Who will win the 2020 Melbourne Cup? In a year that has been ravaged by the pandemic, racing has been the shining light of Australian sport which will culminate in the running of the Melbourne Cup.
For months, questions had been raised as to whether the race could be run, whether the international runners would travel to Melbourne and whether interstate jockeys would even be allowed to enter Victoria to compete on the country’s biggest stage. Ultimately, it was a resounding Yes to all.
Alfred Chan, the Racing Manager for a prominent Victorian stable, assesses each runner in the $8 million 3200m showcase and shares his thoughts on the race that stops a nation.
The Final Field
- Anthony Van Dyke 58.5kg (3), T: Aiden O’Brien, J: Hugh Bowman
- Avilius 57.5kg (10), T : J Cummings, J: John Allen
- Vow And Declare 57.5kg (4), T: Danny O’Brien, J: Jamie Mott
- Master of Reality 56kg (11), T: Joseph O’Brien, J: Ben Melham
- Sir Dragonet (14), 55.5kg, T: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace, J: Glen Boss
- Twilight Payment (12), 55.5kg, T: Joseph O’Brien, J: Jye McNeil
- Verry Elleegant, 55.5kg (15),T: Chris Waller, J: Mark Zahra
- Mustajeer (2), 55kg, T: Kris Lees, J: Michael Rodd
- Stratum Albion (9), 55kg, T: Willie Mullins, J: Jordan Childs
- Dashing Willoughby (19), 54.5kg, T: Andrew Balding, J: Michael Walker
- Finche (6), 54.5kg, T: Chris Waller, J: James Mcdonald
- Prince of Arran (1), 54.5kg, T: Charlie Fellowes, J: Jamie Kah
- Surprise Baby (7), 54.5kg, T: Paul Preusker, J: Craig Williams
King of Leogrance (18), 53.5kg, T: Danny O’Brien, J: Damien Lane
- Russian Camelot (16), T: 53.5kg, Danny O’Brien, J: Damien Oliver
- Steel Prince (21), T: 53.5kg, Anthony & Sam Freedman, J: William Pike
- The Chosen One (5), T: 53.5kg, Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman, J: Daniel Stackhouse
- Ashrun (24), 53kg, T: Andreas Wohler, J: Declan Bates
- Warning (8), 53kg, T: Anthony & Sam Freedman, J: Luke Currie
- Etah James (22), 52.5kg, T: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace, J: Billy Egan
- Tiger Moth (23), 52.5kg, T: Aiden O’Brien, J: Kerrin McEvoy
- Oceanex (17), 51.5kg, T: Mick Price & Michael Kent Jnr, J: Dean Yendell
- Miami Bound (13), 51kg, T: Danny O’Brien, J: Daniel Moor
- Persan (20), 51kg, T: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace, J: Michael Dee
The all-conquering Coolmore team returns to Flemington again in search of the one international race that has eluded them for more than 20 years. Through those failures, Coolmore has changed things up in recent years, electing to give their Cup hopefuls a lead-in race in Australian soil before tackling the Melbourne Cup.
For Anthony Van Dyke, that was a barnstorming run in the Caulfield Cup (2400m) where he surged home from the tail of the field to run 2nd which notably, was against his normal racing pattern in Europe where he had been racing closer to the speed, if not led.
It’s been a solid season for the Group 1 English Derby (2400m) winner which has netted one win for the year. That victory came in the Group 2 Prix Foy (2400m) where he held of the brilliant stayer Stradivarius, but many would argue the slow tempo that Anthony Van Dyke led, coupled with the shorter than ideal trip for Stradivarius meant it was not the best renewal of the Prix Foy.
While the Caulfield Cup run was full of merit and an ideal lead-up to the Melbourne Cup visually, there has to be a query over Anthony Van Dyke’s ability to stay 3200m here. Yes, he is an English Derby winner however it’s worth noting that in his 18 runs, he has never been pushed out beyond 2400m by master conditioner Aiden O’Brien. The fact Anthony Van Dyke is out of an Exceed and Excel mare than never won beyond 1100m may be the reason for it.
