Can Aidan O’Brien Finally Land Elusive Melbourne Cup Glory?

by admin 4 weeks ago

With a kitty in excess of $6 million, it should come as no great surprise to learn that a rather high-quality field is set to do battle in the Melbourne Cup on November 7 for horse racing’s richest prize.

The two-miler will take place on the famous Flemington track, as it has done for more than 150 years incredibly, and horses, trainers and jockeys from all four corners of the globe will arrive in Melbourne with dollar signs in their eyes.

The race is a handicap open to horses aged three and over, with a bottom weight of 50kg and a top weighting of no less than 57kg. The last couple of winners have come in at the lower end of the scale – Almandin at 52kg in 2016, and Prince of Penzance at 53kg a year earlier – and that is certainly one angle for punters to explore.

The first set of declarations have been made, although the final list of runners and riders will not be confirmed until Saturday November 4. Even so, it looks a certainty that UK and Irish racing will be very well represented on the day.

O’Brien Looking to End Melbourne Hoodoo

For all of his incredible achievements in the sport, it is remarkable that Aidan O’Brien is yet to get his hands on one of those expensive-looking Melbourne Cup trophies.

The Irishman, who is closing in on a world-record of Group 1 winners, has had a couple of close calls at Flemington but has never saddled a winner in the biggest race of them all. The closest he came was a decade ago, when Mahler was just headed off by Efficient.

Ironically, the owner of Efficient is the most decorated in Melbourne Cup history – Lloyd Williams, who is also part of the syndicate that owns Johannes Vermeer, the four-year-old trained by O’Brien who has been installed towards the head of the betting market at around 10/1.

It has not been a vintage campaign for this former Group 1 winner, but he has shown up well on a jaunt Down Under. He was third in the instructive Caulfield Cup, and stayed on well enough to suggest the extended 16f trip – a distance which he has never run before – should not be a problem.

“I don’t see it [the distance] being a problem,’’ said O’Brien’s stable representative TJ Comerford . “He seems to stay well, he is a strong finisher and has plenty of speed. He has everything you want for a Melbourne Cup horse.

“The horse has come through Caulfield well, he looks well, lost a couple of kilos but he is very good, no problems.”

Another member of the UK contingent to watch is Qewy, who at 50/1 in the ante-post market certainly looks a tad overpriced.

He was a steady fourth in last year’s edition of the Melbourne Cup, but wins in the Geelong Cup and Sandown Cup suggest the Godolphin-owned colt is a progressive sort. A couple of lax performances on UK soil in 2017 may just have dampened the spirits, but this is a horse that saves his best form for Australian soil.

Melbourne Cup: Tale of the Tape

There will be plenty of European interest at the global Melbourne Cup then, and while the continent’s finest have shone in this renewal – Andreas Wohler, the German trainer, saddled 2014 champion Protectionist, and English and French jockeys won back to back in 2013 and 14 – it is still a race in which the home Australian dominance is clear for all to see.

Almandin won 12 months ago and he hasn’t run since; yet has still been installed as the 13/2 favourite, such is his quality. Punters will probably want to see more activity than that on the CVs of those they back, but pedigree on this Flemington track cannot be bought.

However, history is not on the side of the seven-year-old given that it’s over a decade since the last repeat winner of the Melbourne Cup: Maykbe Diva taking the spoils three years in a row between 2003-05.

Five of the last seven champions had been aged six at the time of their triumph, and being Australian bred there is plenty of interest forthcoming in Amelies Star, the six-year-old who won at Flemington by two lengths last time out and powered across the line with, seemingly, plenty in the tank.

No mare since Maykbe Diva has won the Melbourne Cup, but if Amelies Star is able to make the step up in distance then there is no doubting she can make up step up in class.

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