DARREN Gauci was suffering from a severe bout of second-itis on his return to Flemington yesterday, but the Hong Kong-based jockey reckons he still has a chance of carrying off Tuesday's Melbourne Cup aboard the in-form Fraar. Gauci was pipped by a short half-head in agonising circumstances in the Group Two Wakeful Stakes when his mount Alcove was caught in the very last stride by Arborea, who ''flew'' the final 100 metres. Then he finished runner-up once again in the prestigious Group One Mackinnon Stakes, this time aboard the David Hayes-trained Fraar, who had no answer to The Phantom. The winner scored by three lengths and became the new 5-1 Cup favourite. ''On that run it is hard to think he could beat the winner when they meet again on Tuesday, but you never know,'' said Gauci. ''What Fraar showed me today is that he has a good chance of staying the 3,200 metres of the Cup. I liked the feel he gave me - and I liked the way he was still galloping on over the final 200 metres.'' The Phantom, an eight-year-old, is fast making up for the time lost during his 30 months on the sidelines with two bowed tendons. He was absolutely brilliant, racing away in the closing stages to convincingly beat Fraar, with Japan Cup aspirant Naturalisma short half-head away in third. Arguably the most promising Cup trial was turned in by George Hanlon's Our Pompeii, who weaved his way through horses under Mick Dittman in the final 200 metres to snatch fourth, a length and a quarter behind the third. ''It was a good run,'' said Dittman. Fraar, Gauci's Cup mount, is by Topsider, whose progeny are not noted for their stamina in Europe. But with a win in the Caulfield Cup, over 2,400 metres, connections are keen for a crack at the big one. Hayes made a valid point regarding The Phantom, who stole the limelight this time from his younger brother The Phantom Chance, the Cox Plate winner some seven days earlier. ''From our point of view, you have to believe that The Phantom will not be able to reproduce the same brilliant run in the space of only three days,'' he said. Fraar's owner, Sheik Hamdan Al-Maktoum, is likely to have the same solid commitment to Australian racing in the coming year, according to Angus Gold, his racing manager. ''He has not bought any yearlings in Australia this year, but I believe he will continue with his policy of sending useful horses from England to race in Australia,'' said Gold. Sheik Hamdan has enjoyed incredible good fortune on the Australian turf. From only a few dozen runners, he has already captured the Melbourne Cup (At Talaq), the Caulfield Cup (Fraar), and the Cox Plate (Almarad). There had been suggestions that the shipment once reserved for Australia would be diverted instead to Dubai, where the Maktoum brothers have established two racecourses. Australia, it appears, will still see the blue and white colours carried. If anything, Naturalism was a fraction disappointing in the Mackinnon but the theory that he might need the step-up in distance to 2,400 metres - which he will get in Tokyo - could be close to the mark. Veandercross finished a sluggish eighth and connections have decided not to persevere with his campaign. He was a shock withdrawal from the Melbourne Cup. A crowd of 50,000 were treated to the usual high-quality racing programme which has become the hallmark of the Derby in Australia. The feature race, the AAMI-sponsored Victoria Derby, was won in brilliant style by Mahogany, owned in partnership by LloydWilliams and Kerry Packer. Greg Hall enjoyed an armchair ride on the three-year-old son of successful stallion Last Tycoon and sprinted away in the final 300 metres to score by seven lengths, the biggest winning margin since Red Anchor 10 years ago. The gelding had been considered suspect at the 2,500-metre distance but with a slow pace up front in the middle stages, the opposition played right into his hands. Hall, who was completing a winning treble for the day, was asked if the gelding would be a Cups contender next year. ''I'm not going to put my head on the chopping block at this stage,'' he said. Hall rode briefly in Hong Kong for trainer T.C. Cheng in the mid-1980s. The second horse home was Shelved, ridden by Steven King, with Waikikamukau finishing well on the outside to claim third close to home. Battlehawk pulled very hard and lost his chance while Gauci failed to strike a blow on the Hayes-trained Regal Artery. ''This just wasn't his race,'' said Gauci. General opinion prior to this year's Derby was that the field were a bunch of moderate performers. But that view is not shared by winning trainer Lee Freedman who was sending out his first Derby winner. ''I believe Mahogany is the best three-year-old I've ever had and that includes Naturalism,'' he said. Bart Cummings sent out Tennessee Jack to win the Dalgetty.