Originally brought out to Australia as a Cups prospect in 2018, Avilius commenced his Australian career with four consecutive wins which included the Group 3 Bart Cummings Stakes (2500m) which entrenched him as one of the top Cup chances that year. In what was a luckless run, he was travelling behind Thecliffsofmoher which broke down in front of him and ended his chance there before being pulled up, finishing 22nd.
Since that horror day, Avilius has stamped himself as one of the best weight-for-age horses and elected not to contest last year’s Melbourne Cup. But with age, his form has tapered off slightly where he raced under handicap conditions for the first time in two years when finishing 6th in the Caulfield Cup (2400m) as his lead-in to this Melbourne Cup attempt.
Hitting the line very well with 57kg in the Caulfield Cup, weight is no concern for Avilius who has maintained a strong turn-of-foot which he has consistently produced. There were some slight reservations around whether he could see out the 3200m here but those doubts were quashed with his eye-catching Caufield run which should see him finish in the top 10 here.
Last year’s winner returns to defend his crown but no one would argue that the Vow and Declare currently racing is not the same as the one we saw last year.
In his lead-up runs through Spring, he hasn’t shown the same turn-of-foot which saw him run 2nd in the Caulfield Cup before last year’s Melbourne Cup win. The Danny O’Brien camp have followed the exact same program that proved successful last year but to have only beaten two runners home in this year’s Caulfield Cup was underwhelming.
To be carrying 5.5kg more than he did last year just makes the task too hard for Vow And Declare who only had a short break in the paddock after last year’s Cup win before an Autumn campaign and may be one of the reasons he’s been racing like a tired horse.
Finishing 2nd in last year’s edition before being relegated to 4th on protest, Master of Reality returns for a second attempt at the Cup having maintained good form in Europe where he bypassed the English staying races to compete solely in Ireland against the lower tier.
In doing so, he had just four starts between Melbourne Cup attempts with he was well beaten by Twilight Payment in the Group 3 Vintage Crop Stakes (2800m) and Group 2 Curragh Cup (2800m) before being beaten in a photo in the Group 3 Irish St Leger Trial (2800m).
Electing not to push on to the Group 1 Irish St Leger where victory would have resulted in a Melbourne Cup weight penalty, Joseph O’Brien set his sights lower by dropping him down in class to the Listed Her Majesty’s Plate (2800m) which he won effortlessly by 3.5L without being pushed out, to confirm all was spot on for this Cup attempt.
On paper it would appear that Twilight Payment is the better of the O’Brien/Lloyd Williams runners however Master of Reality enters this year’s running in better form than he showed last year and shouldnt be discounted since he is still lightly raced and performed well here in the past.
An impressive performance in the Cox Plate (2040m) shot Sir Dragonet right up the markets for the Melbourne Cup where jockey Glen Boss commented would be even more suitable than the Cox Plate.
As can sometimes be the case for horses stepping up 1200m in 10 days between the two Australian features, there should be no worries about this horse seeing out two miles having ran 4th in the Group 1 English St Leger (2900m) last season where he was beaten 3.2L.
Winning the Cox Plate in relative ease where he was extending on the line, Sir Dragonet shows all the signs you want to see from a Melbourne Cup prospect where there is no weight penalty for winning the Cox Plate under weight-for-age conditions. Coming back to handicap conditions for the Cup here where he comes in with a very manageable 55.5kg is a tantalizing prospect for connections with the last two horses that completed the Cox Plate – Melbourne Cup double in the same year being Makybe Diva in 2005 and Saintly in 1995.
On those occasions, Makybe Diva went up 2.5kg to win the Cup while Saintly dropped 1.5kg where Sir Dragonet comes back 3.5kg under the handicap conditions where he appears to be one of the most well-weighted horses in the field.
