By Ross Stapleton

While the current Royal Ascot
week at York has been capturing Australian attention through the participation
of our own horses and the success of jockey Kerrin McEvoy, this morning’s
running of the week’s biggest race – the Ascot Gold Cup – was great news for this
year’s Melbourne Cup.

Europe’s best stayer – the
French-trained Westerner coming off four straight wins and only entered for the
big race in November earlier this week, won Europe’s top staying race (4,000m) to
keep him on course for a flight to Melbourne. There was even more good news out of the
same race with other top overseas Cup contenders also showing they remain on
track for a Flemington campaign.

England entrant Distinction who was an unlucky sixth to Makybe Diva
in last year’s Melbourne Cup also put in a tremendous run to finish a
gallant second beaten by only a neck, after hitting the lead coming
into the home straight before being run down by Westerner. Also,
Ireland’s Vinnie Roe, runner up last year in Melbourne, while finishing
third some five lengths adrift of Distinction, is also probably Cup

With potential entrants from the US and
Japan, to join the now traditional European, Dubai and Hong Kong invaders, this
year’s Spring Racing Carnival should be a ripper.

The Sky Racing Channel
BBC-sourced coverage of Royal Ascot week is clearly scoring big with local
racing fans who are having their appreciative emails and faxes regularly
read out by the BBC on-air team. I
only hope the Seven Network production people are also avid viewers because the
coverage is far superior to their Melbourne Cup Carnival broadcasts. You can be sure
the lessons are being absorbed by the new TVN racing channel for future