The build-up is well under way for the Melbourne Cup at Flemington on 3rd November after the Caulfield Cup caused a massive shake-up in the betting market. Japan’s Fame Game is the early market mover.
The ante-post favourite is the Japanese-trained Fame Game, runner-up to Gold Ship in the Grade 1 Tenno Sho at Kyoto in May.
He is aiming to follow in the hoof-prints of Japan’s Admire Rakti who won the Caulfield Cup last season but connections of Fame Game have been stressing that the race is a stepping-stone to Flemington. Jockey Zac Purton rode Admire Rakti last year but feels that he was more of a speed horse than Fame Game. The Japanese challenge is bolstered by Hokko Brave, less than two lengths behind Fame Game in the Tenno Sho and another Caulfield Cup entry.
Aidan O’Brien could be doubly represented with Bondi Beach and Kingfisher. The former was controversially awarded the St Leger at Doncaster after suffering interference from Simple Verse, a decision which was later overturned. Kingfisher looked desperately unlucky in the Ascot Gold Cup when running on too late to catch Trip To Paris.
He has not shown the same level of form since but this has been his target since the summer. Leading Australian owner Lloyd Williams recently purchased shares in both horses and already has four Melbourne Cup victories to his credit.
Chris Waller chases elusive first Melbourne Cup victory
Australia’s Champion Trainer Chris Waller has won more than fifty Group 1 victories since 2008 but the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, and Melbourne Cup have so far eluded him. He has only managed one place in the Melbourne Cup with Who Shot Thebarman, third last year. He looks to have a great chance of improving on that record with Preferment, the recent winner of the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes.
He is a son of Zabeel who has already sired three previous winners in Might And Power, Jezabeel and Efficient. The latter is one of just two horses to have won the Victoria Derby and gone on to win the Melbourne Cup the following season, the other being the mighty Phar Lap. Who Shot Thebarman made late headway to finish eighth in the Turnbull over a trip short of his best and is also on target for Flemington.
Australian and New Zealand Derby winner Mongolian Khan is the highest-weighted southern hemisphere four-year-old in the race. He elevated his chances considerably by winning the Caulfield Cup. Mongolian Khan was handed a 1kg penalty for the Melbourne Cup and will carry 56kg in the 3200m feature.
Last year’s winner Protectionist is set to carry 58kg this season but is out to 50-1 after beating only two home in the Turnbull. He shares top weight with Sir Michael Stoute’s Snow Sky, an impressive winner of the Hardwicke Stakes in June but well beaten in soft ground in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes last time. Connections of those two horses face the sobering statistic that not a single original top weight has placed since Comic Court won the race in 1950.
Red Cadeaux back for a fifth attempt at Cup glory
Melbourne Cup veteran Red Cadeaux has made the trip for the fifth time with the globetrotting gelding having finished runner-up on three occasions. He has been given 55kg to carry, the same weight as his stable companion and Ascot Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris. Both are considered lively outsiders and Dunlop insists that Red Cadeaux is in the form of his life.
The nine-year-old has a large following in Australia and even has a barn named after him at Werribee where he stays in quarantine upon arriving Down Under. He would become the oldest horse ever to win the race if successful this year.
Michael Bell’s Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange has also made the trip along with Roger Charlton’s Quest For More, a game winner of the Northumberland Plate. The best backed of the European raiders is Lonsdale Cup winner Max Dynamite. Trainer Willie Mullins is better known for his jumping exploits but he saddled Simenon to finish fourth here in 2013. Max Dynamite has just over a length to make up on Quest For More from Newcastle but put up an improved performance at York.
Godolphin’s quest for Melbourne Cup glory continues after finishing second on three occasions. Their leading hope this year is Sky Hunter who warmed up for the Cup by finishing second to The Corsican in bad ground at Newbury. He has won six of his eleven races but is unproven over the distance.