Withhold and Cross Counter head overseas entry for Melbourne Cup

Thu 30 Aug 2018

Prominent ante-post fancies Withhold and Cross Counter lead the way as 50 overseas contenders feature among a total of 183 entries for the Lexus Melbourne Cup.

Roger Charlton’s Withhold won the Northumberland Plate on his only start this year, with a direct route to Flemington on November 6 already charted, Charlie Appleby’s Cross Counter put himself in the frame by running away with the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.

Betway make Withold their 10-1 favourite and offer Evens on a British or Irish-trained winner.

Appleby has a particularly strong hand at this stage with Hamada also towards the fore in the betting while fellow Godolphin trainers James Cummings and Saeed bin Suroor have also nominated runners, with recent German Group One winner Best Solution a familiar name for the latter.

Marmelo finished ninth in the two-mile Group One last year for Hughie Morrison and the trainer is hoping to have him on top form for the handicap feature this time.

Marmelo is on course for the Melbourne Cup in November
Marmelo is on course for the Melbourne Cup in November

He was a beaten favourite on the Prix Kergorlay on his most recent start, but Morrison has had his sights set on Melbourne all season.

He said: “He is good. I think last time proved if you keep going to the well on fast ground, it can catch up with them. Last year we trained him to win the Kergorlay, this year we are training him to do his best in Melbourne.

“He is a good horse, I just wish the Prix Royal-Oak was in the summer. He is not a fast-ground horse, he can act on it but you can’t keep running on it.”

Magic Circle won the Henry II Stakes at Sandown
Magic Circle won the Henry II Stakes at Sandown

Magic Circle has won each of his two starts this term, graduating from Chester Cup glory to win the Group Three Henry II Stakes last time.

Ian Williams has been training the six-year-old for Melbourne since then and he is relishing the challenge.

He tweeted: “The race looks incredibly strong and competitive, but all’s well with Magic Circle and we’re definitely up for the Cup!”

Rekindling won the race for Joseph O’Brien last year, leading home a memorable one-two-three for Irish handlers with Johannes Vermeer second for Aidan O’Brien and Max Dynamite third for Willie Mullins.

Max Dynamite finished third in the Melbourne Cup last year
Max Dynamite finished third in the Melbourne Cup last year

While neither Rekindling or Johannes Vermeer is in contention this time, Max Dynamite is one of Mullins’ possibles again this time along with the likes of Stratum, Thomas Hobson and Ascot winner Lagostovegas.

Aidan O’Brien has nominated 12 horses, headed by leading St Leger hope Kew Gardens with Deauville, Idaho, Cliffs Of Moher and Lancaster Bomber other notable contenders.

Joseph O’Brien has Irish Derby hero Latrobe in the reckoning along with Ming and Master Of Reality while Torcedor, who was trained by Jessica Harrington until his sale earlier this month, has been entered by new handler Andreas Wohler.

Muntahaa won the Ebor at York last week
Muntahaa won the Ebor at York last week

Other noteworthy entries include John Gosden’s Ebor first and second, Muntahaa and Weekender, with Surrey a potentially headline-grabbing candidate.

He is trained by Graeme Rogerson and while he has had only three starts in New Zealand, he is a son of three-times Melbourne Cup-winning mare Makybe Diva.

Ex-Micky Hammond runner Kings Will Dream and Tosen Basil are the local flagbearers at this stage, with both trained by Darren Weir.

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