Reduced crowds, basically no internationals and in the midst of a pandemic, so was the Spring Carnival any good? You bet it was, it was bloody awesome!

With crowds slowly building over the Spring Carnival we once again saw our great sport bringing joy to thousands on track, and weren’t there scenes!

The 10,000 strong crowd allowed into Randwick on Everest Day had the electricity and feel of 50,000 as post lockdown cooped up revellers got to squeeze into those old skinny dress pants and mothball smelling dresses and strut their stuff at the races.

Racegoers enjoying freedom at last!

In Melbourne things started off quiet on track with heavy restrictions still in place as the screams of Damien Oliver lifting his mount near the post could be heard loud and clear.

There was also a noticeable lack of International rivals as the VRC’s controversial new scintigraphy requirement took full effect on race fields. Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup winning Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien was quoted saying the protocols were a “nightmare”.

“I can’t tell you how much of a struggle it was to get through all the hoops and the scans. If I’d known how difficult it would’ve been to get through all the hoops, I’m not sure we would have even gone down in the first place.” – Joseph O’Brien.

Jockey’s were jostling for position not only on the track but also off as covid restrictions made travelling between states a real commitment. With quarantine and the risk of isolation both jockey’s and their managers were hard at work locking in the best rides. This opened up the chance for younger jockey’s to take rides in races the quality of which they hadn’t experienced yet. Gun young NSW apprentice Dylan Gibbons said covid had actually worked in his favour giving him opportunities that otherwise may not have come.

The likes of Jamie Kah, Ben Melham and Mark Zahra were all missing as they served bans for covid breaches. Punishments that will echo for years as rides in Group 1’s went by the wayside.

Incentivise made it 8 straight with a gutsy win in the Group 1 Turnball

How’s Incentivise? Beaten 16 lengths in a Toowoomba maiden to Group 1 glory in the space of 6 months! The Australian bred stayer showed strength in the Turnball Stakes when challenged late and then two weeks later showed utter brilliance with a dominant 3.5 length win in the $5m Caulfield Cup. He went on to run a very credible 2nd in the Melbourne Cup when sustaining a slight injury.

The star of the show in the $7.75m Melbourne Cup was our Aussie sweetheart Verry Elleegant. In what looked a sub par performance in the Cox Plate trainer Chris Waller admits he had thoughts of not running her in the race that stops a nation. “I just didn’t want to run her,” a tearful Waller told the Herald and The Age. “But I couldn’t find a reason not to – it’s a simple as that. I think it was 3.30pm on Saturday [we had to make the call].” – Chris Waller

The winner of now 8 Group 1’s went passed them at the 200m mark like they were nailed to the fence. You could see the joy on James Mcdonald’s face as he was on cruise control until late in the race. She proved she’s not just a wet tracker and indeed is now one of the greatest mares to have ever raced.

The 2021 Melbourne Cup won by star Mare Verry Elleegant

Juxtaposition was in full flight that same day at the seemingly packed Randwick as we witnessed the greatest sprinter in the world reel off some devastating sectionals early to win the $15 Everest from the late flying Masked Crusader. Nature Strip backed it up three weeks later in the Group 1 VRC sprint at Flemington to take his earnings north of an eye watering $16m!

2021 The Everest won by freakish sprinter Nauter Strip

There were wonderful scenes in the Mackinnon Stakes as star NZ hoop James Mcdonald broke his childhood idols record for the most wins over the Melbourne Cup carnival with Zaaki beating home the Brett Prebble ridden Cascadian. After the post the classy Prebble was first to congratulate Mcdonald as they embraced to celebrate the success.

Brett Prebble congratulates James Mcdonald on breaking his Cup carnival record

Betting turnover was strong, prize money strong and people’s want to be at the races even stronger. Overall through all it’s challenges the 2021 Spring Carnival was a raging success and further cemented Thoroughbred Racing as an important part of Australian culture.

As we move out of the long running pandemic and into a new version of normal we look forward to seeing more packed crowds and hearing shouts of “GET UP” echoing around our racecourses.

Luke Murrell has amassed over $600,000 betting $100 units in just over 20 years!

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