The 2017 Melbourne Cup is just around the corner as we edge closer to the biggest week of horse racing on the Australian calendar.
‘The Race That Stops a Nation’ typically attracts a large contingent of overseas horses, and there’s a possibility we’ll see 13 line up in this year’s edition.
We’ve taken a look at some of the more unfamiliar international raiders that will potentially be among this year’s final field.
Trainer: Alain Couetil
Jockey: Olivier Peslier
This six-year-old French entire has finished in the top two in 10 of his 17 starts, six of those being wins. Four of those wins have come in his past five starts, with his only defeat coming in Group 1 company. His latest victory was in Group 2 company over 2500m at the end of August. That was his most notable win to date and earned him an International Timeform Rating of 119, so he certainly comes to Australia in terrific form. Tactically, the horse is very versatile. He’s won from off the pace (just as he did last start), and has also led all the way on multiple occasions. He’s had three runs over 3000m-3100m in his career, for one win, a second, and an unplaced finish as favourite in Listed grade in France, but that was on a Heavy 10 and he was spelled immediately after it. When he ran second, it was behind Vazirabad, who is a three-time Group 1 winner rated 124. He has his fair share of weight in the Cup with 55.5kg so he will need to be at his best, but it’s by no means an impossible weight to win with. He profiles very similarly to 2010 Melbourne Cup winner Americain and tackles the race at the right time (6YO males have won five of the last seven Cups). He brings solid European form lines, is in career-best form, and has proven himself at both the distance and on Good ground. 75-time Group 1-winning jockey Olivier Preslier is booked for the ride, which will be his first time at Flemington – a minor concern, along with the dreaded ‘first up in Australia’ curse that the horse will have to overcome.
Trainer: Joseph O’Brien
Jockey: Corey Brown
Four-year-old son of High Chapparal who will be one of two runners in the Cup for Joseph O’Brien, and one of several in the race owned by Lloyd Williams. This horse has had nine starts in his career for three wins and two placings, and has a master Timeform rating of 121. His running style is to typically race off the pace in midfield. His most notable wins have come in the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes (2000m) back in April, and more recently, the Group 2 Curragh Cup (2800m) in July, where he beat Wicklow Brave by 0.5L. It’s worth noting that Red Cadeaux won the Curragh Cup back in 2011, before running 2nd in the Melbourne Cup, so the form line is one that deserves respect. It’s also worth noting that Wicklow Brave will get about a 4kg turnaround on Rekindling in the Melbourne Cup from their meeting in the Curragh Cup. Following his victory, Rekindling ran 2nd to Order Of St George at Group 3 level, before finishing 4th at his most recent start in the Group 1 St Leger at Doncaster, beaten just over two lengths. He’s proven that he’s a bright young stayer, and the fact he’s had success over 2800m is a big positive. He gets in well with a featherweight here, carrying just 51.5kg with Corey Brown booked to ride, and four-year-old’s have won seven of the past 33 Melbourne Cups. There are some queries with Rekindling, however. He’s had just the one start on what we’d call a genuinely ‘Good’ track, and he finished 16th of 18. All his other races have been run on tracks with some cut in the ground. The other query is that Rekindling is still technically a three-year-old, and he’s raced once every month since April. Add in a long flight to Australia, and it may all be a bit too much. He also falls into the category of an international runner without a lead-up run in Australia.
Trainer: Andreas Wohler
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
It’s easy to compare this horse to 2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist. He’s from the same stable and tackles the Cup with a similar record, having raced 10 times for five wins and four placings. When Protectionist won the Cup, he’d had nine starts for four wins and four placings. Red Cardinal is a six-year-old, making him a year older than Protectionist was, but he carries 55kg as opposed to the 56.5kg Protectionist carried to victory. Red Cardinal is Group 1 placed over 2400m and a Group 2 winner over 3200m, both of which were in Germany. More recently in June, he won in Group 3 company over 3200m in America, with fellow Cup contenders Wall Of Fire and Wicklow Brave amongst the horses he beat. That victory earned him a Timeform rating of 115. Last time we saw Red Cardinal was in August, when failing to place in a French Group 2 over 3000m, won by Marmelo. That race – the Prix Kergolay – has proven to be a good guide for the Melbourne Cup, with both Americain and Protectionist winning it on their way to Melbourne Cup glory. While that result was obviously disappointing given it was his first time finishing out of the placings, I wouldn’t be sacking him based on that. He will tackle the Melbourne Cup first up off a 10-week break, but he was first up from a 33-week break when winning his Group 2 win over 3200m in Germany. From all reports, the stable believes he’s over the odds at his current quote of $14, despite not being as confident with him as they were with Protectionist three years ago. He profiles well as a lightly-raced six-year-old that’s proven at the distance and will have no problems with the firm ground. Both trainer and jockey have experience winning this race so he rates highly.
