Goldolphin bets on outsider Sky Hunter - Dubai stable makes 18th attempt at first Melbourne Cup win
Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum will once again try to win Australia's biggest race as the world's top trainers descend on Flemington
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum will make his 18th attempt at an elusive Melbourne Cup win on Tuesday as some of the world's biggest trainers descend for Australia's most prestigious race.
The 154-year-old Melbourne Cup has become a global event and its bumper A$6.2 million (HK$34.3 million) prize money lures the big names of thoroughbred racing, from Japan to the Gulf and the British isles.
The race over 3,200 metres has been an integral part of Australia's social and sporting calendars and Australians collectively wagered around A$800 million - almost A$40 per head of population - last year.
This year's edition features five Hong Kong-based jockeys - Joao Moreira, Zac Purton, Brett Prebble, Gerald Mosse and Chad Schofield - and three Hong Kong-owned horses - three-time runner-up Red Cadeaux (18-1), Gust Of Wind (34-1) and Grand Marshall (34-1).
While Japan's Fame Game is the pre-post 9-4 favourite, a roll call of leading international trainers are trying their luck, some of them not for the first time.
A record-equalling contingent of 11 foreign-trained horses are running at Flemington racecourse, where the Cup has gone to an international winner only six times.
Godolphin, the Dubai racing and breeding monolith owned by Sheikh Mohammed, is back for the 18th time after three second placings - Central Park (1999), Give The Slip (2001) and Crime Scene (2009).
Godolphin's main chance this year is Sky Hunter, an outsider at 70-1, but the stable also has the locally trained Hartnell (34-1) in the running.
"You need to bring horses that have the speed, stay the trip and handle the ground and I think we have three good chances this year," said Saeed bin Suroor, trainer of Sky Hunter.
"At home, we have some good horses but they have to carry too much weight [in the handicap race]. So, I have to think what is our best chance.
"This is a great race to win, we're trying. We'll come back next year and the next year."
Michael Stoute has been a champion trainer 10 times in England and he has won races all over the globe, including victories in the Dubai World Cup, the Breeders Cup and the Japan Cup, along with five Epsom Derbies and two Ascot Gold Cups.
But he has also yet to capture the Melbourne Cup and gets his chance with top weight Snow Sky (34-1), owned by Saudi Arabia's Prince Khalid Abdullah, 10 years after his last Cup runner Distinction. "I love the race. For years I've wanted to come and be competitive in it," Stoute said. "We've brought a much better horse this time because we have to."
Newmarket trainer Ed Dunlop has come close to winning the Melbourne with Red Cadeaux - the 10-year-old gelding has been the bridesmaid in three of the last four years. "If he runs in the top four it would be an astonishing result for a horse of his age to come to this country six times," Dunlop said.
Dunlop also has a strong chance with Trip To Paris (8-1), who finished second to Mongolian Khan in the shorter main lead-up race the Caulfield Cup (2,400m) a fortnight ago.
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"Everyone thought because he won an Ascot Gold Cup he's a dour stayer, but he's not at all. The Caulfield Cup showed that," Dunlop said.
Irishman Aidan O'Brien is hoping to replicate the trailblazing successes of compatriot trainer Dermot Weld with Vintage Crop (1993) and Media Puzzle (2002) for his two runners, Kingfisher (25-1) and Bondi Beach (34-1).
O'Brien hasn't had a Cup runner since 2008 but both this year's entries have strong credentials. Bondi Beach won the English St Leger after an inquiry, while Kingfisher finished second in the Ascot Gold Cup.
Another Irish contender Max Dynamite (9-1), will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
The Melbourne Cup has been won six times in its history by internationally trained horses: 2014 (Protectionist, Germany), 2011 (Dunaden, France), 2010 (Americain, France), 2006 (Delta Blues, Japan), 2002 (Media Puzzle, Ireland), 1993 (Vintage Crop, Ireland).