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the Melbourne Cup - the preview

The Melbourne Cup, the race that stops the nation. Here's my runner-by-runner look at the field.

For a formguide, look here

UPDATED for Lost In The Moment, At First Sight and direct link to the Ebor.

Americain - looking at least as good as last year when he won the race. 3.5kg more to carry, but is this a weaker or stronger race? I rate it slightly weaker, so he's right in this up to his ears. Won the Moonee Valley Cup in a canter, against the strong formalise of Tullamore. The record of topweights in this race though is terrible in recent times - the last five have been unplaced, and the only one to win in the last 30yrs was the supermare Makybe Diva. When you restrict it to foreign horses who were topweight, of the 14 who have tried since 1993 when Vintage Crop started the travelling trend, just one horse - Vinnie Roe, has been placed (2004) - although importantly, I don't think any of those visitors had a lead-up run as Americain has this year. Last race link, Moonee Valley Cup

Jukebox Jury - highly talented visitor from Johnston stable. I am concerned about his supposed pace. He leads in most of his European races and then grinds away, outstaying his rivals. Euro staying races start slow then build up, exposing the poor stayers. The Melbourne Cup is a mad charge to the first turn to take position, then it slows right down, then a charge home. You need tactical speed, and even the grumpy Yorkshire trainer has expressed concern about this. As a high quality horse, his exposure to big field racing has been limited. I doubt he will lead going past the post the first time, and if he does, something will try to take him on. I also think this race has been tacked onto his programme, rather than being set for it. Last race link, Prix Kergolay

Dunaden - another high quality French stayer who followed Americain's trend from last year of winning the Geelong Cup, a more relaxed 2400m race on a more spacious track than the far richer Caulfield Cup. Form of that race has stacked up well with Tanby winning the Bendigo Cup. Has been aimed at this race, so with that in mind, am prepared to discount the Prix Kergolay (won by Jukebox Jury at WFA) as it was after a 91 day break. His other two runs over 3000m+ have reaped a win and a second. Drama over who will ride with Craig Williams launching a desperate legal challenge to ride after his appeal against a 10-day suspension was dismissed on Friday. Gets 3.5kg off Americain, a big advantage over two miles. Christoph Lemaire on standby. Last run, Geelong Cup

Drunken Sailor - was a popular chance last year on his first visit, but was desperately unlucky in the Geelong Cup and didn't get in. This year he didn't have much luck in the Caulfield Cup after drawing wide. He has drawn perfectly in 8. Is he good enough? He beat Jukebox Jury and Redwood at Glorious Goodwood this year at level weights. Don't rule him out of contention. For the Goodwood replay - click here, search for Drunken Sailor and select the July 29 race.

Glass Harmonium - impressive win on Saturday after getting fired up in the mounting yard pre-race. Cup Day is like no other - 110 thousand people on course. Last week in the Cox Plate he went crazy in the gates, in front of the big crowd, but apparently more due to the actions of a horse next to him in the barriers, after his hood was removed. Do you take this risk again? Never run this far before, only runs past 2000m landed a win (2200m) and a second to Tullamore (Brisbane Cup, 2400m). Drawn 23, so should enter the gates late. Plenty of time to go forward and cross, it's the only way this horse runs. Mackinnon replay

Manighar - genuine horse who won six of his first seven starts, and lots of 'nice' runs since then without the winners' cheque. Ran 7th last year, and then fourth in the Caulfield Cup. Has drawn the car park here in 21, will either be stuck wide or pulled back to last. Does have the services of top jockey Damien Oliver who is back in golden form, riding three winners on Derby Day. Last run - Caulfield Cup

Unusual Suspect - veteran of the field at eight (7yo by northern hemisphere time though). Ran home strongly in the Caulfield Cup, catching people's eye. Has won just once in his last 20 starts though, and was 10/1 in an eight-runner field that day at Hollywood Park. Drawn ideally, will be throwing him in the exotics for the placings. Winning the Hollywood Park Turf Cup

