Newcastle Jockey Club chairman Geoff Barnett would not normally be happy playing golf in the rain.
However, with his wet-track specialist Red Cardinal preparing for a second shot at the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, Barnett was looking at the bright side of a round on a dreary Monday.
“We’re just about to hit off in the rain so it’s not very pleasant for golf, but we do need the rain for the horse,” Barnett said from The Dunes Golf Links in Rye, south of Melbourne.
Barnett and wife Maureen are back in Melbourne as part-owners of a Cup runner after Australian Bloodstock-syndicated and Darren Weir-trained pair Red Cardinal and Big Duke gave them a first taste of the race last year.
Big Duke ran fourth and Red Cardinal 11th, and both were set to return this year. Big Duke, though, failed to come up this preparation and was spelled after the Moonee Valley Cup despite sitting high enough in the order of entry to make the Melbourne Cup field.
Red Cardinal was 11th in that race and showed enough for connections to press on to the $7.3 million Cup.
The Barnetts and Hunter-based Australian Bloodstock also had high hopes with recent UK purchase Torcedor, which was equal second favourite in early Cup markets.
But, like last year, their best chance in the race was an early casualty. In 2017, Japanese stayer Admire Deus was a leading contender before breaking down in a track gallop on Caulfield Cup eve. He was later put down.
This year Torcedor was their exciting addition but illness forced him to miss quarantine and the second shipment of foreign raiders. He is expected to come to Australia after Christmas for a Sydney autumn campaign.
Red Cardinal, now seven, missed the 2016 Cup in identical circumstances. Last year he was among leading picks in early markets and started a $16 chance, but he was injured on the firm Cup day surface after starting from the extreme outside barrier.
In five starts back this campaign, Red Cardinal has placed just once – in the St Leger Stakes at Randwick on October 13 – which has been his only Australian run on heavy ground.
Barnett hoped the wet weather, the ideal draw in five and late booking of three-time Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Damien Oliver were signs Red Cardinal’s luck was changing. He has come in from $101 to $34 in TAB Fixed Odds betting.
“It’s a bit wet, but we’ve been praying for it. We could do with it and it will help our case,” Barnett said.
“Hopefully it’s going to put a couple of the others off, but we’ll see what happens.
“Oliver has ridden a few Cup winners so it’s worked out fantastic getting him.
“You can’t be confident but you can feel there’s a little glimmer there. There’s a few things going his way.”
Regardless, Barnett was just pleased to have another starter in the iconic race after the thrill of Big Duke’s effort last year.
“It is a lot of fun having one in and we’re really looking forward to it,” he said.