Time to scrutinise foreign threats
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 Australia’s biggest staying race expanded year on year.
It wasn’t an entirely foolproof strategy, and so 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 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 he’s largely been forgotten this time. Trainer Hughie Morrison said Marmelo was at his best when fresh, hence the decision to bypass an Australian leadup run this time. The big whisper out of Werribee is Muntahaa, winner of the Ebor Handicap. 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 Herber Power Stakes, another tried-and-true form race.