Trainer: Hughie Morrison
Jockey: Hugh Bowman
Five-year-old English stayer with a record of 11 starts for three wins and five placings. Marmelo shot into equal-favouritism following an eye-catching 6th in the Caulfield Cup, in what could best be described as a Melbourne Cup barrier trial. That run was always going to top him off nicely for the Melbourne Cup, given his best distance to date has been over 3000m. He’s got two wins over that distance, including the Group 2 Prix Kergolay at his final start before travelling to Australia. He earned himself a new master Timeform rating of 119 with that win, and the horse he beat then won a Group 2 at its next start. As mentioned above, the Prix Kergolay has proven to be a successful form race for the Melbourne Cup, with both Americain and Protectionist winning the race in the lead up to their Melbourne Cup triumphs. In fact, Marmelo’s lead up to this year’s Melbourne Cup is very similar to Protectionist’s in 2014, in that both horses won the Prix Kergolay and then had one Australian run before the Melbourne Cup. History tells us that it’s pivotal for international horses to have at least one lead-up run in Australia before competing in the Melbourne Cup, so Marmelo’s first up effort in the Caulfield Cup will hold him in great stead for his grand final. He’s another horse that’s tactically versatile. We’ve seen him ridden to lead in Europe, but he’s also been successful ridden off the pace, which is how he was ridden in the Caulfield Cup. Much will depend on the barrier draw, but I’d expect to see him further forward in the Melbourne Cup. Hugh Bowman keeps the ride and Marmelo looks a great chance of giving Bowman his first Melbourne Cup.
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
Jockey: Ben Melham
Many will be a touch more familiar with five-year-old Johannes Vermeer given he’s had the two runs in Australia, including the Caulfield Cup which he started favourite in. Overall, he’s had 14 starts for four wins and six placings, including success at Group 1 level this time two years ago in a 1400m race in France. He then spent a long time off the track due to injury and it took him 20 months to break through again, which was in Group 3 company over 2000m in Ireland. His first up run in Australia in the Caulfield Stakes earned him a Timeform rating of 122, and he could be considered unlucky not to have won the Caulfield Cup. The horse has clearly rediscovered his best form and tackles the Melbourne Cup at his third run in Australia, so he’s got a good grounding. The concern would be that he’s never raced beyond 2400m, so to be tackling a two-mile race for the first time here is a significant query. If anyone can get him to run two miles, however, it will be Team Williams and the world’s best trainer, Aiden O’Brien.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: Zac Purton
One of three Willie Mullins-trained horses hoping to contest this year’s Cup, this 8YO is best remembered for running 2nd to Prince Of Penzance in the 2015 Melbourne Cup, earning an international Timeform rating of 122 in the process. He’s had a total of 23 race starts for four wins and seven placings. Eight of those races have been over hurdles, which leaves his flat record at 13 starts for three wins and four placings. Since the 2015 Cup he’s had just the four starts, with a 14-month absence from June 2016 – August 2017. He’s now had two starts since returning, with a 3200m jumps race first up followed by an easy kill in a 3400m flat race in Ireland. There’s only ever been two 8YO winners of the Melbourne Cup, and you have to go back to 1938 to find the last one. He could run a cheeky race and he’ll definitely run out the trip strongly. His 2015 performance suggests he shouldn’t be underestimated, but he’s had issues since then and history suggests he’s a bit long in the tooth to be a serious winning chance.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: TBA (Joao Moreira likely)
If you thought Max Dynamite was up against it based on age, history suggests Wicklow Brave stands no chance as the oldest horse in the field at nine years of age. No horse has ever won the Melbourne Cup as a 9YO. Wicklow Brave is the second of Willie Mullins’ brigade, and this will be his second Melbourne Cup after finishing 22nd last year. Granted, he raced extremely wide throughout the whole race last year, so is entitled to be forgiven. Since last year’s Cup he’s raced eight times, in England, Ireland, America and once more in Australia (the Caulfield Cup). He won just one of those eight races – a Group 1 hurdle race over 3200m back in April. He was beaten 2.25L when 4th behind Red Cardinal in America, and was beaten 0.5L by Rekindling in the Curragh Cup in July. It’s worth noting that Wicklow Brave gets a fairly significant weight swing on Rekindling in the Melbourne Cup too. His best form – a Group 1 victory over Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger which earned him a master Timeform rating of 121 – would see him very competitive in a race like the Melbourne Cup, but he’d need plenty of rain to stand a genuine chance. Joao Moreira is currently booked to ride the stablemate Thomas Hobson, but if that horse doesn't make the final field he'll likely ride Wicklow Brave.
US ARMY RANGER
Trainer: Joseph O’Brien
This five-year-old son of Galileo is the second of Joseph O’Brien’s horses and another representing Team Williams. His record stands at 12 starts for two wins and five placings, but his two wins came at his first two starts back in April and May of last year. The horse isn’t short of talent; he ran 2nd in the Group 1 Investec Derby (2400m) as a three-year-old, and just three starts ago finished 3rd in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot, splitting the likes of Thomas Hobson and Qewy. His most recent starts have been disappointing. Two starts ago he was beaten 11.25L in the Group 1 Goodwood Cup and last start he finished last in an Irish Group 3 over 2400m. The real US Army Ranger would be competitive here but it’s hard to trust a horse that hasn’t won for 18 months and has only placed once in his last four starts. For what it’s worth, Aidan O’Brien has been saying that this horse will surprise people and deserves a top jockey, and the Melbourne Cup will in fact be US Army Ranger’s first start for new trainer Joseph O’Brien. He’ll carry 53.5kg.
Trainer: Charlie Appleby
One of Charlie Appleby’s 2016 Spring heroes, Qewy managed to capture both the Geelong Cup and Sandown Cup, as well as running 4th in the Melbourne Cup. His Sandown Cup victory earned him a new master Timeform rating of 116. He returns this year as an eight-year-old, and seemingly not going as well as he was last year. He had two starts in the UK since returning, resulting in a 4th placing in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot (behind Thomas Hobson and US Army Ranger) before being beaten 26L in the Group 1 Goodwood Cup. When he came to Australia last year, he came on the back of consecutive second placings in two decent races, so his form leading into this year does raise concerns. He’s set to contest the Bendigo Cup on Wednesday (November 1st), where he is the second favourite, and the stable have said they’ll only push on to the Melbourne Cup if he wins in convincing fashion. If he does line up next Tuesday, he’ll carry 53kg (he carried 51.5kg last year), but at eight years of age, it’s hard to see him featuring in the finish this time around.
Trainer: Iain Jardine
Jockey: Glyn Schofield
This seven-year-old gelding is set to be the first Scottish-trained horse to contest a Melbourne Cup. He’s had 31 career starts for five wins and 11 placings, which includes a last-start win in the Ebor Handicap over 2800m. That form line can be tied in to horses such as Heartbreak City (2016) and Purple Moon (2007), who both won the Ebor before finishing 2nd in their respective Melbourne Cups. Nakeeta’s win earned him an international Timeform rating of 114. Nakeeta’s racing style is to typically be held up towards the rear of the field, and he’s raced plenty of times at the distance (and beyond) so the 3200m won’t be any problem. I’d suggest the strength of his form in the UK is inferior to some of the other international horses lining up here, but the same could be said about Heartbreak City last year and he went down by a nose to Almandin. That Ebor form has to be respected. History suggests it won’t be easy as a seven-year-old tackling the Melbourne Cup at his first run in Australia. He’ll carry 53kg and for what it’s worth, Heartbreak City carried 54kg last year. Glyn Schofield has been booked for the ride.
WALL OF FIRE
Trainer: Hugo Palmer
Jockey: Craig Williams
Wall Of Fire is a five-year-old trained out of Newmarket in the UK has had the all-important lead-up run in Australia, finishing 2nd in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield behind Lord Fandango. 2014 Cup winner Protectionist also had his lead up run in the Herbert Power, where he finished 4th. Overall, Wall Of Fire has had 14 starts for four wins and three placings, with his best performance likely to have been a runner-up finish in Group 3 company two starts ago. That performance earned him an international Timeform rating of 117, which he equalled in the Herbert Power Stakes. While he’s never won over 3200m, he has won over 2900m, and his run first up in Australia suggests the extra trip will suit him. It’s worth pointing out that he contested the Group 3 Belmont Gold Cup over 3200m back in June, when beaten 6.25L by Red Cardinal. He could possibly be forgiven for that effort after he sat 2nd behind a tearaway leader and had to lead the rest of the field up. Typically, he is a horse that is ridden further back in the field, as was the case in the Herbert Power when he settled at the rear. Tommy Berry was originally booked to ride but connections changed their mind and put Craig Williams on instead, and he’ll carry 53kg. There’s a lot to like about this horse’s profile; he’s at the right age, is well weighted and has had a lead-up run in Australia, which put the writing on the wall for his grand final.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: Joao Moreira
This eight-year-old is probably the best of Willie Mullins’ chances, which is ironic given he is at risk of missing out on a spot in the final field. He currently sits 26th in the order of entry, so will be relying on a couple of horses pulling out before Tuesday. His record stands at 24 starts for nine wins and six placings, with half of those races being contested over hurdles. His record in flat races is 12 starts for five wins and four placings, while he’s a Group 1 placegetter over jumps. His past four starts have all been flat races, and they’ve actually been the best flat performances of his career. He won a Class 2 stakes race over 4000m at Royal Ascot back in June, producing a new master Timeform rating of 119, and four days later ran 2nd over 4350m at the same track, finishing ahead of US Army Ranger and Qewy. Most recently, Thomas Hobson ran 2nd in Group 2 company over 3600m at Doncaster. The horse profiles similarly to his stablemate Max Dynamite when he ran 2nd in the 2015 Melbourne Cup, but I’d suggest Thomas Hobson has more ability on the flat. It’s a tough task to tackle the race first up in Australia as an eight-year-old, and history is certainly against him, but if he gains a spot in the final field, he shouldn’t be underestimated, especially in the form he’s in. He’ll definitely run the trip and he’ll only be carrying 52kg on his back. Joao Moreira is booked for the ride.
The Flemington carnival kicks off this Saturday (November 4th) with Derby Day, before Melbourne Cup Day on Tuesday, Oaks Day on Thursday, and finally, Emirates Stakes Day on Saturday week.
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