Although this will be considered his second attempt at the Melbourne Cup, it’s worth striking a line through last year where Twilight Payment did all the bullocking work by leading the field up in the run.
As is the case with the Melbourne Cup, it is one of the toughest races in the world to win leading all the way so for him to tire late and only be beaten 3.8L into 11th was a fair effort for a horse in the circumstances.
Since returning to Europe where he campaigned in Ireland for four starts, he actually enters this year in better form winning the Group 2 Vintage Crop Stakes (2800m) and romping to victory in the Group 2 Curragh Cup by 8L ahead of stablemate Master of Reality for a second victory in the race.
The 3200m won’t be a problem for him her where on form he is the better Joseph O’Brien prospect for Lloyd Williams but they’ll be hoping for a softer run in transit this year.
The Caulfield Cup winner has defied many doubters who thought she was primarily a wet tracker whose best form had come on Soft and Heavy tracks, she silenced the doubters by winning the back-to-back Group 1s in the Turnbull Stakes (2000m) and Caulfield Cup (2400m).
Since returning for Spring, her only hiccup came when beaten as favourite in the George Main Stakes (1600m) on a Good 4 track where she would otherwise be entering the Melbourne Cup with 4 consecutive Group 1 wins having salted first-up in the Winx Stakes (1400m).
Given her incredibly Spring campaign to date, Verry Elleegant was rightly given a 0.5kg penalty for her Caulfield Cup win which means if successful, she will carry the second most weight to victory for a Mare in the Melbourne Cup with the only one to have carrier more being Makybe Diva which won her third Cup with 58kg.
No horse has won the Caulfield-Melbourne Cups double since Ethereal in 2001 but given her faultless preparation to date, this mare is the best chance we have seen in many years as 6-time Group 1 winner.
With strong European form around Master of Reality and Twilight Payment last year, connections brought into Mustajeer prior to his win last year in the Ebor Handicap (2800m) – England’s richest handicap race – with the view to then come to Australia where he ran well in last year’s Caulfield Cup before beating just one runner home in the Melbourne Cup.
Retained to race in Australia, Mustajeer emerged as one of the better imported stayers through Autumn which included a 2nd placing behind Verry Elleegant in the Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m) under weight-for-age conditions. While his four Autumn runs netted connections $442k in prize money, it has to be noted that all came on tracks no firmer than Soft 7.
Coming back in Spring, Mustajeer hasn’t shown the same acceleration on firmer going so he will need a surprise monsoon to be a winning chance here.
Master Irish trainer Willie Mullins returns to Flemington with Stratum Albion being the one horse he identified within his giant stable of jumpers that have the turn-of-foot capable of racing at the elite level on the flat in Australia.
It’s a method that has taken him two decades to formulate having learnt the hard way that our tracks are significantly firmer than anything they find in Ireland where Stratum Albion has used jumps racing to keep him sharp on the flat.
While not racing at the top level over hurdles, his staying prowess has been enough for him to win races prior to his flat races. Given a very light 2020, Stratum Albion with just two low-class hurdle starts before running 2nd in the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup (3200m) on the flat. It gives Stratum Albion a very similar profile to Max Dynamite who Mullins brought out in 2015 to finish 2nd in the Melbourne Cup and then again in 2017 when 3rd.
Through those experiences and with a plethora of jumpers to select from, Mullins rating Stratum Albion as good as Max Dynamite must be respected. He looks to have perfected his eye for travelling horses where nailed it last year with True Self which ran 2nd and 1st in it’s only two Australian starts having just missed the Melbourne Cup ballot.
If Dashing Willoughby can win the Melbourne Cup, it will be one of the greatest training performances ever after the English raider ran stone motherless in the Caulfield cup where jockey Michael Walker commented that the gelding didn’t feel right.
Added to the drama of Dashing Willoughby was Walker’s decision to partner the raider ahead of Prince of Arran who he previously placed twice in the Melbourne Cup and won the Geelong Cup with.
Nonetheless, Walker has been confident that Dashing Willoughby will emerge as a weight-for-age star of the future after this Cup campaign which included strong English from winning the Listed Buckhounds Stakes (2400m) and Group 2 Hendy II Stakes (3200m) in which he defeated former Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter.
Taking extended European form into account, Dashing Willoughby has been beaten by Twilight Payment and Stratum Albion in the past but even accounting for the fact those runners are in the twilight if their career, it’s hard to make a case for Dashing Willoughby here until he further acclimatised to the firm Australian ground.
The stunning chestnut is back for a third tilt at the Melbourne Cup after running 4th in his first attempt and then 7th in last year’s edition where he was hitting the line well and beaten just 1.4L.
He follows an identical lead-up as last year where he was 3rd in the Turnbull Stakes (2000m) and then 5th in the Caulfield Cup (2400m), both runs being full of merit for a horse that has been aimed at this 3200m assignment all year.
By not racing over Autumn where Finche would have otherwise won his first Group 1 race, the Waller stable has ensured Finche carries no more than 0.5kg more than he has carried in his previous two attempts, 54kg on both occasions. Proven at the two miles, Finche will again be right in the finish where he is hard to fault outside the fact he has only won one race in the three years he has been in Australia.
The globetrotting star that has raced incredibly well everywhere other than home returns for a third crack at the Cup having previously twice finished 3rd in the race. Although he has raced in England, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Hong Kong in the past three years, Australia is clearly the happiest hunting ground for Prince of Arran and popular trainer Charlie Fellowes.
So strong is his affinity with our shores, more than 75% of the $3.1 million that Prince of Arran has earned has been won in Australia from just 7 starts, pf which is the worst finishing the Caulfield Cup at his last start where he came from last to run an eye-catching 4th. And quite frankly, had he drawn better than barrier 15 in the field of 18 he probably would have won too.
With that Caulfield run, Prince of Arran enters his third Melbourne Cup assignment with just one lead-up run whereas he has had two in his previous attempts however on both occasions, he needed them to secure his spot in the Cup field.
Having been able to board his flight to Australia this time assured a start, Fellowes has been able to manage the prep with more control which should suit the 8-year-old gelding which thrives at Flemington and will be right there in the finish again as one of the very few horses proven at this trip and with a very manageable weight given his successes.
The best of the beaten runners in last year’s Melbourne Cup where he was beaten by 0.9L when flying home from the tail of the field to finish 5th, Surprise Baby saddles up again here where Paul Preusker has spent 12 months carefully planning this campaign.
In doing so, Preusker raced Surprise Baby sparingly having elected not to race him in Autumn and then giving him just two runs as a lead-up to the Cup. It’s a notably European-style of preparation without the long haul flight but based on those two runs, the horse is absolutely spot on for this assignment where leading hoop Craig Williams takes the ride having ventured to Preusker’s Horsham base on several occasions to familiarise himself with the 6-year-old.
From his two runs since last year’s Cup, Surprise Baby ran a fast-finishing 2nd in the Group 2 Feehan Stakes (1600m) before again finishing well in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) when coming from the tail to only be beaten 2.4L.
Having seen all he needed to from his stable star, Preusker was delighted with how Surprise Baby savaged the line on both occasions to give him confidence that he could go straight into the Cup with just those runs, entering fresher than most runners he’ll be taking on.
By not racing over Autumn, Surprise Baby has maintained the trademark turn of foot which won him last year’s Group 2 Adelaide Cup (3200m) and should see him improve on last year’s 5th place.
14. King of Leogrance (6yo Gelding – Camelot (GB) x Amourette (FR)) – 53.5kg – SCRATCHED
Record: 15-5:3:3 – Prizemoney: $588,038
Trainer: Danny O’Brien
Jockey: Damien Lane
As one of the few horses in the field to have won over two miles this year, this has always been the target for King of Leogrance after producing a path of destruction behind him in Autumn which included victories in the Listed Roy Higgins Quality (2600m) and Group 2 Adelaide Cup (3200m).
With the short turnaround from the Adelaide Cup into the Spring, there hasn’t been much of a break for King of Leogrance but the beach training facilities at Barwon Heads looks to have kept the stayer ticking over nicely, following a European-style prep with carefully spaced runs 4-8 weeks in between.
Following a subpar run in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m), questions may have been asked as to whether Kind of Leogrance had come up as well as he did in Winter but those concerns were allayed with an excellent run in the Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m) where he was still coming to the line like a horse screaming out for 3200m.
Historically, the Adelaide Cup is not great form for the Melbourne Cup but with more local trainers giving their horses European-style preps, King of Leogrance shapes as the best of Lloyd Williams’ three runners in the race.
The boom horse of Australia over the past 6 months finally steps up to the plate for a race he has long been pegged as the best domestic chance, albeit bred and brought from overseas.
As a Northern Hemisphere born 3-year-old, he defied history to win the Group 1 South Australia Derby (2400m) in May where he was giving 6 months of age and development to his rivals before blowing them away with a commanding performance. Since then, many have flagged Russian Camelot as a future Cup winner with Danny O’Brien progressing him through the weight-for-age races to avoid any weight penalty for this Cup assault.
To get here, he proved he could match it with Australia’s better horses when winning the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) before being gunned down on the line in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m). He then jumped favourite in the Cox Plate (2040m) where he was gallant as the best-performed local horse where 3rd, beaten 2L in a run that was full of merit.
He now steps up to 3200m for the first time but with the manner this stallion settles, it will be no issue where he drops down 3kg from his Cox Plate run by returning to handicap conditions. Many experts will argue his Underwood win was not worthy of a Group 1 given Australia’s weakness within the weight-for-age ranks but this horse has been impressively consistent in all his races, hitting the line like a horse that will thrive over two miles at Flemington.
Expect to see Russian Camelot as one of the late closers hitting the line but if he doesn’t win it this year, he will in the future.
Booking his ticket after winning the Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m), Steel Prince tackles the Melbourne Cup again after finishing 9th in last year’s running where he was beaten 2.1L.
Since then, he has come back in significantly better order where he brought Winter staying form into last year’s Cup whereas he has proven he can match it with Spring form this time around as evidenced by his Geelong Cup win where he beat a strong field.
History has proven the Geelong Cup to be one of the more successful lead-in races for the Melbourne Cup with former raiders Americain (2011) and Dunaden (2012) landing the Geelong-Melbourne Cup doubles while last year’s Geelong Cup winner Prince of Arran went on to run 3rd in the Melbourne Cup.
Prior to his Geelong Cup win, Steel Prince was sound in the Group 3 Bart Cummings Stakes (2500m) when 3rd behind Persan who had a 3kg weight advantage so all has been on track in the lead up to his second Melbourne Cup attempt where he has a very manageable weight to be there in the finish.
If the Caulfield Cup was 50m shorter, The Chosen One would be entering here looking to secure the Cups double, alas he was run down the final stages to run a gallant 3rd as a $61 chance where punters considered him a tier below the legitimate Cup hopefuls.
But turning things around in that run, The Chosen one carries the hope of New Zealand as the only Kiwi-trained horse in the field who will be hoping to go one better than his 2nd placing in the Group 1 Sydney Cup behind upset winner Etah James.
Like many of the Kiwi champions that have tackled this race, The Chosen One has a stout pedigree which should see him thrive 3200m where he just lacked a bit of experience and maturity when tackling this race last year. 12 months on, he’s settling much better in his races where he is capable of being causing a boilover if there’s a bit of give in the ground.
Winning his way into the field through Saturday’s Group 3 Hotham Handicap (2500m), he’ll have to do what no European raider has done before – win the Cup off a three day backup.
The closest they have come was when Prince of Arran ran 3rd off the quick backup in 2018 but with the way horses race several weeks spaced apart many which attempt the quick backup are flat by the time Tuesday comes around.
Where Ashrun may be able to buck this trend was that he was looked after in a sense, making just one sweeping run to the line where he was put to sleep in transit, saving as much energy as possible in the process. To then wake up and come with that sweeping run carrying the topweight was full of merit.
His European form is sound with a 2nd placing in the Group 2 Prix Kergolay (3000m) which is the same race won by Americain in 2010 and Protectionst in 2014 en route to their Melbourne Cup victories, the latter also trainer by Wohler. Had Ashrun secured his spot in the Cup without having to run in the Hotham, he’d be a genuine first five prospect but even with an 8.5kg drop in weight from the Hotham, the 3-day backup is notoriously tougher for the raiders than locals.
The Group 1 VRC Derby (2500m) of last year looked to have been in a bit of trouble through his Sydney autumn campaign when unplaced in four starts before venturing down to South Australia where things turned around. Although he has not won again since his Derby win, a 3rd placing behind Russian Camelot in the Group 1 South Australian Derby (2400m) show enough to justify a Melbourne Cup attempt this season with Efficient the last Derby winner to come back the following season and win the Cup in 2007.
From his three starts in Spring, Warning is yet to finish any closer than 6th in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) which was full of merit coming from a long way back, before running 12th in the Caulfield Cup.
On his form, it would appear that the Melbourne Cup will be a stretch too far this year but keen followers of Warning will appreciate that he is a horse that gets better with racing but there will be a slight query as to whether he’ll see out the 3200m this time around.
The surprise winner of the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) comes to the Melbourne Cup via a Winter detour to New Zealand where he was 4th in the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m).
It’s no secret that he thrives over the two miles which explains some of his lesser form over shorter distances where some performances leave you asking whether he’s had enough as a racehorse. But as usual, he started discovering some of that form last start in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m) which was run on Soft going to his liking.
Although Etah James has had some big wins to drive his earnings into seven figures, his biggest wins can be most attributed to placement where he’s landed his biggest cheques against the lower rung of stayers. Nonetheless, he’ll battle all day but would be better suited in wetter conditions like he will find in the off-season.
As the the youngest horse in the field who is technically still a 3-year-old, Tiger Moth is one of the most controversial runners in the field where many have queried the handicappers decision to penalise him 2.5kg for his win in the Listed Kilternan Stakes (2400m) in September which virtually assured the colt a start, just before the Cups flight departed from Europe.
To earn such a penalty from just his fourth career start has been flagged by locals as a marketing ploy to ensure another international runner in the Cup for a horse that only broke his maiden two starts earlier in June. Between that maiden and his Kilternan win, he ran 2nd in the Group 1 Irish Derby (2400m) which has traditionally not been a strong form race for the Melbourne Cup due to its proximity on the European calendar with the English and French Derbies, dividing top talent across three countries.
Asking a 3-year-old to tackle the Melbourne Cup in just his fifth career start is a monumental ask but it does follow a similar profile to 2017 Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter who was also a European 3-year-old but doing so at his 8th career start and with stronger English from rather than Irish.
With no weight on his back, look for Tiger Moth to be flying home late but with his relatively weak form lines, Coolmore has more a credentialed runner in the race.
Having booked her Melbourne Cup start by winning ballot exemption in the Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes (2800m) over Winter, it’s been a very carefully planned Spring campaign for Oceanex whose goal has firmly been the Melbourne Cup since winning that race in May.
On paper, the three donuts next to Oceanex’s name don’t look great but she was only beaten 4.65L in the Turnbull Stakes before running 3rd in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m).
With conditions that were expected to favour Oceanex at Moonee Valley where she settled on the speed on a day where it was difficult to make ground from the back, she was relatively one-paced to the line where connections would have liked to see her staying on better.
At this stage of her career, she is just a tad below the top tier of stayers in Melbourne and may benefit from another year of off-season racing before another shot at next year’s Cup.
The VRC Oaks winner of last year returns to her happy hunting ground where, this time 12 months ago, she emerged as one of the most promising staying prospects winning the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m) and then backing up in five days to land the Group 1 VRC Oaks (2500m).
Given the early timing of the VRC Oaks, it is a race that traditionally does not stack up particularly well which is why winners tend to set their sights lower towards the Caulfield Cup however Miami Bound’s affinity with Flemington sees her tackle the 3200m here. She enters via a surprise win in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m) where she upset more credentialed stayers to salute at $26 in what was ultimately a soft 2.5L win.
With 51kg on her back, it’s a very light weight but history is deeply against her with Light Fingers being the last mare to win the VRC Oaks and then the Melbourne Cup the following year, all the way back in 1965. To be taking on much more seasoned stayers here, it would take an exceptional mare to win this race as a 4-year-old but here which is why she’ll be more fancied next year.
If horses won the Melbourne Cup on nothing other than toughness, this bloke would be the favourite. He’s had the longest preparation imaginable for a Cup runner having raced 1st up on April 20 in a Wangratta maiden over 1400m. Running on to finish third, remarkably it was the worst run Persan has put in from his next 9 runs for the monster prep of which he has not finished worse than 2n in any start since that maiden.
In doing so, he emerged through Winter as an emerging stayer having scooped up all the off-season staying races against his own age group before graduating into Open company as a 4-year-old.
To have kept a colt up as long as they have to be performing at this level is one of the great training stories of the Cup where Persan secured a golden ticket when winning the Group 3 Bart Cummings Stakes (2500m) which was the biggest victory of his career in the 10th run of his prep on October 3.
Cups King Bart Cummings once said that no horse can win the Cup without first logging 10,000m in his legs prior to their Cup run and to Persan’s credit, the colt enters the biggest assignment of his career with 20,900m – easily the most in the field. No one can question the toughness of this colt but the quality of his opposition over Winter has been a few tiers below what he faces here where he’ll be better positioned next year after a well-earned break.
The Potential Heartwarming Stories
Jordan Childs, Stratum Albion
As the son of champion jockey Greg Childs, expectations have always been high of Jordy who many would consider hard done by to be replaced aboard Surprise Baby after riding him to 5th in last years Melbourne Cup. A win here would be bittersweet for the young hoop and his family where his father remarkably never won among his 72 Group 1 wins.
Coolmore & Aiden O’Brien, Anthony Van Dyke or Tiger Moth
It’s crazy to think that Coolmore has invested an unthinkable amount of money in horse racing and are still yet to win the Melbourne Cup. So incensed was O’Brien with his treatment by Racing Victoria stewards in 2008, it was another seven year until he returned with Kingfisher and Bondi Beach in 2015 for another attempt. Alas, he continued falling short and witnessed son Joseph achieve the feat of victory when Rekindling saluted for the younger O’Brien in 2017. Depending on who you ask, a Coolmore & Aiden O’Brien victory will either remove the demons of history’s greatest trainer or be another example of capitalism prevailing.
Paul Preusker, Surprise Baby
Far-and-below, the most low-key trainer amid the local hopes, Paul Preusker trains a small team out of Horsham, located 300km northwest of Melbourne. Coupled with Preusker’s smaller profile, connections purchased Surprise Baby for just $5,500 at an online sale. Since then, he’s won almost $1 million for connections who line up here in a $7.75m race.
Charlie Fellowes, Prince of Arran
As Twitter followers will understand, Charlie Fellowes is one of the most likable personalities in the global racing industry where he has twice come agonisingly close to winning the Melbourne Cup in a budding career. Having travelled all over the world, there is nowhere that Charlie or Prince of Arran have performed better than Australia so it would be fitting if they could go one better in their third and (presumed) final venture down under where they have earned connections $2.6 million in just 7 starts.
- Surprise Baby
- Sir Dragonet
- Prince of Arran
Editor’s note: The original selection for 5th was 14. King of Leogrance but changed to 11. Finche following the scratching of King of Leogrance on the morning of the Cup.
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