The $6.2million Melbourne Cup takes place on Tuesday 4th November with 72 horses entered.
This will be whittled down to a starting line-up of 24 with the usual strong International entry competing with the home-based contingent for a place in the richest staying handicap in the world.
The favourite Germany is the current favourite with Protectionist, trained by Andreas Wohler. He caught the eye when flashing home to take fourth place in the Herbert Power at Caulfield after moving up from ninth place on the home turn. Betfair slashed his price to 8-1 clear favourite from 14-1 immediately after the race.
Protectionist is twice a winner at Group 2 level in Europe but has not been an easy horse to train and would be unlikely to be risked on firm ground. Craig Williams was impressed with him at Caulfield but the owners have already secured the services of Ryan Moore for the big race. The race was won by the French import Big Memory who will now be aimed at the Caulfield Cup by trainer Tony McEvoy.
Gai Waterhouse will bid to win back-to-back Cups with The Offer following the enforced retirement of Fiorente. The Offer has been allocated 56.5 kg following his Sydney Cup success and Waterhouse has expressed the view that he has been given plenty of weight.
Chris Waller’s Who Shot Thebarman is among the main contenders for the home team – a Group 1 winner in New Zealand and winner of the Bart Cummings this term. His stable companion Junoob could also be a contender following his victory over Opinion in the Metropolitan.
The Kris Lees-trained Lucia Valentina will run in the Caulfield Cup in a bid to follow up her win in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes. Last year’s Caulfield Cup winner Fawkner advertised his Flemington chances with a game win in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes on Guineas day. He will be aimed at the Cox Plate and a decision on his participation in the Melbourne Cup will be taken after that race.
Japan is set to be represented in the Cup for the first time since Tokai Trick finished 12th in 2010. Admire Rakti and Bande arrived in Australia in September and both have serious chances.
Admire Rakti finished fourth in the Japan Cup and has won over extreme distances while Bande was an impressive winner of the Sapporo Nikkei Open. Both hold prominent positions in the early betting with Bande strongly fancied after his five-length victory. Yoshito Tahagi’s four-year-old kicked away on the home turn and drew clear despite flashing his tail a couple of times.
Admire Rakti has been given top weight in the Cup having finished runner-up to the classy Gold Ship in March. His was only a length behind Gentildonna in the Japan Cup and had former Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden behind in fifth.
The British raiding party does not look quite as strong as in recent seasons with no horse quoted at shorter than 20-1 in the ante-post market. That brings in Marco Botti’s Dandino who was runner-up in the Caulfield Cup and fifth in the Melbourne Cup last season.
Dandino has had a very similar preparation this year, narrowly failing to repeat his victory in the American St Leger before finishing a respectable fourth in a Group 3 race at Kempton Park. The son of Dansili was given a lot of ground to make up last year and he could go close if he gets fast ground and a favourable draw.
He is joined by stable companion Seismos, winner of the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury in August. His victims there included Godolphin’s Willing Foe and two-time Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux. Both horses are set to re-oppose at Flemington, although the Botti duo may first take in the Caulfield Cup. Red Cadeaux has been given his highest ever weight for the Cup at 57kg, the same as Godolphin’s second representative Cavalryman.
Johnny Murtagh could be doubly represented in the race with Mutual Regard likely to be joined by Royal Diamond. Mutual Regard won Europe’s richest handicap, the Ebor at York in August.
Murtagh will run the gelding in the Cup without a prep race as he is a horse that runs best fresh.
He beat Andrew Balding’s Lord Van Percy by a length and quarter on the Knavesmire and has been given a weight of 55kg.
Royal Diamond has just 0.5kg more to carry and won the Group 1 Irish St Leger in 2012. He showed that he is as good as ever when chasing home Ascot Gold Cup winner Leading Light at the Curragh in June this year.