Tom Peacock has covered six previous Melbourne Cups and has all you need to know about the 2017 Emirates-sponsored 'race that stops a nation', which will be staged at Flemington Racecourse on Tuesday, November 7. This will be updated with replays and results as we approach the big day.
Is it a glorified version of the Cesarewitch or one of the ultimate prizes for a racehorse due to demanding challenge of travelling half-way around the world?
The Emirates Melbourne Cup has always been a matter of personal choice.
Should you have been lucky enough to attend one you will almost certainly evangelise about the relentless public and media build-up, the parade of trainers and jockeys through the streets of the city and the noise once the horses finally leave the gates.
We have now had Irish, French, German and even Japanese victories, plus the global news-making success of Michelle Payne aboard Prince Of Penzance in 2015. Perhaps finally, after a string of narrow seconds, it could even be Britain’s chance this time.
More than a dozen more Europeans will be housed at the Werribee quarantine centre over the next few weeks, with plenty of other exports now with Australian trainers waiting to take them on.
Five European horses - US Army Ranger, Rekindling, Max Dynamite, Thomas Hobson and Ebor winner Nakeeta arrive on Saturday. In total 24 international horses will be at Werribee on Saturday, with the first shipment of 19 clearing quarantine in the morning.
It is difficult to form a firm view yet, as the Cup itself is so competitive that many will now have to have a prep-run to secure a berth. Then there is the big field, the stop-start tempo of the races, and the Cup day atmosphere to negotiate.
Nonetheless, after a rewarding Australian spring led by Charlie Appleby last year, the overseas raiders ought to be capable of plundering some more riches this time around.
KEY EUROPEAN HORSES:
Marmelo - Hughie Morrison: 25-1
Bids to follow the example of Americain and Protectionist, both of whom won Deauville’s Prix Kergorlay before going on to Flemington glory. In something of a coup, leading Australian jockey Hugh Bowman, best-known as the rider of Winx, has agreed to partner him in both the Caulfield Cup on October 21 and the Melbourne Cup after having a sit in training.
Wall Of Fire - Hugo Palmer: 33-1
Good traveller who has been to Dubai and America already this year and qualified for a start with a commendable and slightly unlucky second to Defoe in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury.
Has a reasonable chance of getting in on what is an evolving order in the weights, but connections made sure with a fast-finishing second in the Herbert Power at Caulfield on October 14.
Johannes Vermeer - Aidan O’Brien: 33-1
Missed nearly all of last year and seems to have been campaigned with Australia in mind, with two decent low-key efforts since Royal Ascot including a Group Three (pictured, above left)
Starts his campaign alongside stablemate Taj Mahal, a possible Cox Plate horse known as The Taj Mahal Down Under, in Saturday’s Caulfield Stakes.
It looks a hot event with Winx’s regular punchbag Hartnell, and classy New Zealand pair Jon Snow and Bonneval in the line-up
Qewy - trainer Charlie Appleby: 50-1
This Godolphin one-time hurdler is in line to defend his title in the Geelong Cup in 12 days.
Last year he followed up his win with a cracking fourth in the Melbourne Cup and victory in a two-mile race 11 days later. The seven-year-old has not exactly fired in Britain this season but seems to have been prepared with Australia as a priority.
Red Cardinal - Andreas Wohler: 16-1
The five-year-old son of Arc winner Montjeu has previously headed the market, and his challenge is perhaps given added clout because he represents the same connections as 2015 winner Protectionist.
He seems to have been campaigned similarly, too. He won the Belmont Gold Cup before an underwhelming fifth in the Prix Kergorlay at Deauville behind Marmelo in August but it is notable that the German trainer has already engaged Ryan Moore for the big race.
Thomas Hobson looks the first choice of the Willie Mullins string, given he has booked the Brazilian maestro Joao Moreira for the Melbourne Cup ride.
The seven-year-old nearly landed a Royal Ascot double and finished a good second in the Doncaster Cup.
Wicklow Brave was 22nd in last year’s Melbourne Cup but bounced back to win a Grade One at Punchestown and fared well again in another lengthy Flat campaign.
He is likely to test the water with start in the Caulfield Cup. Max Dynamite, an agonising second in 2015, has only just shown some sparkle in winning a minor race at Killarney in August.
Both horses are now in the care of Joseph O’Brien and in the ownership of multiple Cup-winning Lloyd Williams and they are both due to arrive at the weekend.
Connections of the owner have reported that both will be aimed for the Cup and are excited about the latter, who is only three but was fourth in the St Leger.
Nakeeta - Iain Jardine: 33-1
Up-and-coming trainer and connections are in for a trip of a lifetime with the Ebor winner, who has made such remarkable progress since joining Jardine. Heartbreak City won the Ebor last year and then was edged out of Cup glory by a head by Almandin. The six-year-old is part of the latter contingent due to arrive from Europe on Saturday and will become the first horse trained in Scotland to take part in the Spring Carnival.
Tiberian - Alain Couetil: 20-1
A long-range purchase by Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock for the 2018 Cup, he has fast-tracked himself to this year’s event by winning twice at Deauville in the summer. Seems to be another slightly under-the-radar French runner for a country with a fine recent record.
KEY AUSTRALIAN HORSES
Almandin - Robert Hickmott: 7-1
Last year’s winner is much higher in the weights and, after a winning reappearance, failed to defend the Bart Cummings Stakes at Flemington. That defeat leaves him with some questions to answer for the home audience.
Admire Deus - Darren Weir: 14-1 Joined this leading Australian stable after a fine career in Japan, running the top-class Kitasan Black to a couple of lengths in the Tenno Sho back in April.
Quietly believed to be as capable a recruit as there has ever been from the Far East and his performance in the Caulfield Cup will be hotly anticipated.
Amelie's Star - Darren Weir: 12-1
Had done better as a miler in the past but this veteran mare burst into the equation and earned her automatic spot by beating Almandin in the Bart Cummings.
Connections will probably want to run her again, but she might not even make the cut in the Caulfield Cup, leaving the Moonee Valley Cup a week later as a viable option.
KEY PREP RACES:
Herbert Power Stakes, Caulfield, October 14, 1m4f - - Lord Fandango:
Last winner to double up was Rogan Josh in 1999. Protectionist was fourth in 2014 before Melbourne Cup success.
Caulfield Cup, Caulfield, October 21st, 1m4f:
Now a huge prize in its own right. The last horse to complete the pair was Ethereal in 2001.
Geelong Cup, Geelong, October 25th, 1m4f:
Media Puzzle (2002), Americain (2010) and Dunaden (2011) all won both races in what has been a rich hunting ground for European runners.
Bendigo Cup, Bendigo, November 1st, 1m4f:
The double has not been achieved since 1869, essentially because the timeslot of the race has been changed, but it now represents a last-chance saloon option to qualify.
He gets a start, has form on fast ground and over the two miles, yet has also shown enough speed to finish second in a German Group One over a mile and a half.
Andreas Wohler, who has shown himself to be a brilliant advance planner over the years, was successful in bringing Protectionist over for glory and the potential of having Ryan Moore in the saddle (notwithstanding any possible late switches) adds further confidence.