Fox Hunt - conundrum runner for me. I like the profile of this horse, has been carrying higher weights in the UK, 6.5kg more than Moyenne Corniche in the Ebor, beaten 3.5L after being stopped in his tracks in the straight, and beaten 0.6L in the Goodwood Cup (G2 WFA) against Opinion Poll. Then won the German St Leger easily and the German form is strong this year. But, trained by Mark Johnston who has failed numerous times in Australia and refuses to run in leadup races (only the freak Vintage Crop has won this race on more than a 20 day break since 1985). Also drawn 19 with a jockey who has never been here, so will probably ride him the UK way, four wide and comfortable rather than working hard to get cover. Winning the German St Leger

Lucas Cranach - got within five lengths of Arc winner Danedream in the Grosser Preis von Berlin, the strongest form around, and was much shorter in the betting that day. Had issues with a cracked heel in the lead-up to the Caulfield Cup, ran enormous coming 10-wide around the turn, and couldn't quite outrun those with easier runs. Balance that up with the Caulfield Cup supposedly being one of the weakest in recent memory. If he is 100% fit, he has a massive chance from gate 11. Winning the G2 Hansa Preis in June.

Mourayan - imported stayer now fully acclimatised. Class doubt but won the Bart Cummings in early October beating Niwot comfortably, and then a slashing run in the Mackinnon Stakes on Saturday. Drops from 59kg at WFA to 53.5kg. Hugh Bowman will ride at his lightest weight in ages, big plus. Will race forward, and from the draw, should be able to take his time to move across before the first bend. Late information that he will wear a pair of bar plates in front - related to pulling up 'mildly lame' on Saturday. Last run replay

Precedence - ran eighth last year, awful this time in. If he wasn't trained by Bart Cummings, he'd be 100/1 at least. No hope. See Manighar and Mourayan for recent runs.

Red Cadeaux - beaten only 1L in the Irish St Leger behind Jukebox Jury at level weights. But that was a field of six, nothing like this style of racing. Would need to put the pressure on from about the 1000m if his stamina was to prove superior. Has led before in races, but not regularly. Local jockey with previous success in the race will help. No race for more than 50 days will not. Irish St Leger replay

Hawk Island - Sydney-trained horse who fell at only previous attempt at the distance in the Sydney Cup. Should have no issue with the distance, just isn't up to this class. Would shorten up dramatically if it bucketed down, but no hope on the dry. Needs a lot of luck from 18. Metropolitan replay (ran 2nd)

Illo - mystery German horse trained by the master Bart Cummings. But he hanse;t had long enough to make his stamp on this horse and it has done nowhere near the miles he claims are vital to have a winning chance. Can't see any overlap in the form with either Lucas Cranach, Fox Hunt or Danedream so have to think he's not in the same class. The horse he beat by a short head in his last race, Oriental Fox, is still a maiden after four starts and Elle Thunder who beat him at his previous start hasn't won in three starts since, and was well back in the Prix de L'Opera in 2010. Barrier 1 is extremely difficult to win from. Should improve from first run in Australia but can't see him getting into the placings. See Americain for a replay of his last run.

Lost In The Moment - Godolphin runner who drops markedly in weight from his races in the UK, usually at set weights. He was beaten a head one of Europe's best stayers Opinion Poll in the Goodwood Cup (just ahead of Fox Hunt) but then was 3/4 of a length behind the same horse in the Ebor, receiving 5 lb (also 1.5L behind Modun, 1L behind Saptapadi). Drawn 3, will get back, to be ridden by William Buick, a top jockey who rode a double on Arc Day at Longchamp, but won't have seen Flemington before. Can only think he will be locked away and get caught behind tiring horses - they don't fan out here like they do at York. Up to it with a bit of luck but won't have raced for a month. Ebor replay here or click here, search for Lost In The Moment for other runs.

