IS Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin stable about to win that elusive Melbourne Cup?
After nearly 20 years of frustration and near misses, the famous “Royal Blue Army” may never get a better chance after qualifying its fifth runner when Oceanographer stormed home in the Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m) at Flemington yesterday.
Oceanographer needed to win the Lexus to secure a Cup start and joins Hartnell, Qewy, Beautiful Romance and Secret Number in Tuesday’s $6.2 million race. Racing Victoria chief handicapper Greg Carpenter issued Oceanographer a 1kg penalty which takes the stayer’s Melbourne Cup weight to 52kg,
English trainer Charlie Appleby already had Geelong Cup winner Qewy safely in the Melbourne Cup field and Oceanographer now joins his stablemate in the big race.
“It was a fantastic run,’’ Appleby said. “The boys have done a great job freshening the horse up after he ran third in the Geelong Cup.
“He will back up for sure on Tuesday. Can he win it? I don’t know, but he is a very fit horse. I was surprised how well he came out of Geelong. When I came back to Melbourne and went out to see him at Werribee (Friday morning) he was bucking and kicking, he was feeling so well. A bit of sunshine on his back will do him the world of good and he will run well on Tuesday.’’
Oceanographer ($2.70 favourite) was ridden patiently by Kerrin McEvoy, coming from last on the turn to swamp leader Tom Melbourne ($4.40) to win by a long neck with another Godolphin runner, Tally ($11) three lengths away third. It was a stunning performance by Oceanographer as emphasised by a sectional breakdown of the race. He ran his last 400m in 22.45sec including a final 200m sectional of a stunning 11.41sec.
Tom Melbourne wasn’t stopping either. He was brave in defeat, coming home his final 400m in 23.32sec and he ran 11.99sec for the final 200m.