Tuesday 17th September 2019
It seems as though Australia is getting sick and tired of international racehorses raiding Flemington Racecourse for the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
As one of the richest staying handicaps on turf in the world and “the race that stops a nation”, the Group 1 test over about two miles attracts global interest. Three of the last five Melbourne Cup winners have been trained in Europe and last year’s hero Cross Counter will have to carry more than a stone more in weight extra if he heads Down Under in a bid to retain his title.
This news follows the publication of the weights for prospective 2019 entries by the Victoria Racing Club’s handicappers. They have not been kind to British and Irish raiders who must quarantine Melbourne Cup hopefuls several weeks before sending them to the other side of the world.
Last year’s St Leger winner Kew Gardens heads the weights despite disappointing on all three subsequent starts to the Doncaster Classic. If taking up his entry in the Melbourne Cup, the Aidan O’Brien-trained four-year-old Galileo colt must carry 58kg (about 9st 2lb in imperial weights and measures still used in British and Irish horse racing).
Globetrotting Godolphin-owned gelding Cross Counter followed-up on his memorable and historic victory last year with another valuable international prize in the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan, United Arab Emirates in March.
The Charlie Appleby-trained four-year-old has found British champion stayer Stradivarius too hot to handle in two subsequent starts back in the UK, however. Bookmakers Betfair are still confident of a bold bid from Cross Counter, though, as he heads 2019 Melbourne Cup horse racing betting as the 14/1 joint-favourite alongside Hughie Morrison’s Marmelo.
That six-year-old son of Duke Of Marmalade has run in the race twice before, finishing ninth and a length runner-up last year. Marmelo is now a lot better off at the weights with Cross Counter and retains plenty of ability after winning a Group 2 at Deauville in France in ready fashion.
A number of ex-British and Irish trained horses also appear to be targeting the Melbourne Cup on what will be their first or second outings for new connections. Ebor Handicap hero Mustajeer has left the Ger Lyons stable to join Aussie handler Kris Lees after Australian Bloodstock purchased him following his triumph at York.
The Coolmore set of Sue Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor have parted with both 2018 Irish Derby runner-up Rostropovich and Irish St Leger Trial winner Southern France this year. The pair are among those to leave the Ballydoyle stables of O’Brien.
Khalid Abdullah, meanwhile, has taken Mirage Dancer out of Sir Micahel Stoute’s yard and sent him Down Under to be trained by Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young. The lure of the valuable prize that is the Melbourne Cup leads many wealthy racehorse owners around the globe to try and win it.
Getting acclimatised to Australian conditions and horse racing is seen as an advantage by some. Horses that win the Melbourne Cup actually have less of an emphasis on stamina than you might expect, but do need a turn of foot to quicken just as Cross Counter did last year.
The Victoria Racing Club have just made it a whole lot tougher for Godolphin supremo Sheikh Mohammed and his retained trainer Appleby to make off with the A$4,000,000 first prize again. This year’s running of the Melbourne Cup takes place on Tuesday, 5 November.