Wondering who to put your hard-earned on in the Melbourne Cup? Andrew Garvey tests the waters - and waves in some favourites.
This time last year he was the Cup favourite. In 2017 his form is not as strong and he is well down the market order. However, his form apart from a last-start failure at Caulfield has been solid enough and he did run third last year. Against that is the fact he does have to shoulder an extra 1.5kg. Punters would be a long way ahead by not backing Cup runners owned by Sheikh Mohammed to win over the past 20 years but placings at odds have been frequent. One for the multiples.
His credentials were looking outstanding before Damien Oliver's suspension this week. It read five times Cup-winning owner, dual Cup-winning trainer, three times Cup-winning jockey and a Cup winner himself. Now he has to carry a bloke who, while a champion jockey overseas, has a great losing record in the Melbourne Cup. Almandin faces a stiff rise in the weights on his win last year but if you can overlook his last start failure, he has to be included in the better chances because his previous win was most impressive.
Almandin faces a stiff rise in the weights on his win last year. Photo: AAP
Has a mind of his own but his close second in the Cox Plate showed that on his day, he is nearly as good as any horse around, apart from Winx. Trainer Darren Weir was unhappy with the ride in the Caulfield Cup prior to that so it could be wise to overlook that failure. He has a good horse's weight but if the breaks go his way is he capable of going close enough to get the cigar.
His father might be a teaser but this fellow looms as the real thing as far as Cup contenders go. He has won four of his five starts this year in France and looked good winning over 2500 metres at group 2 level last start. Last year his managing owner and syndicator Darren Dance purchased Heartbreak City to win the Cup only to miss by the narrowest of margins. He might not be of noble blood but he looks capable of winning - and if he does expect a conga line of owners behind Darren and the Cup.
Owned and trained in the same interests as 2014 winner Protectionist and to be ridden by dual Cup winner Kerrin McEvoy. Much travelled six-year-old whose most recent form, winning in Germany and the US, was very good before last-start failure in France in mid-August. Whether he might be too fresh could be a query but he is unbeaten in two starts over 3200m. If our George is running a sweep at the Vatican on Tuesday, he'll definitely be the one everyone wants to draw.
Red Cardinal at Werribee. Photo: AAP
Too good for his rivals when leading all the way to win the Prix Kergolay, the race won by subsequent Cup winners Protectionist and Americain before arriving in Australia. After settling well back he finished off strongly in the Caulfield Cup at his local debut. Unlike his name - a shortened version of marshmallow - he's better suited on firmer rather than soft tracks. Might not be the best name for the Cup honour roll but sounds better than wizz fizz, sherbie or freddo.
Yet another of the Lloyd Williams cavalcade. By champion European staying sire and after winning a group 1 aged two in France, he took a while to find form again after injury. Stable then had enough confidence to send him to Australia and two runs here have been excellent, including an unlucky third in the Caulfield Cup. Apparently his namesake was a Dutch painter who died penniless but punters who stick with him look a good chance to shout their mates a few "Johannes Vermeers" post race.
SCRATCHED: Who Shot Thebarman
An elevated temperature means the nine-year-old with the cult following was scratched from the Cup field on Sunday evening. It would have been his fourth Melbourne Cup.
He must have taken some time to recover from his pinball impersonation here two years ago when he caused maximum carnage in the straight knocking over runner after runner in his bid to stop the Prince Of Penzance fairytale, only to miss out by half a length. He failed when favourite in a hurdle two runs back before breaking through for a win carrying 73kg in a weak flat race last start. While the form card reads no, he has a most astute trainer and will not be here to enjoy Melbourne's spring weather. He could be a blowout chance.
Import who joined strong local stable this year. He appeared to have every chance in the Caulfield Cup last start but failed to finish off his race. Prior to that he ran second in the Turnbull here beating home Humidor, who also failed at Caulfield before giving Winx a scare in the Cox Plate. He was good enough to run second in the Doncaster St Leger over 2800m as a three-year-old and it would be no surprise to see him storming home to victory if he produces his best.
Top-class Irish hurdler who managed to beat only two home in this race last year so connections are obviously brave in venturing back from Ireland for another try as a nine-year-old. His recent form at home had been solid in good company and his run in the Caulfield Cup was much better than it looks on paper. He is entitled to start at big odds though, and punters will need to be brave to put their faith in him.
Former Irish stayer who might be named after one of Australia's most iconic seaside spots but calls the lower-profile Lloyd Williams ranch at Mount Macedon home. Fitter for two recent runs and the longer trip suits. He improved three places on 2015 to finish 13th in this race last year, so at that rate of progress could be a place chance in another three years. Splash your money on him and there is every chance you will end the day with a case of sunburn.
