This year's International challenge for the Melbourne Cup is arguably the strongest ever assembled, a particularly ominous statement considering the last two running's have gone to France and four of the last ten have ended up overseas, a Japanese quinella in 2006 with Delta Blues and Pop Rock and Media Puzzle for Ireland in 2002.
That's not to say it's a foregone conclusion but the odds would suggest the lion's share of the $6million prize is once again destined to leave these shores.
If this year's team is the strongest ever then who's the best equipped, weighted and prepared to win this year?
The obvious place to start is Dunaden ($7.00 TAB.com.au) Mikael Delzangles entire won the Geelong Cup en route to Melbourne Cup glory last year - allotted joint top weight this time round the 3 time Group 1 winner now has an extra kilo to carry for an impressive win in this year's Caulfield Cup. In simple terms the preparation has been faultless, he's in the best form, with the best form, but can he be the first horse since Rain Lover in 1969 to carry 59kg or more to victory?
Americain ($5.00 TAB.com.au) winner in 2010, now back under the care of Alain de Royer-Dupre, is coming in on the back of a taking 4th behind Dunaden in the Caulfield Cup and the 7yo entire was only beaten 1-1/2L is last year's renewal. You'd be brave to leave him out of your first 4. Red Cadeaux ($9.00 TAB.com.au) came within a hairs breadth of winning in 2011 for Ed Dunlop. The 6yos form has been admirably consistent this year (1win from 5 starts but never worse than 3rd) but behind his old rival, Dunaden, at Royal Ascot in June. A win might be a stretch but a first four place could again be on the cards.
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Luca Cumani has come agonisingly close on a couple of occasions but may well have his best chance this year. My Quest For Peace, close up 5th Caulfield Cup and Mount Athos one time pre post favourite currently $8.50 TAB.com.au. My Quest For Peace (TAB.com.au$26) has solid Group 2/3 form in the UK and the 4yo looks tactically versatile. Mount Athos, un-beaten in 3 starts for Cumani, performs best when fresh which the 7 time winner certainly will be on Tuesday having last raced on August 18th.
Godolphin arrived with very little fanfare this year and Cavalryman (TAB.com.au $51) is their only representative. If you believe in fairy tales then Cavalryman is the horse for you - Frankie Dettori ends his 18 year association with Godolphin at the end of the year and victory here would cap a remarkable association between one the world's leading jockeys and one of the world's most prominent owners.
Whilst both Godolphin and Cumani are still chasing their elusive first Cup success, one man who's been here and done it before (twice) is Dermot Weld. Galileo's Choice ($19 TAB.com.au) a Group 3 winner on the flat over 2000m and over hurdles up to 3200m, the dual purpose performer has a lethal combination of both speed and stamina. Vintage Crop won the Cup for Weld without an Australian prep and Galileo's Choice also comes in fresh.
Jakkalberry (TAB.com.au $35) has been well travelled for Newmarket trainer Marco Botti having taken out the inaugural American St Leger at Arlington in August – 1 start since then when 13th in the Caulfield Cup but only beaten 6-1/2L. A close up 3rd to Cirrus Des Aigles in the Sheema Classic in Dubai the 10 time winner has the form to be involved if at his very best.
The form of the Caulfield Cup looks outstanding and although Dunaden may well still have more to give, you can't completely discount the horses that finished behind him. In a great but open year though, I'll tentatively side with Galileo's Choice.…In Dermot we trust.
G3 - Flore
G1 - Royal-oak
G1 - Kikuka Sho (japanese St.leger)
G3 - Killavullan Stakes Group 3
G2 - The Betfred Monet's Garden Old Roan Steeple Chase