It is, of course, Melbourne Cup Day.

Work will be abandoned.  Pubs will be packed.  One in ten New Zealanders are expected to “have something on it.”  For many of these punters, it will be their only flutter of the entire year.  Last year, the TAB here took in over $17 million on the Cup. 

The big race has even united political rivals with Prime Minister John Key, Racing Minister John Carter and Opposition Leader Phil Goff all plumping for Daffodil, supposedly a ‘plucky New Zealand mare.’ 

Mr Key justified his decision saying “spring is in the air so I will be backing Daffodil.”  Hopefully, his decision-making process was a little more robust during his currency trading days.  Mr Goff also picked Daffodil (pun almost certainly intended) saying “it’s in with a real shot.”  “However,” Goff added, “I’m wary of Bart Cummings’ horses and quite like the look of Alcopop too.”  This last comment was thought to cause Sir Geoffrey Palmer to burst into tears which is always funny.

Personally, I am going for “Roman Emperor” on the basis that it has the coolest name in the field.  That is how I always pick my bets.  Traditionally, my horses always come last in the office sweepstake so expect Roman Emperor to give up or have a leg fall off somewhere around the second turn.  You have all been warned.

The most famous horse to win the Melbourne Cup was undoubtedly Phar Lap who took the trophy way back in 1930.  Fortunately, I was not around then to jinx him.  The Australians have attempted to claim Phar Lap as their own by focussing on the fact he did all his training and racing in Australia rather than the fact that he was born near mighty Timaru.  The drama around Phar Lap’s 1930 win is less well-known.  The horse had to be hidden in Geelong after an attempt was made to shoot him before the race.  And you thought we took rugby seriously…

There are many strong links between racing, pubs and beer.  When served his first American mainstream lager, journalist H Allen Smith famously declared “put it back in the horse!”  This was doubly remarkable as H Allen Smith was, in fact, an American.

In New Zealand, the 1972 Hospitality Association conference was upstaged by a hard case West Coast publican who had “taken exception to the large breweries taking over the smaller private brewery establishments about the country.”  Bill Brien records the scene in his excellent book “100 Years of Hospitality in New Zealand 1902-2002”:   

“Unhappy about the quality of the new beer being brewed, the Coasters sent two of the new DB beer away to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in Christchurch to be tested.  At the end of his address, [the hard case Coaster] said ‘Mr President, I am pleased to tell you that I have the DSIR report right here in my hand.  Both the samples submitted have been tested and both horses should be fit to resume training next week.’  Even the brewers in the room roared with laughter.”

Speaking of DB, Monteith’s Summer Ale has returned for its eleventh season as a popular seasonal release.  Summer Ale (5%) is made with four malts, a secret blend of spices (which changes slightly every year) and a dash of sweet rata honey. 

So, who will have the winning ticket after the dust has settled and the silly hats have fallen to pieces.  Almost certainly not me…

Racing now!


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


Phar Lap gets shot – (it is on Wikipedia so it must be true)
100 Years of Hospitality in New Zealand 1902-2002 –
Monteith’s Summer –
Malthouse Facebook Group –
Real Beer –
Beer and Brewer Magazine –