Often referred to as the ‘race that stops a nation’, the Melbourne Cup – Tuesday 7th November – is fast approaching as the Flemington racetrack prepares itself for another chapter of racing folklore.
Raced over 3,200 meters – fractionally under the distance of two miles – for three-year-old horses and over, the Melbourne Cup offers a substantial prize fund of $6.2m Australian dollars, and is recognised as the world’s richest handicap race. It will come as no surprise to realise that horses travel from all corners of the globe to take part in the maximum 24-runner field.
Inaugurated back in 1861, the event is one of the most popular spectator events in Australia, with attendance figures regularly in excess of over 100,000 people, with some dressed in traditional formal race day wear and others in all manner of exotic and amusing costumes. Last years’ winner, Almandin will return to try and repeat a narrow victory over Heartbreak City under winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy, and while 2016’s victor is highly fancied, there will be many other challengers.
Leading British hope
No British trainer has yet to taste success in the Melbourne Cup as yet, but the way that Hughie Morrison’s Marmelo ran in his preparation race at Caulfield last weekend, offers great hope for the big event. Most bookmakers have installed Marmelo as their ante-post favourite for the Melbourne Cup, due to the way that the four-year-old finished his race in the Caulfield Cup. He ran the quickest 400m-200m and 200m-finish splits of the race, showing the stamina that will be required for 3200m at Flemington. It is likely that top Australian jockey, Hugh Bowman will ride Marmelo, which is another obvious plus to his chances.
Key jockey booking
Despite piloting Almandin to Melbourne Cup victory last year, winning rider, Kerrin McEvoy was yet to have a ride in this years’ race, until a phone call from the connections of Red Cardinal secured his booking. British super-jockey, Ryan Moore was effectively first choice to take the ride on Red Cardinal, but logistical issues in getting Moore Down Under from his Breeders’ Cup commitments have proven impossible. Red Cardinal does have a little to find in the form book behind Marmelo, but with Group 2 and Group 3 wins over two miles already in the bag, the Andreas Wohler trained horse is likely to be in the mix at the end of the race.
From an Australian perspective, even at odds of 33/1 at the time of writing, Big Duke could be the best hope of a home victory. Trained by Darren Weir, Big Duke claimed the St Leger Stakes at Randwick recently, and is hoping to follow a similar path to Prince Of Penzance – who also claimed victory in that race before Melbourne Cup glory. The five-year old is improving with every run, and could easily outrun his generous odds at Flemington.
One for the Irish?
Irish jumps trainer, Willie Mullins has another crack at the Melbourne Cup this year, and Thomas Hobson could be his best hope off a featherweight. Owned by Rich Ricci, Thomas Hobson will be ridden by Joao Moreira as he bids for success at Flemington. Moreira is considered as one of the finest jockeys in the world, who rides predominantly in Hong Kong, where in March he made history by riding eight winners on the same card. It will be the first time that this trainer/jockey partnership have teamed up, as Moreira will be hoping to go one step further than last year after getting tipped off on Heartbreak City.