I say ‘Yep to the cup’

By James Bennett

The Melbourne Cup is a truly wonderful spectacle.

The glitz and glamour that descends on Flemington for the race that stops the nation is what makes it the must-see event on the calendar.

True punters know it's an awful day for racing compared to Derby Day (the previous Saturday), but it's the 3pm start that gets the nod.

Although we missed the legend Bruce McAvaney gracing our television screens, yesterday was another excellent event.

The Melbourne Cup provides Victorians an important long weekend break.

We can't always be stuck behind our computer screens slaving away for a buck.

Unfortunately some of us, including the hard-working journalists at The News, still work.

The occasional break is good for our mental health, and no doubt regional communities such as the Greater Shepparton region benefit from the influx of visitors.

Plus there's always that one friend who invites everyone around for drunken mishaps, the sweep (where the person who knows nothing about racing wins) and a barbecue.

Recently the horse racing industry has taken a massive hit for the treatment of animals.

But would that story make people change their attitude to horse racing? Maybe in the short term.

Although people would probably "boycott" the day by not betting on the race, it still comes down to that one word - money.

The government profits from our gambling habits - sad but true - and not just in thoroughbred racing.

If the NSW Government was serious about banning greyhound racing a few years ago, it would have happened.

One main problem is because there's so many horses, something has to happen with them.

The industry struggles to sell them on so they send them to abattoirs.

What seems to be frustrating about trying to ban horse racing is it has only popped up in the past few years.

There have been examples in the past of inappropriate behaviour that doesn't hold the industry to much credit, so why aren't there year long protests at the big race meets?

About 10 years ago there was a big movement to ban jumps racing but that died down.

Horse racing should not be banned but it can be reduced. There's thoroughbred, greyhound and trot racing nearly every day.

Do we need that much? No.

Except for Melbourne Cup Day (which is always on a Tuesday), generally the biggest race day is a Saturday, followed by Wednesday and Friday.

There doesn't need to be any forms of racing on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

By cutting back days there's less need to breed the animals and it also discourages gambling.

It not only cuts back days but there are less races on the card. Most greyhound races meetings have a 12-race card.

It could be reduced to a maximum of eight, while trots and thoroughbred racing can be limited to just six races.

The next step is then limiting the field size. Why not have a maximum limit of 12 horses per race?

Naturally with Melbourne Cup Day, and other big race meets such as the Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup, there would be exceptions to the rules.

It won't please the punters because they have less to bet on and it won't please the animals rights activists because there's still racing.

Unfortunately these changes won't ever be implemented because the industry and the bookies have too much pulling power.

But it should be considered as it could be the middle ground both sides of the coin could meet.

The Melbourne Cup captures a massive global audience. Reports vary but it can attract more than 650 million viewers.

Cancelling the Melbourne Cup when that many people tune in won't happen.

When the broadcast has the helicopter shot pan over the city of Melbourne, that it what the Victorian Racing Club, sponsors and Victorian Government love.

Check out more of James' columns

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