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Racing: When Cup emotions overflow

Kerrin McEvoy and the Melbourne Cup. Photo / Getty Images
Kerrin McEvoy and the Melbourne Cup. Photo / Getty Images

Few sporting interviews hold as much annual allure as when a microphone is thrust in the direction of the Melbourne Cup-winning jockey on their way towards the winners' circle.

The outpouring of passion and emotion is as compelling as the race itself, and inevitably the rider offers a gem.

This year was Kerrin McEvoy's turn after he rode Almaddin first past the Flemington post to record his second win, 16 years apart.

"Gee, he travelled well. How lucky am I, mate? The elation is unreal."

McEvoy dedicated a segment of his post-race interview to pregnant wife Cathy.

"Cathy's at home, I love you guys. Hope you didn't cheer too loudly and the baby popped out," he beamed in relation to the impending arrival of their fourth child. "My two older boys Charlie and Jake went to school today. They probably gained a few more mates."

The scenario generated a heartwarming equation: little jockey + big horse x massive odds = concentrated euphoria.

Last year created a similar stir when McEvoy's sister-in-law Michelle Payne spoke about becoming the first woman to ride a winner in the 156th edition of the race. Prince of Penzance, at 100-1, had the longest winning odds since World War II.

Payne's candour astounded among dismount.

"To think that [trainer] Darren [Weir] has given me a go in such a chauvinistic sport, I know some of the owners were keen to keep me off and [co-owner] John Richards and Darren stuck really solid with me.

"Everyone else can get stuffed because they think women aren't strong enough, but we just beat the world.

"This is everybody's dream as a jockey in Australia and probably the world.

"I dreamed about this since I was five. There's even an old interview that my school friends tease me about, talking of how I was going to win the Melbourne Cup."

Story arcs also added to the atmosphere in other years, like when Damien Oliver won on Media Puzzle in 2002 after his brother Jason died the week before, or 2005 when Glen Boss guided Makybe Diva to an unprecedented three in a row.

This writer's favourite came when Chris Munce (on Jezabeel) beat Boss (on Champagne) in 1998.

Munce all but leapt out of the saddle when interviewer Johnny Letts came alongside.

"I've got great friends in Brisbane who couldn't be here. This is for you guys. To my family at home on the rivers, to my beew-ti-ful wife and children at home watching: I love youse all and we got it."

Kieran File, a Kiwi linguistics lecturer University of Warwick, completed his doctorate thesis in post-match interviews. He explained why the Melbourne Cup experience is so powerful.

"For starters, the setting is unique, with horses riding up next to each other. You seldom get people moving in interviews, especially on animals. Jockeys also tend to give you an insight as to how the animal's travelled.

"Straight after the race means it is packed with immediate and raw emotion. The post-match interviewer's job is to capture that. The bigger the event, the greater the emotional release and more engaging the interview. Fans are likely to be feeling those emotions, too."

Whatever the reason, it makes Flemington a mandatory watch every first Tuesday in November.

- NZ Herald

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