The Melbourne Cup takes place at Flemington in the early hours of Tuesday morning BST, with a host of English and Irish runners chancing their arm down under.
Last year’s winner Vow And Declare faces competition from the Aidan O’Brien pair of Anthony Van Dyck and Tiger Moth while Willie Mullins is saddling Stratum Albion (Stratum to you & I) , Charlie Fellowes has declared Prince Of Arran and Andrew Balding will hope Dashing Willoughby can pull off an upset.
Sir Dragonet and Russian Camelot lead the home challengers in a highly-competitive renewal, so Australian racing expert Gary Crisp has shed some light on who could be the ones to watch.
Speaking on the latest episode of Paddy Power’s twice-weekly From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, Crisp said: “Tiger Moth, Russian Camelot and Sir Dragonet come into the race at around the 120/123 mark on the Timeform ratings and under the handicap conditions they come in well on the weights.
“Tiger Moth is obviously unexposed, having only had the four starts, but shows a tremendous amount of promise. His rating just keeps going up and the fact that Aidan O’Brien ran so close with a three-year-old – Il Paradiso – last year… Tiger Moth is a much better proposition than Il Paradiso. Aidan has got the crosshairs right on the type of horse to bring here, so he’s certainly going to be very hard to beat.
“Russian Camelot is a local horse. He’s actually a northern-bred three-year-old as well, and he’s had tremendous lead-up form coming into this race. He won the Underwood and was then third in the Cox Plate, and he was forced to do a lot of work in the Cox Plate. He was up on the speed and was still there at the finish after the others who were with him had dropped off. He’ll be ridden with a lot more patience and will sit back, much as he did in the Adelaide Derby when he decimated the field there.
“Sir Dragonet – if he reproduces his Cox Plate run then he will certainly be in this. He’s got 55.5kg, which is not a lot of weight for a horse like that and there is a form line through him and Antony Van Dyck through their Derby match-up. There was less than a length between them then and Sir Dragonet meets Anthony Van Dyck 3kgs better at the weights now so has a chance to turn the tables. Reports suggest the horse has thrived since his Cox Plate win.
“Surprise Baby is very well-fancied in the betting. There is a lot of money for him but I’m not sure if he’s any better than he was last year and this is a much stronger field than last year. He’ll be thereabouts but I’ll be surprised if he can win the race.”
The race will be held behind closed doors this year due to Coronavirus restrictions, but Crisp is delighted that there is still such an international flavour to the event.
“Victoria is coming out of three or four months of total lockdown so there will be no crowds at Flemington,” he said. “It will be a really different day for everyone but at least we’re racing, which is the main thing.
“Racing is a global sport these days and the Melbourne Cup is a good opportunity to test some of the northern hemisphere’s good stayers against some of ours. A lot of our trainers now are heading over to the UK and Ireland and buying horses to bring back to Australia.
“Ten or 20 years ago, they would have gone to New Zealand to buy stayers. It’s a positive thing for racing globally and it adds a different dimension to our feature races this year. Addeybb was a great success earlier this year out here and I think it is wonderful that we have this globalisation of our sport.
“This is one of the strongest Melbourne Cups we’ve seen. In the last 20 years, the biggest number of horses that have gone into this race with a Timeform rating of 120 or higher, has been seven. This year we’ve got 10, so this is the highest-quality field we’ve had and it’s thanks to horses like Anthony Van Dyck. To have an Epsom Derby winner in the Melbourne Cup is a major coup.
“The track will be quite firm, with predicted temperatures in the high 20s. Barrier draw doesn’t make a lot of difference in a race like the Melbourne Cup. They have a very long run to the first turn and jockeys generally work it out before then. The barrier draw just shifts the market around a bit, but Flemington is the sort of track that favours horses who race on the speed.
“I don’t know if there is a designated leader in this race so that may hinder the chances of horses who do tend to sit back a bit but every horse will get their chance in this race. Flemington is a very spacious, flat track so I don’t think there will be any excuses tomorrow.”
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