Mon, Nov 5, 12:31pm by Staff Writer
The Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) is upon us with a record 11 Northern Hemisphere horses among the capacity 24-horse field. Backing up from Derby day, the rail is out two-metres with an eye on the weather regarding the track conditions with rain – and the odd storm – forecast on Monday and for race day itself.
High-profile owner, Lloyd Williams is looking to capture his seventh Melbourne Cup and third-straight after Rekindling won it last year, Almandin the year before.
A winner of three from 13, Yucatan ($5.50) shot to the top of pre-post markets for the Cup after an effortless – and borderline arrogant – win in the G2 Herbert Power (2400m) at Caulfield. Ever since that win and without running again, he’s continued to firm – the form of his race franked on Saturday in the G3 Lexus (2500m). Aiden O’Brien got within a whisker last year, going down by the narrowest of margins to his son and while he’s drawn poorly in barrier 23, James McDonald got Yucatan to win from barrier 15 (of 15) in the Herbert Power so that should give him some comfort.
Stable mate The Ciffsofmoher ($16) is progressing beautifully towards the 3200m after good efforts in the G1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) and Caulfield Cup (2400m). He’s drawn nicely in nine with stable jockey Ryan Moore to steer. O’Brien also has Rostropovich ($27) who comes off a fifth in the G1 Cox Plate (2040m), the Irish-trainer not having much luck with the barriers, with Rostropovich to jump from barrier 21.
Best Solution ($13) was the Caulfield Cup winner, and that was his fourth straight win and third G1-in-a-row. He didn’t cop a penalty for that win but still carries top weight of 57.5kg with the in-form Pat Cosgrave in the saddle.
Godolphin stable mate, Avilius ($13) met defeat for the first time on Australian soil when fourth to Winx in the G1 Cox Plate (2040m) in what was his first attempt at WFA for James Cummings. He won his previous four before that with Cummings junior, following in the steps of his legendary grandfather Bart, in giving Avilius a preparation of 10,000m.
The third of the Godolphin trio – Cross Counter ($9.50) – is trained by Charlie Appleby and like last year’s winner of the race, he’s a 4YO in the race book but a 3YO by Northern Hemisphere dates. A winner of four from seven career starts, Kerrin McEvoy decided to ride Cross Counter over Youngstar ($16) and were he to salute it would give Appleby his eighth G1 of the year – that feat more remarkable given those wins have been across seven countries.
Youngstar was good in the Caulfield Cup when running on from a stop/start tempo to finish 4.5L from the winner. Before that she gave Winx a run for her money in the G1 Turnbull (2000m) at what was her first attempt at the track, and what is even more amazing is that Youngstar had her first race start less than one year ago – November 11, 2017 (at Newcastle) to be exact.
Chris Waller also saddles up Finche ($27) who’s having his second start for the stable, his first resulting in a third in the G3 Geelong Cup (2400m) and he’s a big horse who should enjoy the open spaces of Flemington. The third of Waller’s runners is stalwart Who Shot Thebarman ($35) who is lining up for his fourth Melbourne Cup and ninth race at 3200m – winning two and being placed a further three times at this distance.
A Prince of Arran ($17) made his way into the field after a good win in the Lexus on Saturday which came off the back of a closing third to Yucatan (who was eased down 50m from the post) before that. He’s drawn barriers five and seven in his two Aussie runs but comes up with 20 here.
Runaway ($35) was an all the way winner of the Geelong Cup, and he’s also got a win at Flemington when taking out the Listed VRC St Leger (2800m) on Anzac Day earlier this year.
Ventura Storm ($26) is a last start G2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m) winner and while he races well at Flemington he only has the two minors from six starts here.
Along with Cross Counter, a host of horses that are yet to run in Australia this spring line up in the Cup.
Marmelo ($16) was favourite in this race last year which came after an eye-catching run in the Caulfield Cup before that. This year he tackles the race first-up, his last run back in August when second in the G2 Kergolay (3000m).
Magic Circle ($8.50) has won his last two, and three of his last five and he’s first-up since May back in the UK. He’s a four-time winner when fresh with eight wins from 21 overall.
Muntahaa ($11) is first-up off an Ebor victory at York, his jockey Jim Crowley in good recent form with two wins on Bendigo Cup day plus a second in the Wakeful on Saturday, all for the Hayes/Dabernig team.
Sound Check ($34) finished alongside Chestnut Coat (at the rear of the Caulfield Cup) but was second to Best Solution before that. Chestnut Coat ($41) is the lone Japanese horse of the field and he’ll be looking to turn the fortunes around of recent Japanese runners.
Suggested Bet: It’s been over three weeks since the Herbert Power Stakes but it’s been impossible to forget the ease of Yucatan’s win, and just have to go with the favourite. The fact that the stable and jockey are so confident, and the money has been flowing since that victory shows the confidence in the horse from connections and punters alike although barrier 23, the fact he’s never raced at 3200m and the chance of a deteriorating track could deter some punters.
Marmelo can run a good race. Cross Counter and Magic Circle have the form back overseas, so they just need to replicate that here. Avilius is certainly a chance while the Chris Waller pair of Finche and Youngstar shouldn’t be forgotten. It’s the Melbourne Cup and everyone has their own opinion but just can’t sway away from the obvious, and Yucatan ($5.50). Good luck.
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