Modun - my preference of the foreign raiders. Just the eight starts with only one bad run (soft track at Royal Ascot). Has big field form - 2nd in the John Smith's Cup at York, 2nd in a big handicap at Goodwood, then 4th in the Ebor, all fields of 18+ runners - vital for this race. Still improving, showed a great turn of foot in his last race at Kempton. Has the important jockey appointment of Kerrin McEvoy. Should get a nice sit one-off the rail back in the field. For most of his replays - click here, search by horse for Modun, or see Lost In The Moment for the Ebor.

At First Sight - second in the Epsom Derby as pacemaker, then bought by Lloyd Williams. Impressed in his two runs in September over shorter distances, then had a minor hoof injury, putting a cloud on his campaign. Last week he went to Bendigo for the Cup and stormed home late from last to run second, proving his fitness for this race. Ignore the fact this race has never been a pointer to the Melb Cup, it has always been scheduled later in November, this is the first time it has ever been staged as a lead-up race. Just one win from 11 starts is a concern but he was raced by Coolmore and they regularly sacrifice very good horses for those they think are potential champions. Has shown enough in Australia to see he is genuine. Can a horse with an interrupted campaign win the Cup? Bendigo Cup replay.

Moyenne Corniche - two wins from 26 starts but gets in having won the Ebor Handicap at York, surging through late to win with a light weight. Formline through Tanby is similar to At First Sight comparing distances beaten, luck and relative weights. Will prefer bigger track, drops back from the draw and then runs on late. Must have a chance but trainer still prefers the stablemate. Last run replay.

Saptapadi - trainer was very dirty on Caulfield Cup ride, wanted him to go forward instead of lost in the pack. Three wide no cover all the way in the Herbert Power before that. Symons takes the ride, doesn't mind a bit of aggression and will have no choice but to go forward from gate 22. Three time the price of Moyenne Corniche whereas in the Ebor, this one started 15/2, Moyenne 25/1. One to throw in the exotics. Ebor replay

Shamrocker - AJC Derby and Australian Guineas winner (beating the boys both times) who is lucky to be in this field. Has done nothing this time in, drawn the extreme outside. Here's what she can do at her best - AJC Derby win back in April

The Verminator - questionable whether he should be in the field, but has won several races this year including the Wyong Cup (Listed) and the Metropolitan, a (questionable) Group 1 in Sydney. Worst run of his career on Saturday when beaten 14 lengths in the Mackinnon. Not a WFA horse so can forgive him a few lengths, but not that many - he was 13L behind Mourayan who gives him only 1.5kg here. Metropolitan replay

Tullamore - will perch in the front half of the field and keep on running. Failed in the Metrop but then third in the Caulfield Cup and second in the Moonee Valley Cup. Had plenty of racing lately but will be running on at the end. Likely to be unders because he is trained by Gai Waterhouse. Gets 5kg advantage from Americain after being beaten 2.3L at Moonee Valley, although the winner looked to have a bit in hand. See Americain or Manighar for replays.

Niwot - not one of my favoured horses but an objective look at his form puts him right in the race. On Saturday, he flogged them (3L, but rider sat up with 100m to go) in the Lexus Stks, and drops 4kg here. Maluckyday won that race last year (ran 2nd in Cup), Shocking the year before (won), then nothing of note until Brew (won Cup) back in 2000. His Flemington record is outstanding : five runs for three wins, a second and a close-up fourth over 1400m when first-up after 600 days. Not much luck at other runs this campaign either. Rider Dean Yendall is not a Group 1 jockey by any stretch of the imagination but he has an affinity with the horse, being on board for seven of his past eight runs, including all Flemington wins. Lexus replay

Older Than Time - beaten out of sight in the race that Niwot won on Saturday and simply shouldn't be here. Ran 2nd in the Sydney Cup, a much, much weaker race on a swamp track. Waterhouse factor only thing preventing her from being the rank outsider of the world. Previous run replay

On the big races, I'm mostly an exotics punter, chasing the big pools with so much money invested from the once-a-year punters. I'll be back tomorrow with my final assessment...


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