by JOHN MUCCIOLO
On Monday at 11 p.m. (EST), or Tuesday afternoon in Australia, Flemington Racecourse will host “the race that stops a nation.” The A$7.1 million Melbourne Cup (G1) will be the highlight of the Melbourne Cup Carnival that takes place from November 3-10 at Flemington.
First edition of this race came in 1861 won by Archer, who came back to defend his title the following season. Makybe Diva holds the current record of three Melbourne Cup tallies with three. The legendary daughter of Desert King ripped off historic wins spanning 2003-2005.
The late Bart Cummings saddled a staggering 12 winners of the race, and his grandson James will hope to carry on the family legacy when he sends out Avilius. Coincidentally, Avilius was best in The Bart Cummings H. (G3), a race named for the legendary conditioner.
The Melbourne Cup is competed at the grueling 3,200-meters distance (approximately 2 miles) on the Flemington turf course. A total of 24 horses are set for the feature in a most competitive renewal of Australia’s biggest event.
Global power Godolphin aims to take their first Cup and will have a three-pronged attack. The aforementioned Avilius will be joined by Caulfield Cup (G1) hero Best Solution, as well as fine European stayer Cross Counter.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien will saddle three in hopes of winning his first Melbourne Cup. The living-legend conditioner has gone close in recent years when third in 2016 with Mahler, followed by 2017 runner-up Johannes Vermeer. It is one of the few trophies missing for the Irishman.
O’Brien has a big shot this campaign once again. Yucatan and Cliffs of Moher (renamed ‘The Cliffsofmoher’ for his Australian run), are well-bred sons of Galileo both on the upswing. The third from the mighty barn is Rostropovich, a son of Frankel who finished fifth in the Cox Plate (G1) behind superstar Winx.
Japanese invaders have endured some success in this race, with Delta Blues leading a one-two Japan finish in the 2006 Melbourne Cup. Chestnut Coat will hope to give them their second tally on Tuesday. Son of Heart’s Cry might be up to the task.
Youngstar is thought of as one of the top local threats to win the storied event. Chris Waller pupil has endured major success running with the boys this campaign and she thrives at Flemington. Gai Waterhouse’s Runaway was a fine local prep winner and will aim to lead the field at every call.
Champion pilot Hugh Bowman opted to ride Marmelo over a few others in the cast. Seven-year-old son of Duke of Marmalade was popular with the punters when ninth in this race a year ago and he comes in fresh for trainer Hughie Morrison this time around. Other European shippers attracting support are Magic Circle representing trainer Ian Williams and John Gosden’s Muntahaa.
The magnificent event never disappoints and this particular field is sure to produce a most exciting finish. It’s the Melbourne Cup after all!