Dubai – MENA Herald: This is arguably the strongest G1 Melbourne Cup field in modern times. The blend of the best European stayers and their Japanese counterparts pitted against a group of worthy Australian contenders makes this renewal a race with great depth and quality at Flemington on Tuesday.
Of course, the Aussie aspirants are mainly from Europe originally, but to their credit, and possibly advantage, they have adapted to the different training regime in their new home, and most have developed a flash of acceleration at the end of their races.
Fame Game, a grand stayer from Japan, caught the eye when he came home strongly from the back of the field for sixth in the G1 Caulfield Cup with most form followers noting this as a perfect prep for the Melbourne Cup.
But just ahead of him at the finish was Trip To Paris, who rattled home along the inside rail for a good second to Mongolian Khan, who unfortunately misses the race after suffering a bout of colic on Thursday.
There is little doubt that Caulfield Cup form is the best pointer to the Melbourne Cup this year, and Trip To Paris emerges covered in glory. His run was full of potential.
Willie Mullins brings Max Dynamite from Ireland, and he is one of the most interesting runners in the field. He is a jumper, who finished second in the Galway Hurdle, but showed with his win in the Lonsdale Cup at York in August that he has plenty of class on the Flat.
Then there is the incredible Red Cadeaux, who is running for the fifth time, having finished runner-up on three occasions. He looks as well as ever and, at 10 years, he attempts to become the oldest horse in the 155-year history of the race, to win it.
But what of the Godolphin challenge this year? Saeed bin Suroor has been trying to win the Melbourne Cup for almost two decades. He has saddled three seconds and one third. This year, he has Sky Hunter (William Buick) to represent him, coming here off the back of a good second at Newbury (UK) in September. But the other half of the Godolphin attack this year is the more interesting, Hartnell, the mount of James McDonald. This five-year-old gelding has been trained by John O’Shea with the Melbourne Cup in mind.
He certainly has the right credentials. He is a Queen’s Vase winner over two miles at Royal Ascot as a three-year-old, and after winning the G1 BMW at Rosehill last March, he then finished fourth in the Sydney Cup when attempting to lead all the way.
McDonald has had his heart set on Hartnell as a Cup ride for some time. “I thought his fifth in the Cox Plate, over 2,040m, was very good. The distance was too short, yet he ran home nicely. John (O’Shea) has brought him along perfectly for the Cup and he will run a big race,” the jockey said.
Godolphin have long had the Melbourne Cup as a long-term project. The determinations of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed to supply runners every year to Australia’s showcase race, and his ambition to win it, have never dimmed. Maybe this year that interest will be rewarded.