The Melbourne Cup Party That Nearly Ruined Emma Freedman's Career
Back in 2005, Emma Freedman had a dilemma. To go out and celebrate after the Melbourne Cup, or stay home and prepare for her Year 12 maths exam the next day.
For most people, this would be a no-brainer. The exam, obviously. Stay home and study for the exam. Plenty of time to party at the end of the year, after all.
But Emma Freedman is not most people. And more importantly, this night was not most nights, and this Melbourne Cup party was definitely not your average Melbourne Cup party.
Let's take you back there. The year, as mentioned, was 2005. Champion mare Makybe Diva was racing towards history -- trying to become the first horse to win three Melbourne Cups.
What does this have to do with Emma? Her dad Lee was the trainer, that's what. Lee Freedman had already won four Melbourne Cups as a trainer. But this one was different. Makybe Diva was the people's horse. This one was not just for him and his hard-working staff and the horse's owners.
It was for the whole of Australia.
And if the 2005 Melbourne Cup was an occasion for the whole of Australia to get around, well then surely it was for the whole of Lee Freedman's family, too. Right?
Right, says Emma.
"I remember the stress levels in our house being sky high in the days before that year's Cup," Freedman recalls.
"I was only 17, and normally we weren’t really allowed to go to big race days -- especially in the middle of school exams. But the night before the Cup, Dad said to the kids 'I think you should all come to the Cup'.
"We were like 'wow, cool', perhaps not understanding the full historical importance of it."
When she got to the track, it soon dawned on Emma just how big this was.
"Getting to Flemington, there was just an amazing buzz around the place and such a sense of anticipation.
The race itself was like a carbon copy of the previous two years. Just like in 2003 and 2004, Makybe Diva was buried back in the second half of the 24-strong herd for most of the race.
This was the deliberate tactic of jockey Glen Boss. Avoid the scrimmage up front. Stay cool. Don't go too early. Don't panic. On the turn, he would slowly thread his way through the field. And at the 300 metre mark, he'd unleash! And so it proved.
"Here's Makybe Diva. A nation roars for a hero. She's starting to wind up," race caller Greg Miles said in excited tones at precisely the 300m mark. Then as they crossed the line:
"A champion becomes a legend!"
"A champion becomes a legend!" was a phrase Greg Miles later admitted he'd rehearsed. And he wasn't the only man who'd been rehearsing some key words that day. Lee Freedman also had a few up his sleeve just in case he needed them.
"Dad said he’d thought about a speech in case Makybe Diva won," Emma said.
"He wanted to make sure the moment was recognised for what it is, which would be one of the greatest moments in Australian sport."
What Lee Freedman came up with was perfect.
"Go and find the smallest child on this course, because that will be the only person who will live long enough to see that again," the champion trainer said.
And suffice to say, he's been proven right so far. No horse has gone back-to-back since 2005, let alone winning three Melbourne Cups. The race is just too gruelling. There's too much that has to go right. And too much that can go wrong.
Meanwhile, Emma had watched the race up in one of the stands with some friends. When Makybe Diva won, she bolted down to try to get into the mounting yard to be with her dad and brothers.
"It was mayhem," she says.
More mayhem was to come later that night in Crown Casino as celebrations really kicked on. Even jockey Glen Boss got into it. That's him below. Nice moves, Bossy!
Emma reckons she only kicked on till 11 pm or so, which was actually quite sensible of her.
Even so, she stuffed up her maths exam the next day. Her mind just wasn't what you'd call fully tuned for it. Look, she passed it, somehow, but her marks were way lower than her dad would have liked.
But for once, dad understood. And luckily, the marks lost on her VCE score don't seem to have hampered Emma's career progress too much.
To this day, the Melbourne Cup is a huge thing for Emma, who balances her life as a broadcaster and mum with her work as an ambassador for Cup sponsor Lexus.
"Oh, I just think the Cup is the race stops the nation for a reason," she says.
"It epitomises everything that Aussie sport is all about -- the top end of town competing with regular Aussie battlers who just love racing.
"There's not a more iconic race anywhere on the planet, and it's been exciting these last couple of years working with Lexus as they've become the naming rights sponsor of cup. There's a lot of synergy there -- the speed, the finesse, and the horse power."
The 2019 Melbourne Cup Carnival Will Be Screened on Network 10 This November.