melbourne Cup – and let’s not discount the High Court from doing this after the race – Single Gaze would be a popular winner. Although suspect at 3200m, Single Gaze comes into the race as a Caulfield Cup runner-up at her last start (Australian scientists are working on this riddle too) and is ridden by the popular, and very in-form, Kathy O’Hara. And best of all, Single Gaze is trained by the quintessential 2017 creature, a bloke with a beard. Not for me – beards or Single Gaze – but I can understand why a lot of people go for that sort of thing.
20. WALL OF FIRE
English stayer whose breeding – and two failures at the distance – suggest he won’t run the strongest of two miles. But Wall of Fire’s last two runs, including a second over 2400m in the Herbert Power at Caulfield, suggest he’s going well. Alas, in a misjudgement of the type often made by well-meaning visitors in an unfamiliar environment, the connections of Wall of Fire have given the Melbourne Cup ride to Craig Williams. Although The Freckled One may be a very good jockey, he could slaughter a broomstick at the moment. Look for Craig riding Wall of Fire into the outside rail – or up Tiberian’s bum – somewhere around the halfway mark. I doubt it will end well.
21. THOMAS HOBSON
A winner at Royal Ascot this year, Thomas Hobson is so versatile he was also a runner-up at Royal Ascot this year. He also jumps hurdles and, in his spare time, has written some rather lengthy – and very boring – treatises on modern political philosophy. Despite his many talents, Thomas Hobson has unfortunately drawn a gate close to Tiberian and we all know what happens to intellectuals when they get in a tyrant’s way. If Thomas Hobson makes it alive to the post the first time around I will be positively astonished.
One of the six Lloyd Williams runners, Rekindling is a European 3-year-old who races in Australia as a 4-year-old. Personally, if I told my daughter that she was a year older just because she flew somewhere on a plane, she would immediately ask what happened to her birthday party and her presents. If Rekindling runs below expectations in the Cup – and, as someone on Marmelo, let’s hope he does – Lloyd Williams will need to take a good look at himself and realise that birthdays are really important, not just for little girls but for young horses too.
23. AMELIE’S STAR
Here’s an interesting social experiment. Go to your local park or schoolyard and yell “Hey, Amelie!” And then watch as every third girl turns their head towards you and mouths, “Who me?” As the ABS recently noted, there will soon be more Amelies in Australia than manufacturing workers. What is the government doing about this crisis and what’s so wrong with traditional Australian names like Tracey, Michelle and Narelle? Imagine what sort of mess we’ll be in if thousands of fertile Australian couples back Amelie’s Star in the Melbourne Cup and she wins??? As Greg Miles told us all in 2009, it’s Shocking.
Assigned a male identity at birth, Cismontane is the Melbourne Cup’s first non-binary two-miler. Openly Gai, Cismontane squeezed into the Cup field by winning the 2500m Lexus on Saturday. In a black and white universe, Cismontane couldn’t possibly win the Melbourne Cup. But the only people who could begrudge Cismontane’s presence in the field are grumps like me who backed the horse in the Moonee Valley Cup when he went like a busted non-binary-gendered arse.
THE TUNNEL SELECTS: