2017 Melbourne Cup – Preview, a week out
Rather than wait until the final acceptances are known before Melbourne Cup Day, I thought I might jump in a week out from the Great Race. We look at the horses most likely to line-up next Tuesday.
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Here, we chew the fat on some of the runners, and what we know about them during the lead-up week to Derby Day this Saturday. The question mark for all horses will be their final barrier draw, and the weather. It’s been raining on and off in Melbourne this week, but Flemington does drain very well. So an exceptional soaking of rain between now and next Tuesday will see some horses fortunes changing for the better, while some others less so.
This article focuses on the 24 horses still in the ballot, plus two which could sneak in.
Some of the horses have not had confirmed jockeys; but where we do know them, we have named them.
Red Cardinal – Kerrin McEvoy
I don’t know a lot about this horse, but he brings solid European form with him. He’s from the same stable as 2014 winner Protectionist (Andreas Wohler) and has won or been placed 9 times out of 10 starts. Beaten by Marmelo in the Prix Kergorlay back on the 20th August (fifth), that form-line could be the one to lock in on. The world’s best jockey Ryan Moore was booked to ride him, but wasn’t able to make it to Melbourne in time, due to commitments in the USA for the Breeders Cup meeting this weekend. Kerrin McEvoy takes the ride instead.
Marmelo – Hugh Bowman
We didn’t really know a lot about this horse prior to the Caulfield Cup. His run in that race was an eye-catcher, considering the interference caused by some of the other runners, and the track bias favouring horses along the inside rail. He will only improve upon that run. Good form out of Europe too, winning the Prix Kergorlay back in August, defeating Red Cardinal (as mentioned above). Hugh Bowman will be the pilot.
Tiberian – Olivier Peslier
For me, this French galloper looks a prospect. A winner of 4 out of 5 races in 2017, with top French jockey Olivier Peslier booked to ride. I would suggest getting in early with the odds, as Tiberian appears to be placed at good money, going anywhere between $26 and $31.00. He’s likely to come in by half before the weekend is out. Australian Bloodstock has invested heavily in the French stallion, and he may end up doing future stud duty here in Australia. Could he follow in the footsteps of Americain and Dunaden? He hasn’t won at Group 1 level yet, nor has he raced up to 3200m. Still, one to consider.
Johannes Vermeer – Ben Melham
He produced the best run of the Caulfield Stakes without winning it. A solid third in the Caulfield Cup has seen his odds come in significantly. Sure to be a popular draw for Aussie punters mainly because they’ve seen him twice, and have the luxury of betting on a horse without going in blind, as they will with some other runners. Sure to be paying under $10.00.
Wicklow Brave – Zac Purton
Returned to Australian racing, running in the Caulfield Cup, albeit unsuccessfully. He’d be at long odds, but is expected to have Hong Kong’s Zac Purton in the saddle, though trainer Willie Mullins has three runners still in contention, and the jockeys (Purton and Moreira) could shuffle around yet, depending on whether Thomas Hobson gets into the field.
US Army Ranger – TBA
An interesting horse with an interesting background. As a juvenile, he won his first two races, was then made favourite for the 2016 Epsom Derby, promptly finishing second. Not a bad way to start your career. Since June 2016, he hasn’t won a race, but did compete in the 3200m Goodwood Cup, which also featured fellow rivals Qewy, Wicklow Brave, and a former cup participant Big Orange. Based on current form, he’d be hard to have, though if he got anywhere near his three-year-old form, He’d be right up there.
Rekindling – Corey Brown
This Irish galloper has only been to the races nine times and gets to line up in arguably the toughest staying race on the planet. He raced in last seasons Epsom Derby finishing third last, and his form though only moderate, shouldn’t frighten too many of his rivals on race-day. Former Melbourne Cup winning jockey Corey Brown gets the ride.
Max Dynamite – Joao Moreira (may change)
If Joao does ride this horse, he will be hoping to go one better after finishing second on Heartbreak City last year. And prior to that, Max Dynamite finished second in the 2015 Cup behind Prince Of Penzance, though Frankie Dettori was the proverbial bull in the china shop with his shocking ride on MD and was suspended as a result. He’s an 8-year-old now, and he’d need some luck to feature again.
Qewy – TBA
This time last year, Qewy was a horse on a mission. The winner of the Geelong Cup, he eventually ran fourth in last years Cup. His stable isn’t sure whether he’ll run in this year’s race. Charlie Appleby has said he’ll need to win convincingly in this weeks Bendigo Cup (a seven-horse field). Currently in the ballot at 22, if he stays, they’ll need to find a jockey. The previous rider Kerrin McEvoy is engaged, so too possibly Craig Williams. If Qewy drops out, Mick Kent’s Group 1 winning mare Abbey Marie will sneak into the 24.
Nakeeta – TBA
Is this the first Scottish trained horse to contest the Melbourne Cup? I’d have to do some digging, but yes, Iain Jardine who is based in the southern Scottish district of Carrutherstown brings his consistent 6-year-old gelding Nakeeta to town. If he got up to win, there’s likely to be a few drams of whiskey going down the hatch. There’s only one problem. Nakeeta has never contested a Group race, but has got into the ballot after winning the Class 2 Ebor Handicap a few months back. That race form-line has to be respected, since it is the same pathway that Heartbreak City took last year, and he eventually ran second to Almandin in a ding-dong battle to the finish line.
Wall Of Fire – Craig Williams
English galloper Wall Of Fire just scrapes into the field and was recently seen running second in the Herbert Power Handicap (behind Lord Fandango), which qualified him for the Cup. He raced in Dubai in his only other Group 2 start, plus he went to the USA and raced over 3200m in a Group 3 race at Belmont Park, where the winner was Red Cardinal. It looks like he can certainly stay like the mother-in-law, but I think I’d prefer other proven horses come next Tuesday. Craig Williams gets the ride, though will be waiting to see the outcome of Saturday’s Lexus Stakes, as WOF is currently 24th in the ballot. Horses like Alward, Harlem, Vengeur Masque or even old Kiwi stayer Pentathlon could leap frog the ballot.
Thomas Hobson (Second Emergency) – Joao Moreira
Not sure if he’ll get into the final field, he is (as of Oct 31st), 26th in the ballot. Qewy might come out, so too Hartnell, bringing him in by two.
Almandin – Frankie Dettori
The winner from last year gets a 4kg weight impost up to 56.5kg. Last years rider Kerrin McEvoy has since opted to ride Irish raider Red Cardinal, so the Williams/Hickmott partnership have bought in Italian legend Frankie Dettori for the ride. Let’s hope he doesn’t play skittles with the field like he did in 2015. No doubt Chief Steward Terry Bailey will have a word in his ear before the race. Likely to start favourite, and wouldn’t surprise if he went back-to-back.
Humidor – Blake Shinn
After some scratchy performances earlier in his prep, it seems Darren Weir has found the recipe to get the best out of his Group 1 stable star. The previous jockey Damian Lane came in for a bit of criticism for his ride in the Caulfield Cup, which saw Blake Shinn hop onboard for a superb run in the Cox Plate just in behind Winx. This has prompted Weir and the horse’s connections to replace Lane with Shinn, and that to me looks like an inspired move. Shinn backed it up riding 4 winners on Cox Plate day. A man in form, and he’s been told how to ride Humidor and when to present at the right time.
Jon Snow – Steve Baster
The sole Kiwi owned and trained galloper in the race will surely come into contention if there is significant rain between now and Cup Day. He’s not quite the mudlark that fellow Kiwi Van Der Hum was when winning the 1976 Cup on what looked like a lake, but still, Jon Snow won the ATC Australian Derby on a heavy track. Steve Baster is in fine form this Spring and continues his association. No doubt a lot of money from across the ditch will go on this horse.
Ventura Storm –
Regan Bayliss Glen Boss
A few weeks back, the Hayes/Dabernig import came into calculations following his runner-up to Winx in the Turnbull Stakes. Unfortunately, he pulled up sore in the Caulfield Cup, and has been trying to push through his issues a week out. His price might be on the drift now. Regan Bayliss is expected to ride for the Lindsay Park operation.
Late Mail: Regan Bayliss picked up a 7 meeting suspension at the mid-week Bendigo meeting (1 Nov), and has been replaced by Glen Boss.
