PAT KEANE: Handicapping isn’t a science — and the Melbourne Cup result proves it!

The Melbourne Cup announced Joseph O'Brien's arrival on the world stage.

As the Melbourne Cup unfolded, shortly after 4.00 on Tuesday morning, you’d imagine the Australian handicapper was starting to feel decidedly uneasy.

By the time the 23 runners had passed the post, he may well have been asking himself where it all went wrong?

Because, have no doubt about it, he clearly underestimated the overseas challenge and watching Irish-trained horses filling the first three places had to take a bit of swallowing.

Handicapping, of course, is miles removed from being any sort of exact science and is simply one person’s opinion of the relative merits of horses in a particular race.

Most handicappers, obviously, bring great skill to the job and we can only marvel that they prove so accurate, so often.

The more a handicapper knows about the horses the better the chance of him getting it reasonably right.

But the real problem arises when he, or she, is faced with having to handicap horses from entirely different jurisdictions.

Handicapping is about educated guessing. But when the guessing is less than educated and is just, well guessing, then anything is essentially possible. Every year, especially leading up to Cheltenham, we are subjected to rubbish about how badly Irish horses are handicapped in Britain, as we suffer genius after genius telling us this is 10lbs ‘wrong’’, or that is 8lbs wrong.

I have long contended there is actually no way of knowing for sure, but plenty believe there is and criticism of the English handicapper, Phil Smith, prior to Cheltenham in March, reached a veritable crescendo.

And we all know what subsequently happened, with Tully East, Supasundae, Presenting Percy, Road To Respect, Arctic Fire, Champagne Classic and Rock The World winning no less than seven handicaps for Ireland.

Smith faced an unenviable task trying to make sense of two separate racing nations, but at least had the benefit of proximity.

The Australian handicapper had no such advantage and surely there is no way could have had a real feel for non-Australian horses, with eleven of the Melbourne Cup contestants coming from the northern hemisphere.

That he got Rekindling (first), Johannes Vermeer (second) and Max Dynamite (third) badly wrong is hardly in dispute.

Rekindling beat Johannes Vermeer a cosy half a length and it was a further two and a half lengths to Max Dynamite.

The first Australian horse home was Big Duke and he was five and three-quarter lengths adrift of Rekindling and two and three parts of a length behind Max Dynamite.

Basically, for instance, one has to conclude that both Rekindling and Johannes Vermeer got into the race with maybe 7lbs or more in hand.

Vintage Crop essentially began the internationalisation of the Melbourne Cup back in 1993, but how long more will the Aussies think such a concept continues to be a good idea for their iconic race?

A 1-2-3 for little old Ireland and eight of the first ten places being filled by northern hemisphere horses has to be almost as bad as losing the Ashes at home to the Poms.

For Rekindling’s trainer, Joseph O’Brien, it was a day of days and something he could never have envisaged might happen so early in his career.

An apple never falls far from a tree or black cat, black kitten, are well-worn terms that immediately spring to mind.And I’ll bet that his father, Aidan, responsible for Johannes Vermeer, got a much greater kick out of Joseph’s horse winning than he would had his own stayed in front.

In the greater scheme of things landing a Melbourne Cup is far from the biggest deal for a global phenomenon such as Aidan, but for Joseph it announced his arrival on the world stage. This Melbourne Cup, of course, brought to mind the famous Epsom Derby of 1984 when David O’Brien produced 14-1 shot Secreto to beat his father Vincent’s hot pot, El Gran Senor (8-11), by a short head.

Anyway, the Aussies are now left to lick their considerable wounds and it will be hugely interesting to note how their handicapper reacts when it comes to framing the weights for next year’s renewal.

Oh, and a pair of tweets from Australian punters are worth repeating, centring on the ride Frankie Dettori gave the strongly fancied Almandin, which trailed in a disappointing 12th.

A Manfred Granig said: “I’ll never, ever back Frankie Dettori again’’. That, however, was mild compared to Perry Driver, who tweeted: “Almandin three-wide the trip. Dettori should be banned for life after yet another Melbourne Cup embarrassment.’’

RIDDLE me this, why was the Willie Mullins-trained Racing Pulse so strong, apparently, in the betting for the Cork Grand National at Cork last Sunday?

Okay, he was having a first outing for Mullins and competing off a mark much lower than when at his best.

The most recent form he brought to the table, however, was dismal and surely the clincher should have been the interview on ATR with his rider, Ruby Walsh, after he had won the race before the National on Bamako Moriviere.

Walsh displayed, neither with words or body language, any enthusiasm for Racing Pulse’s prospects and yet the eight-year-old went off the heavily-backed, seemingly, 5-2 favourite in a competitive contest.

He literally never went a yard, was out of contention when pulled up by Walsh coming away from the fifth last and it was a bit of a puzzle!

I KNOW Outlander was a previous Grade 1 winner, but how could you make any case for him taking last Saturday’s JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal?

He had been running badly for a while and showed nothing when a remote sixth of seven behind Road To Respect at Punchestown last month.

In theory, Outlander couldn’t possibly get anywhere near that winner, he had 42 lengths plus to find, and had no chance of reversing placings either with Sub Lieutenant (third) or Zabana (fifth).

At 11.00 on Saturday night, though, a text landed from someone I know, a Cork man now living in Co Meath, and it said: “Outlander was out hunting with us last bank holiday Monday. Meath Foxhounds, jumping ditches, drains and gates.’’ So there.


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