The Victoria Racing Club can probably now claim to have achieved its goal of making the Melbourne Cup a truly international thoroughbred racing event with the Japanese owned and trained stayers, Delta Blues and Pop Rock, filling the first two places in yesterday’s Cup.

The campaign to encourage European horses to compete in our richest horse race raised the ire of more than one local owner and trainer at the time – but the reality was that European horses have had very mixed success in the cup. Vintage Crop was the first European horse imported especially for the Cup to win back in 1993, and Media Puzzle followed in 2002.

But of the 50 or so horses from Europe to compete, there have been just two winners, two seconds and two thirds.

By comparison, the first time a Japanese horse raced in the Cup was only last year – Eye Popper who ran 12th after being just nosed out in the Caulfield Cup.

But the Japanese have not followed the European way – which is to bring the horses here long enough to meet quarantine requirements, but don’t have any starts in Australia before the Melbourne Cup. Largely agreed to be the world’s best stayer, Yeats was a tourist having his first look at Australian racing yesterday, which proved to be no way to win.

Both Delta Blues and Pop Rock ran in this year’s Caulfield Cup. And the Caulfield Cup is a very good guide to the big event. This year Delta Blues ran a very impressive third at Caulfield, while Pop Rock hit the line hard, running seventh.

As I pointed out on Tuesday, one of the unknowns for many Melbourne Cup runners is whether they can make the 3,200-metre distance. That was never going to be a problem with Delta Blues – last December, he won a 3,600-metre event!

The Japanese have a very strong breeding industry and they will be back next year with even more serious contenders.

Tomorrow is Oaks Day at Flemington. Oaks Day now rivals Cup Day and Derby Day in attendance and is probably the Spring Carnival’s real story.

The Oaks looks like being a fascinating two-horse contest – between Miss Finland, partly owned by Alan Belford Jones, and Tuesday Joy, owned by his boss at 2GB, John Singleton.

John Laws will surely be hoping for a boil-over result!

Peter Fray

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