The race that stops an entire nation is less than two months away which means we are now on the road to the Lexus Melbourne Cup and many will look to read the Melbourne Cup betting tips – but for British and Irish fans there’s set to be a different outlook this year.
We’ve already seen Charlie Fellowes-trained Prince of Arran – who finished 2nd in the 2019 renewal and 3rd in the 2018 and 2020 runnings – retired before the big day as vets down under informed Fellowes that the horse would not be allowed to run this year.
That is down to rule changes which have come into effect this year following the deaths of six international horses in the race since 2013, the latest being 2019 Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, who was running under top weight last year, having to be put down after suffering a fetlock fracture on the Flemington home straight.
Europe always sends a strong contingent to the race but new regulations have banned any equine who has suffered a previous fracture or undergone orthopaedic surgery, and any travelling participants can only participate in one other race in Australia before the big day.
It’s going to severely limit the horses that have been racing in the UK and Ireland this season that will be making the long journey across the world, so who are the leading fancies for the race from both Europe and Australia? We take a look.
Spanish Mission – Beaten by a neck in the Yorkshire Cup by the great Stradivarius last time out, this five-year-old Andrew Balding-trained horse is primed for a big run at Flemington.
Team Valor have been aiming at this race all year and we know he is capable of running over further than the Cup trip having finished third in the Ascot Gold Cup so he is understandably one of the favourites.
Sir Lucan – Winner of a Listed race at Navan earlier in the campaign, the Aiden O’Brien three-year-old was seen in the St Leger at Doncaster this past weekend finishing down the field as Godolphin’s Hurricane Lane romped to success.
The Galileo colt will transfer to Gai Waterhouse’s stable in Australia for the Cup though which means he will bypass the necessary medical checks for international horses – and any Galileo colts have a chance of staying the two-mile trip but he will first have to run some good races to get up the weights and into the race itself.
Dawn Patrol – Another ex-Aiden O’Brien horse, the four-year-old Camelot gelding was transferred into his son Joseph’s possession for this season, and he finished a gallant 2nd in a Curragh Group 3 this summer.
He’s since gone to Robert Hickmott’s yard in Australia and finished 11th out of 13 runners in a Group 2 contest at Moonee Valley, and he will be sure to come on for the run, especially as it was only over a mile and has experience running over the Cup distance as a three-year-old.
Twilight Payment – Last years winner from the front and one of two Joseph O’Brien runners with a strong chance, despite the fact he will have to carry top weight at 58kg.
The eight-year-old’s prep has been perfect with a win in the Irish St Leger trial from Princess Zoe and loss by less than a length in the race proper to Ebor victor Sonnyboyliston (who has been confirmed as not travelling down under this year) so he enters contention for this race yet again.
Baron Samedi – The other O’Brien entry notched a seventh victory in a row over in the USA in the summer when scooping the Belmont Gold Cup, and finished a respectable 3rd in the Irish St Leger this past weekend.
This four-year-old is very progressive, stays the two-mile trip and will enjoy the ground that Flemington provides.
Rodrigo Diaz – Australian Bloodstock have bought 50 per cent of this David Simcock horse so he travels across the world with high hopes having progressed from a handicapper to a Group 3-placed animal.
He was down the field in the Doncaster Cup last time out but connections will hope that the drop down in trip and quick ground plays to his strengths.
Incentivise – The main Aussie hope blitzed the field by 12 lengths in a Group 3 at Eagle Farm in June and after switching stables from Steve Tregea to Peter Moody he built on that with a narrow Group 1 success at Flemington recently.
He has the track experience but just has to prove he can stay the trip.
Realm of Flowers – The five-year-old mare qualified automatically for the Cup after winning a Listed contest at Flemington, which was two furlongs shorter than the distance of the big race.
She was one of just two horses that finished behind the aforementioned Dawn Patrol at Moonee Valley last week but again that was far short of her prime distance and she’s primed for a big run in November.
Explosive Jack – A potential superstar after winning both the Australian Derby and South Australian Derby earlier this year, Ciaran Maher’s colt needs to prove he can stay the two miles but he has a lot of potential.
His comeback run saw him finish 9th to Incentivise at Moonee Valley but that was over a mile and the cobwebs will have been blown off for this live contender.
Selino – Previously under the care of James Fanshawe in England, Selino transferred to Chris Waller in Australia in late 2020 and has won one of five races down under – which was a Group 1 handicap.
That was over the Cup trip and if you’re a Selino backer already there’s nothing to worry about despite the fact he trailed home in last place in his most recent run – that though was over an inadequate mile-long trip.
Port Guillaume – This son of Le Havre seemed to have the world at his feet as a three-year-old after starting favourite for the Grand Prix de Paris, but he trailed home in last as Mogul stormed to success for Aiden O’Brien.
Fast forward a year and Port Guillaume has transferred to Ben Hayes in Australia and despite finishing last over a mile at Moonee Valley last week, the dust will have been blown off and he can work towards being a stayer and up the weights to get in.