Mercury (Hobart) - - RACING - PETER ROLFE

A SOLE Aus­tralian-born, bred, owned and rid­den horse will to­day carry the hopes of a na­tion against a swarm of in­ter­na­tional raiders try­ing to plun­der the $8 mil­lion Mel­bourne Cup.

Vow and De­clare will start the race as the only all-Aus­tralian chance at a Flem­ing­ton course he calls home, among a field of 11 in­ter­na­tional chal­lengers.

Sev­eral of to­day’s 24 starters may have an Aus­tralian con­nec­tion, but only the four-year-old horse jockey Craig Wil­liams climbs aboard be­fore a crowd of up to 100,000 is to­tally true blue.

Wil­liams has a shot at a spe­cial home­grown story in the 159th run­ning of the great race, as he chases the Cup glory that has long eluded him.

“My horse ... [has] got the weight of Aus­tralia on his back be­cause he’s one of the few Aus­tralian-bred horses tak­ing on the rest of the world,’’ he said.

Po­ten­tial sto­ry­lines abound among a field of con­tenders in­clud­ing a jockey who has vowed to streak the Flem­ing­ton straight if he wins.

Jockey Michael Walker said he al­ways thought he would head off to a pool party in Las Ve­gas if he was to win the Cup.

But, with his fam­ily in tow as he takes com­mand of $19 out­sider Prince Of Ar­ran, he con­ceded his post-race cel­e­bra­tion may change.

“Now that I’ve got my daugh­ter and my son here, I don’t think I will be go­ing to Ve­gas, I will prob­a­bly have to put it off to the mid­dle of De­cem­ber,’’ he said.

“But I might have to do a streak. I will do some­thing any­way.’’

Three-time Cup win­ner Damien Oliver, who joins South Aus­tralian Ker­rin McEvoy in chas­ing a fourth vic­tory, hopes the fa­mous tro­phy stays on home soil re­gard­less.

“I think it al­ways feels bet­ter as an Aus­tralian if there is some kind of Aussie con­nec­tion to it, whether that be an owner, trainer or jockey,’’ Oliver said.

“Be­cause I think then the peo­ple of Aus­tralia can re­late to it a lit­tle bit bet­ter.’’

Jockey Damian Lane would com­plete a his­toric “Grand Slam’’ of Mel­bourne ma­jors aboard Ja­pan’s Mer de Glace if he can add the Cup to the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate he has al­ready won this spring.

A partly cloudy day with a 20 per cent chance of rain and a top of 19C has been fore­cast for Mel­bourne to­day.

Po­lice will use drones to help keep an eye on crowds in and out­side the race­course, and have warned protesters they will be hit with the full force of the law if they at­tempt to dis­rupt pro­ceed­ings.

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