By Tom Peacock
Breakfast With The Stars at Werribee is not exactly akin to the event last month when thousands of people descended upon Moonee Valley to get a view of the mighty Winx stretching her legs.
This is a smaller sit-down preview largely for the members of the track, which serves as the international quarantine centre during these few weeks but is also a minor suburban racecourse for the rest of the year. Almost half of the likely Emirates Melbourne Cup runners are housed there this year and they were all out for a leg-stretch.
Willie Mullins’ pair Max Dynamite and Thomas Hobson did much the strongest piece of work right alongside each other, and it is currently very touch-and-go whether the latter will sneak into the field. The Doncaster Cup runner-up is at number 26 in the order of entry while Hugo Palmer’s Wall Of Fire is currently the last to make the cut at 24.
Just as with the Grand National, a place is so highly prized that virtually no owner is going to drop out from now on unless they have no choice and there is still Saturday’s Lexus Stakes to wait for. Eight of the 10 runners in the Lexus are entered in the Cup and the winner could yet leapfrog Wall Of Fire.
Enthusiasm grows about Red Cardinal:
An ante-post suggestion of Red Cardinal a couple of weeks back remains live after trainer Andreas Wohler explained that there was a valid reason as to his slightly lacklustre effort behind Marmelo on his most recent outing at Deauville.
Red Cardinal is a "happy horse" heading into the Melbourne Cup (Racingfotos.com)
It is difficult to know whether the German is quite as confident about this horse as he was about the successful Protectionist three years ago, but this race has long been the plan and he ought to have the right type of credentials as a general 12-1 chance.
“He had a skin allergy that day,” Wohler said. “He was not feeling that well, we were thinking about running or not running him but otherwise the break was going to be too long. He didn’t have any temperature, otherwise he was fine, but in the race the jockey said he didn’t feel comfortable in that bad ground and he gave him an easy ride.
“If you take that away, he should be right up there. He’s a happy horse.”
Morrison’s goal with Marmelo:
Hughie Morrison continues to enjoy his first visit to Australia and is embracing the huge local interest around the race and his leading contender Marmelo.
“The build-up is unbelievable, unique, and it’s a pleasure to be part of it,” he said.
“We get over-indulged with football, football, football. There’s nothing wrong with football but the BBC, our main terrestrial TV, are only interested in football, they’ve forgotten about everything else, and horse racing has many more elements than football.”
Hugh Bowman had given Marmelo a spin after their promising sixth in the Caulfield Cup. “I did a similar piece on him leading into the Caulfield Cup, I thought he blew a bit less this morning,” he said. “I’d say that was encouraging but we’re not really looking for fitness levels at this stage, we just wanted to see that he was coming along and it seems like he has.
“His best form is over 3000 metres and hopefully we’ll settle a bit closer than we did in the Caulfield Cup.”
Cumani hoping for Carnival cheer:
Luca Cumani has lacked a Cup contender for a number of years after several agonising near-misses but he will still have some representation at the Spring Carnival as an owner.
The Newmarket trainer has an involvement in Greycliffe in Saturday’s prestigious AAMI Victoria Derby, who is being prepared by his Australian-based son Matt.
Only seen four times to date, the New Zealand-bred son of Tavistock had a confidence-boosting victory in a minor race at Seymour a few days ago and is no forlorn hope.
“He goes there as a 20-1 shot, which my father noticed, but I reminded him that his two Derby winners went off at 20-1 and 11-1,” Cumani Jr said. “It’s been a tight schedule with him but I’m happy that he goes into the race in good shape.”
Luca Cumani’s usual jockey Jamie Spencer is also making a second appearance in the country in under a month. He is booked for just one ride so far, aboard Everest Stakes fifth Tulip in the Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes.
Piggott as sharp as ever:
Perhaps the greatest jockey of all-time rode in Australia plenty of times, even if the Cup is one of the few races missing on Lester Piggott’s CV.
The 81-year-old is in town as a guest of honour for various organisations and is likely to be popping up at many more functions ahead of the race.
Piggott has never been the most effusive talker but he still slipped in the odd one-liner in an informal chat with leading syndicate owner Terry Henderson.
Asked about the standard of current riders, he said: "In England we still have a lot of good jockeys and a blind man can see Ryan Moore is a good jockey. But Frankie [Dettori] is still very good.”
It was suggested whether he might have any advice for Dettori ahead of the ride on Cup favourite Almandin. “He’ll probably give me some,” Piggott replied.