Global giants hunt first Cup glory

5 min read

Nothing says more for the internationalisation of the G1 Lexus Melbourne Cup than the fact that Tuesday's race will be a battle between powerhouses Aidan O'Brien and Godolphin, with John Gosden thrown in for good measure.

Godolphin and the Ballydoyle operation of O'Brien have battled it out on racecourses across the world over the past 20 years but neither of them have tasted glory in the world's richest handicap.

Three times the royal blue of Godolphin have finished runner-up in the race, while last year O'Brien had to settle for second as his son Joseph claimed the prize with Rekindling (High Chaparral {Ire}).

This year, both operations have three runners. O'Brien has the favourite Yucatan {Ire} (Galileo {Ire}} along with The Cliffsmofmoher (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Rostropovich (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), with the former two owned by the man who has won the past two Melbourne Cups, and six overall, Lloyd Williams.

Aidan O'Brien

Godolphin has three runners with three different stables. Saeed Bin Suroor, three-times a Melbourne Cup runner-up, saddles up G1 Caulfield Cup winner Best Solution (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}), looking to become just the second horse in 43 years to win with the No.1 saddlecloth.

At the other end of the weight scale is Cross Counter (GB) (Teofilio {Ire}) for Charlie Appleby, who is looking to become the second Northern Hemisphere 3-year-old in as many years to win the race.

Godolphin's set is complete with the James Cummings trained import Avilius (GB) (Pivotal {GB}), who has emerged as the leading locally-trained contender after winning his first four races in Australia before finishing fourth in the G1 Cox Plate.

Gosden's brilliant 2018 continued with Enable's (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) win in the Breeders' Cup Turf on Saturday, the trainer's 12th at the top level this year. Muntahaa (Ire) (Dansili {GB}) is just his second runner in the Melbourne Cup and comes off an emphatic win in the Ebor H. at York.

Given the year he has had, it would be no surprise to see Gosden once again defy the two giants and take away the riches.

John Gosden

But of course there are others with an eye on the Australian spoils, including Ian Williams with Magic Circle (Ire) (Makfi {GB}), the 7-year-old that owner Marwan Koukash set aside for this race the moment he won the G3 Henry II S. at Sandown back in May.

In contrast, Charlie Fellowes qualified A Prince of Arran (GB) (Shirocco {Ger}) for this race at the very last opportunity with a win in the G3 Lexus S. on Saturday, while Hughie Morrison returns with last year's favourite Marmelo (GB) (Duke of Marmalade {Ire}), hoping for more luck the second time around.

Apart from Cummings, Chris Waller looks to hold the best hopes of ensuring the Cup doesn’t depart Australian shores, with a three-pronged attack consisting of Queensland Oaks winner Youngstar (High Chaparral {Ire}), the 10-year-old Who Shot Thebarman (NZ) (Yamanin Vital {NZ}) and the import Finche (GB) (Frankel {GB}), who ran third in the G3 Geelong Cup.

The winner of that race, Runaway (Manhattan Rain), is the sole runner for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, and one of only four Australian-bred runners, along with Youngstar, 2017 Victoria Derby winner Ace High (High Chaparral {Ire}) as well as NZ-trained Sir Charles Road (Myboycharlie {Ire}).

Zacada (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}) is one of two New Zealand-bred runners, along with Who Shot Thebarman (NZ).

Group 3 bookends

There are two other Group races at Flemington on Tuesday, with the G3 Bumble S. and the G3 The Hong Kong Jockey Club S.

The Bumble S. for the 2-year-old fillies features Champagne Boom (Spirit of Boom), the impressive winner of the Debutant S. at Caulfield, up against some well-bred debutantes looking to make an impression.

Sunlight's full sister Sisstar (Zoustar) is the obvious one from the first starters. She has won two trials in the past two weeks and looks to be improving every time Tony McEvoy puts her out in public. She was a $600,000 buy at this year's Magic Millions and would already be worth much more than that should she win this, given her sister's Group 1 heroics on Saturday.

Waller brings Still Single (More Than Ready {USA}) to Flemington off a good trial win at Rosehill and as a $500,000 yearling, being out of a stakes-winning sister to Doubtful Jack and Fab Fevola, she is sure to be speedy.

Bella Rosa (Snitzel) is also out of a Listed winner, from a fast family and was also a recent trial winner.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club S. finishes off the program and features plenty of quality mares, including the Godolphin duo Resin (Exceed and Excel) and Savatiano (Street Cry {Ire}).

Recent G2 Shannon S. winner Noire (Foxwedge) also looms as a contender as does the winner of this race last year, Pedrena (Mossman).

Listed trio

There are also three Listed races at Flemington

The Jim Beam Black S. is a 1400m race for the 3-year-old fillies, with Archie Alexander's Mirette (Unencumbered), coming off a close-up sixth in the G1 Thousand Guineas, at the top of the market.

Two unbeaten fillies, Beauty (Smart Missile) and Notation (Fastnet Rock), are expected to be her main rivals, but again it is an open field.

The Listed Furphy Plate sees Waller field four runners, including Kaonic (Savabeel), while at the top of the weights, Waterhouse and Bott's Stampede (High Chaparral {Ire}) comes off a big win on the wet track at Randwick last time out.

The Listed MSS Security Sprint S. looks a typically open handicap.

Around the grounds

The only other black-type racing in Australia takes place in Perth with the running of the Tabtouch Burgess Queen S. The unbeaten Arcadia Queen (Pierro) is heavily favoured to continue her winning ways.

In New Zealand, the G3 OMA S. at Ellerslie features Lizzie L'Amour (Zabeel {NZ}) as a short-priced favourite having finished second in the G1 Livamol Classic at her most recent start.