Mon, Nov 6, 10:00am by Staff Writer
It’s locked in Australian history, the first Tuesday in November – Melbourne Cup day. As usual a capacity field of 24 will tackle the 3200m of the Group 1 Melbourne Cup with $3.6 million going to the winner.
Lloyd Williams has six in the race and three of those are with Robert Hickmott including last year’s winner Almandin ($9). The lightly raced eight-year-old missed the autumn and resumed from his Cup win with an eye-catching second to Pacodali at Moonee Valley back in August.
He then barely went around a horse when effortlessly taking out the Listed JRA Trophy (2500m) at Flemington before an inconclusive fourth of ten in the G3 Bart Cummings (2500m), the race he won last year before going on to win the big one. Last year he jumped from barrier 17, this year he’s drawn 14 and with Damien Oliver on the sideline suspended, Frankie Dettori picks up the ride. Bondi Beach ($71) and Gallante ($101) are the other Hickmott runners.
Johannes Vermeer ($10) made his Australian debut with a flashing second to Gailo Chop in the G1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) before another eye-catching third in the G1 Caulfield Cup (2400m). There are questions about his ability to run the trip but barrier three should help. Rekindling ($13) and US Army Ranger ($61) are the final Williams runners trained by Joseph O’Brien with Rekindling attracting some early support and he comes into this off a last start fourth in the G1 St Leger (2921m) back in September.
Humidor ($9.50) ran the race off his life when a half-length second to Winx in the G1 Cox Plate (2040m) last start which came after a fifth in the Caulfield Cup and a third to Winx prior to that – but beaten over 7L. He’s a two-time winner at the track and both those wins have been at G1 level.
After some ‘umming and ahhing’ from the Godolphin camp, Hartnell ($26) will take his place in Australia’s most famous race. He’s had a strange preparation which started with a big win in the G2 PB Lawrence (1400m) then two seconds after that as a short-price favourite – with both rides being questioned by punters who took the skinny odds.
He then finished ninth of 16 in the Caulfield Stakes and hasn’t been sighted since. He ran third in this race last year – when beaten 4.5L – after carrying 56kg and jumping from barrier 12. This year he’s drawn the same barrier but will lump top weight of 57.5kg.
Big Duke ($21) is one who shouldn’t have any issues with the two-miles after a fast-finishing third in this year’s G1 Sydney Cup (3200m) on a heavy-8. He beat Auvray and Cismontane ($41) two starts back at Randwick before a fourth of seventh in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m) when pocketed for room down the straight. Stable mate Amelie’s Star ($17) took out the Bart Cummings in convincing fashion two starts back before finishing midfield in the Caulfield Cup.
Marmelo ($8.50) is having his second start in Australia after a fast-finishing sixth in the Caulfield Cup. He’s been popular with the punters since that run and sure to be popular with the non-punter with Hugh Bowman in the saddle. Wall of Fire ($13) caught the eye when second in the G2 Herbert Power (2400m) with some form students believing that form line will hold strong.
Ventura Storm ($34) was working his way beautifully towards a Melbourne Cup after a second to Winx in the G1 Turnbull (2000m) but things went off track after a 13th of 17 in the Caulfield Cup. The stable reported he pulled up sore with a foot abscess and if he’s got over that, he could be a bit of a forgotten horse. His stable mate, Boom Time ($26), was the winner of the Caulfield Cup with Corey Parish retaining the ride – and rightly so.
A veteran of 47 starts, Who Shot The Barman ($51) recorded his tenth win last start – and first in nearly two years – when taking out the G2 Moonee Valley Cup. His stable mate Libran ($41) finished alongside him when runner-up with Cismontane not far behind in third.
The Waterhouse/Bott-trained gelding made his way into the field with an all the way win in Saturday’s G3 Lexus (2500m) and down on 50kg with apprentice Beau Mertens in the saddle, he’s been marked by many as the pace in the race.
A winner of five from ten, Red Cardinal ($19) has drawn the widest gate but he does get the services of two-time Melbourne Cup winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy, with trainer Andreas Wohler winning this race with Protectionist back in 2014. Tiberian ($31) has won six from 17 career starts with four of those wins coming from his last five runs.
He’s been done no favours with the barriers and will jump from 23. Max Dynamite ($15) was runner-up to Prince of Penzance two years ago and has had only four starts since.
Single Gaze ($41) was runner-up in the Caulfield Cup. She’s already a G1 Vinery winner with five wins from 27 starts overall but she’s raced at the top level for much of her life with ten G1 starts, seven G2 and four G3. Wicklow Brave ($51) finished alongside Rekindling in the G2 Curragh Cup (2816m) with the in-form Stephen Baster to ride. Thomas Hobson ($18) gets the services of the ‘Magic Man’ while Nakeeta ($34) is a last start Ebor winner back in August.
Suggested Bet: Almandin ($9) has probably had one mission since winning last year’s Cup – this year’s Cup. He returned in great order first-up and was simply sensational second-up while his third run back was strange – it wasn’t that bad but certainly wasn’t that good, especially given he was a short odds-on pop. Not sure if Frankie Dettori is a good or bad thing but if Almandin is at his best, he’ll look the winner at some stage.
There are question marks around whether Johannes Vermeer ($10) can run the two-mile – like many others in the race – but if he can get a suck run from barrier three and show some dash like he has his last two, Aiden O’Brien can certainly claim his first Melbourne Cup.
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