Channel Ten says this year’s Melbourne Cup will still be “event television at its finest,” despite the absence of pretty much everything at Flemington bar the horses.
But the carnival is set to be a little bit less of an event now that racing presenter Francesca Cumani, the glamorous but authoritative centrepiece of Ten’s coverage, will be 17,000 kilometres from Flemington when the barriers open on November 3. Damn you, coronavirus.
Francesca Cumani at Flemington Racecourse in 2014.Credit:Michael Dodge
“Due to the current COVID-19 travel restrictions, Francesca is unable to make it to Melbourne this year,” says Adam Cush, Network Ten’s director of sport production.
“Francesca remains a very important part of the Ten Sport team and we will cross to her in the UK for her expert insights across the 2020 Melbourne Cup Carnival. We look forward to having her back in Melbourne in 2021”.
The news must be especially painful for Ten given that Cumani, last year's co-host, is said to command a vast salary, which one industry source put at $500,000. A nice earner for four days’ work.
The “racing media icon” also works CNN and UK network ITV, where she was on duty on Sunday at Ascot racecourse in Britain.
Two years ago, Ten paid the Victorian Racing Club $100 million to poach the Cup from Seven in a five-year deal. It broadcast the carnival in 2019 for the first time since 2001.
Last month the network announced that former state-level dressage competitor, Gorgi Coghlan, and sports presenter Stephen Quartermain, who joined Ten in 1984, would co-host this year's event.
Cumani was listed as “covering all the action from the mounting yard and beyond”, along with Michael Felgate, Brittany Taylor and Annie Kearney.
Something seems to have gone awry since then. Companies attempting to get personnel into Australia can have a devil of a time, given international flights are frequently cancelled and rescheduled. And many companies have found it difficult to get staff priority status from the Department of Immigration.
It looks like while the Cup is still “the race that stops the nation”, it falls short of commanding essential worker status.
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