Who Shot Thebarman – Tommy Berry
He’s in the elderly class now, but you wouldn’t have thought so after his dashing performance to win the Moonee Valley Cup on the weekend. It was like winding back the clock. I remember him winning the Zipping Classic with James McDonald aboard back in 2015. He won by 8 lengths! A proven performer over two miles, needs to be ridden a lot handier to the pace, so that his trademark stamina can kick in over the concluding stages. Wouldn’t he bring the house down if he got up to win? Regular rider Blake Shinn is now on Humidor, so Chris Waller has opted for Tommy Berry.
Big Duke – Brenton Avdulla (unconfirmed)
This guy was backed in as the odds-on favourite in the Moonee Valley Cup last weekend, but was blocked for racing room and finished out of the money. He’s won a few long-distance races, but at this time of the year, some horses are being trained to the minute, some are peaking at the right time, while others seem to be treading water. I hope I’m not wrong, but Big Duke seems to be in the latter category. He’ll go straight into Cup without a further lead-up race. Regular rider Brenton Avdulla has the front-running for this gig.
Amelie’s Star – Dean Yendall
An impressive win in the Bart Cummings over 2500m saw this mare gain a ballot entry exception to qualify directly for the Melbourne Cup. Her run in the Caulfield Cup was underwhelming, so I don’t think she’ll capture the hearts and minds of punters by race-day. A lightweight jockey is required, as she’ll be carrying a minimum 51kg. Craig Williams rode her in the Caulfield Cup, but it now looks like Dean Yendall has picked up the ride because he can ride at that lesser weight.
Single Gaze – Kathy O’Hara
Well, we know this race will have at least one confirmed female jockey, with Kathy O’Hara onboard the popular Canberra mare. A strong run for second in the Caulfield Cup, the only downside was O’Hara being outed for several meetings after her ride incurred the wrath of the Stewards. Single Gaze is another who will benefit from a handy draw, and being on-speed. Currently at $41.00, that is well over the odds. Get on SG now!
Hartnell – Damian Lane
Last week there was the real possibility that the Godolphin stable would have no runners in the 2017 Cup. I think James Cummings may have been pressured by the Dubai based empire to get a runner in – regardless, and Hartnell appears to be the best of an ordinary bunch. A great horse as we know, but no specialist over the 3200m, despite running third last year. Cummings did say that the Cup appeals more than the Emirates Stakes the following week, especially if Winx lines up, but there’s no guarantee from the Waller camp that’ll happen either. Damian Lane has picked up the ride in lieu of losing out on the Humidor ride.
Libran – Glynn Schoefield (unconfirmed)
Libran is one of those horses that seems to be finding form at the right time. He’s one of two runners for the Chris Waller stable, and is not without a chance, considering his pedigree over the distance, and his slashing run behind his stablemate Who Shotthebarman in the Moonee Valley Cup. That race has always proved to be a good form-line for the Melbourne Cup. Just ask Michelle Payne and Prince Of Penzance, who occupied the same position/result two years ago, and we all know what happened two weeks later!
Gallante – Katelyn Mallyon (unconfirmed)
Will we see Katelyn Mallyon get the ride aboard the Hickmott/Williams horse? The Melbourne Cup is all about high stakes being played at the Last Chance Saloon, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Lloyd Williams will have a few offers from top riders around the world asking about his horses. Already Frankie Dettori will be aboard likely favourite Almandin, rather than Max Dynamite, who he rode into second place in 2015. As for Gallante, he is a winner of the 3200m Sydney Cup, but his prep this time in has been interrupted, so we’re not sure which horse will turn up. Like Jon Snow, he would prefer the track to be soaking wet.
Bondi Beach – TBA
The former Irish galloper transferred to the Williams/Hickmott team after last years Melbourne Cup. Unfortunately, his current form is not good, and by Cup Day, he won’t have seen a competitive race for eight weeks! Not the best conditioning to bring a horse into a race as big as this, but Robert Hickmott knows what he’s doing. Who will ride him is the great mystery.
Boom Time – Corey Parish
The Hayes, Hayes and Dabernig horse won the Caulfield Cup two weeks back at huge odds. Jockey Corey Parish took advantage on the inside running rail to snatch victory. I don’t think conditions will be quite the same for him next Tuesday. It would be another huge upset if he delivers again, and somehow, I think the occasion might be beyond him.
Abbey Marie – TBA First Emergency
If Qewy doesn’t run, she will step into 24th place. A decent run in the Caulfield Cup (sixth), this girl can certainly stay.
Melbourne Cup – check the odds on William Hill