First-up raiders must be taken se­ri­ously

Sunday Herald Sun - - Melbourne Cup Special Liftout - CHRIS VERNUCCIO

THE rules to find­ing the Mel­bourne Cup win­ner changed com­pletely af­ter Rekin­dling’s suc­cess last year.

For 23 years no raider had won the Cup with­out a lead-up run.

The only horse to man­age that feat was Vin­tage Crop in 1993 — un­til Rekin­dling.

There were some close misses — Bauer lost a heart-stop­per in 2008, Red Cadeaux was sim­i­larly de­nied at his first at­tempt in 2011 and Heart­break City also had to set­tle for a close sec­ond in 2016.

But they didn’t win and that made it eas­ier to scratch these un­known raiders from the for­mguide as the in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion of our big­gest stay­ing race ex­panded year on year.

But it wasn’t an en­tirely fool­proof strat­egy, as it proved when Rekin­dling threw his­tory out the win­dow.

Now every for­eigner needs to be thor­oughly ex­am­ined and scru­ti­nised, even if the over­seas form can be near im­pos­si­ble to read.

This year there could be up to four raiders head­ing straight into the Mel­bourne Cup — Cross Counter, Magic Cir­cle, Muntahaa and Marmelo — and all four are se­ri­ous con­tenders.

At least we know a lit­tle about Marmelo, who was the favourite for the race last year af­ter his out­stand­ing Caulfield Cup run, although largely been for­got­ten this time.

Trainer Hughie Mor­ri­son said Marmelo was at his best when fresh, hence the de­ci­sion to by­pass an Aus­tralian lead-up run this time.

The big whis­per out of Wer­ribee is Ebor Hand­i­cap win­ner Muntahaa.

The past two Ebor win­ners have pro­duced ex­cel­lent Mel­bourne Cup per­for­mances — Heart­break City (sec­ond in 2016) and Nakeeta (fifth in 2015).

Of what we’ve seen so far this spring, it was hard not to be im­pressed by Yu­catan’s com­mand­ing win in the Her­bert Power Stakes, an­other tried and true form race.

Here is our take on the six ma­jor lead-up races for the Mel­bourne Cup: he’s

Muntahaa is head­ing into the Mel­bourne Cup with­out a run, but his Ebor Hand­i­cap win means he must be taken se­ri­ously on Tues­day. Pic­ture: GETTY IM­AGES

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