Overseas raiders poised for Melbourne Cup domination
GODOLPHIN stayers Hartnell and Oceanographer head a strong international challenge in the 2-mile (3200 metre) Melbourne Cup at Flemington today, with just one Australian-bred runner in the field.
Australia’s greatest race has been won six times by overseas-trained horses and the numbers and odds point to a seventh success in the A$6.2 million (US$4.7 million) prize event.
Ten international horses will contest the 155-year-old “race that stops a nation”, with Caulfield Cup-winner Jameka the only Australian-bred entrant.
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed’s global Godolphin empire is looking to end its near 20-year Melbourne Cup heartbreak with five entries, led by Hartnell and Oceanographer, the first and second favourites in pre-post betting.
The Godolphin stable has been coming to the Flemington racecourse since 1998 and the closest it has come to victory are three runner-up finishes – Central Park (1999), Give The Slip (2001) and Crime Scene (2009).
Godolphin has made 21 attempts to win the Melbourne Cup and English trainer Charlie Appleby, who has Oceanographer and Qewy in contention, is confident Sheikh Mohammed will finally get his reward today.
“It’s a race that every owner would love to win. We want to win it. His Highness wants to win it”, Appleby said. “It’d be a huge feather in anyone’s cap.”
The Michael Bell-trained English front-runner Big Orange, fifth last year, is expected to set a solid pace which will suit the genuine stayers.
“There will be pace on all the way this year. If the Europeans are prominent early, they will not take a ‘pull’ and slow the field down. They will keep galloping on,” said Godolphin’s longestserving trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
The Irish have strong credentials with Coolmore trainer Aidan O’Brien saddling up Bondi Beach and Willie Mullins preparing Irish St Leger winner Wicklow Brave with Frankie Dettori on board for a crack at the Cup.
O’Brien, whose impressive record of more than 250 Group I wins does not include a Melbourne Cup, is hoping to replicate the trailblazing successes of compatriot trainer Dermot Weld with Vintage Crop (1993) and Media Puzzle (2002).
“He’s in very good form. Aidan’s very happy with him ... I’d be surprised if he doesn’t run somewhere about the money,” said Australian owner Lloyd Williams, who has won the Melbourne Cup four times.
Mullins, whose galloper Max Dynamite was beaten by the Michelle Payne-ridden Prince of Penzance in last year’s Cup, has a strong chance with Wicklow Brave.
“If he can overcome his draw, and repeat that work, he’s going to give a great account of himself,” Mullins said. “Winning the Grand National, to me, was top of the pops. This would be right up there with it. Having come so close, you want to win it even more.”
Japan, which won with Delta Blues in 2006, will be represented by nine-year-old gelding Curren Mirotic, trained by Osamu Hirata.
The Melbourne Cup has been won six times by internationally trained horses: 2014 (Protectionist, Germany), 2011 (Dunaden, France), 2010 (Americain, France), 2006 (Delta Blues, Japan), 2002 (Media Puzzle, Ireland), and 1993 (Vintage Crop, Ireland). –
Australian jockey Michelle Payne, riding Prince of Penzance (left), crosses the finish line to win the Melbourne Cup on November 3, 2015. This year’s Cup total prize money is A$6.2 million (US$4.2 million).