US Army Ranger
Import who won his first two starts but has been battling to win a race since, although he did run second in the Epsom Derby. Placed over 4355m and no, there were no hurdles in the way, three runs back, before disappointing at last couple. He runs in the Lloyd Williams colours, which provides some reason for optimism but the five-year-old turns for home his jockey should have a white hankie handy.
Import who has come a long way since winning a weak race at Caulfield on Boxing Day to record his first local victory. Placed in Sydney Cup earlier in the year on a very heavy track with his big dukes helping him get through the sloppy conditions. Beaten as a hot favourite in the Moonee Valley Cup last start but he didn't have a lot of luck getting clear running on that occasion. DarrenWeir-trained runners are invariably very competitive in the Melbourne Cup and if the rain arrives the six-year-old gelding looks every bit a big chance.
Ironically named gelding whose owner was forced to sell out for a pittance prior to his win in the $3.1 million Caulfield Cup after going bust. He was given a perfect ride just behind the speed in that race and was tough to the line. It is hard to knock a last start Caulfield Cup winner but being by a Golden Slipper winner with a dam who is closely related to undefeated champion Black Caviar, the extra 800m this time might test his lungs. Others are likely to give a bit more boom for your buck this time and prefer the place.
Boom Time spears through the fence to win the Caulfield Cup. Photo: AAP
Raced on speed and toughed it out remarkably well to hold on for second in the Caulfield Cup so deserves her chance, although she does not look well weighted. She doesn't know who her parents are but her pedigree does not give a lot of confidence that she will run out a strong 3200m. Still, she has a name that could attract the interest of those single punters who have hit Flemington in search of another lonely heart as well as a winner.
One of the Williams lesser lights although he did win the Sydney Cup last year over this trip. He has had only two starts since beating four others home in this race last year. Was last when resuming this campaign before running down the track in a weak Geelong Cup. Entitled to start at big odds and it would only be the brave punters wanting to invest their hard-earned on him.
He didn't show much star quality in the UK before joining the Chris Waller yard and developing into a more than handy stayer, running second in last year's Sydney Cup. He settled at the rear before running on well for second in the Moonee Valley Cup in something of a return to form last start. Given that by birth date he should be a Taurean, it is a bit hard to make an accurate prediction of his future Cup chances, so it might be best to concentrate on others.
Tough stayer who had been racing well before breaking through in the Ebor Handicap to give him his first win in two years. That race was won last year by subsequent Cup runner-up Heartbreak City. It is hard to see him making it two wins in a row in what is a stronger race here but for Elton John fans looking for a bit of value he could be the one to throw in first fours and trifectas.
Wall Of Fire
Improving type but has found the competition a bit hot and struggled to win when up in grade this season, although he has generally been competitive. He was suited in the Herbert Power last start when able to finish off strongly for second after sitting at the rear off a strong tempo, with third placegetter Boom Time going on to win the Caulfield Cup. There is a lot more depth in this event but when others are hitting the wall he should still be whacking away. Perhaps worth a place ticket at odds.
Owned by Lloyd Williams and partners with the Melbourne Cup fire in the Williams belly not needing any rekindling since winning his first with Just A Dash back in 1981. Only a three-year-old to European time but has strong form lines in Europe and three runs back beat home his older rivals in a group 2 contest over 2800m. He is the first Cup runner for Joseph O'Brien whose father Aiden brought out another European three-year-old, Mahler, who carried 1kg less when running third behind Efficient in 2007. Respect.
Despite all the horses who have had "star" in their names, none have won the Melbourne Cup. But this one is trained by a bloke named Weir who has a habit of breaking records. The trainer was not happy with the ride given her in the Caulfield Cup so it could be worth overlooking that failure as her previous win here was excellent. The Amelie in the 2001 French romantic comedy of the same name liked to make people happy and there will be plenty in the crowd feeling that way if equine Amelie can get the cash.
Jockey Damien Lane on Amelie's Star. Photo: AAP
Solid effort in the Moonee Valley and then defied all attempts to run him down in the Lexus to sneak into the Cup field. He comes in on the minimum weight but unfortunately for him those above don't appear to have enough weight to slow them down to his level. He will be up on the pace so will give supporters a sight but despite what the ever-optimistic Gai might say, he has a very big mountain to climb.
He spent most of the last three years hurdling, winning four such events before being restricted to the flat since earlier this year and his astute trainer Willie Mullins knows what is required to be competitive in this race. He sealed a trip down under with a strong second placing in the Doncaster Cup over 3600m at his most recent start in September. Stamina is one thing the eight-year-old is not short of and punters who envisage a strong tempo could well make him their choice.