New Zealand will have a record gambling spree over the next two days in what is effectively the luck of the draw - even the horse race.

That's the way it is with the Melbourne Cup, the race that still stops two nations despite the New Zealand influence disappearing fast as Northern Hemisphere horses swoop on the $6.6 million at stake, this year making up 11 of the 24 horses in the race which starts at 5pm tomorrow.

By then, the TAB expects New Zealanders will go close to matching last year's record figure of over one million bets and wagers totalling well over $10m, with probably much more spent on the Powerball and Lotto draws 27 hours later, given that Kiwis average over $14m a week in normal circumstances.

When it comes to Kiwis it was yesterday just one of them that was behind the explanation of one Hawke's Bay racing authority as to why the country goes ape over a race full of horses most have never heard of until they pick up the morning paper a few hours ahead of the 3min 20sec gallop at Flemington.


Hawke's Bay Racing general manager Andrew Castles says Waverley farm horse Kiwi's race from last to first over the last 600m at almost twice the speed of anything else in the field was his first vivid memory of the Cup.

"I was in my last year of primary school," he said, highlighting New Zealanders' connection with the 3200m race. "I think it's a generational thing, the allure of the Cup, for whatever reason. And I don't think it's diminishing."

He, for one, grew into it quickly, and, in a story that can now be told, he recalls watching New Zealand stayer Empire Rose on the TV winning in 1988, in "the dorm" where he was boarding at Lindisfarne College and from where one or two kindly masters "may" have toddled down to the TAB at Stortford Lodge to get some of the pocket money on for the lads.

By yesterday, Mr Castles was more up with the play than most, having sorted three of the favourites as those he most likes in the field.

There was Oceanographer (No 20) after an "enormous" run to get into the field at the last minute by winning the 2500m Lexus Stakes at Flemington on Saturday, former German galloper Almandin (No 17), with in-the-zone Australian jockey Kerrin McEvoy and owned by target-race buyer Lloyd Williams, and likely favourite Hartnell, which started its career in England and which will be ridden by Sydney-based New Zealand jockey James McDonald.

That's one New Zealand connection, another being New Plymouth trained Pentathlon, in its fourth start since two races during Hawke's Bay Racing's Spring Carnival.

Other New Zealand hopes are Who Shot Thebarman, now trained in Australia by New Zealander Chris Waller, and Rose of Virginia, which was sold to Australia after finishing second in the Auckland Cup in March.