Melbourne Cup Q&A
Leading Australian broadcaster Shane Anderson of RSN Racing and Sports answers our questions on the Melbourne Cup.
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sportinglife: We'll cut straight to the chase Shane, the Europeans have enjoyed a decent Spring Carnival and look to have put together a really strong team for this year's Emirates Melbourne Cup. Can they win it and who do you fear most?
Shane Anderson: Only five of the 24 horses in the field are bred in Australia so even if a locally trained horse wins the race then it will probably be claimed by the Europeans! I think it is the strongest renewal of the race in its history. Of the internationally trained horses, you could argue that Dunaden and Red Cadeaux will struggle to win at the weights but both have such a great following in Australia that they will not be ignored. Brown Panther profiles well and has drawn perfectly, Dandino showed all with his run in the Caulfield Cup that he is in grand form and has also drawn a good barrier. Simenon has been pleasing many at the Werribee quarantine facility with his work after his solid Australian debut at Caulfield and one would expect the extended distance and bigger track to suit him better. Kerrin McEvoy has been very bullish about Godolphin's Royal Empire, he has mentioned many times that he gives him a very nice feel under saddle and looks progressive. Ed Walker's Ruscello has managed to scrape into the field after winning on Saturday and Walker did tell me on radio that he was surprised with how well he has come out of the race. But I think the best of the UK trained horses is Mount Athos for Luca Cumani. You could argue strongly that he was very unlucky in last year's race and he looks a much stronger horse this year in his track gallops at Werribee. I was standing next to Luca at the barrier draw on Saturday and witnessed firsthand his frustration with the wide barrier. Craig Williams rides this year and he is a master at overcoming such obstacles, you only have to watch a replay of his superbly crafted ride to win last year's Caulfield Cup on Dunaden from the widest draw to see what he is capable of.
sportinglife: What's the reaction in Australian racing circles to six British-trained runners making the cut?
SA: No real big deal. I think we have moved on from the parochialism that existed in recent years. The fact that all of the major stables now buy European horses has altered the landscape dramatically. We are seeing European form on a regular basis, it is becoming easier to understand how it stacks up with local form. Plus, the internationalisation of the Cup is now mature. It has been two decades since Vintage Crop won and the reality is that local trainers have still won the majority in that time. It is so hard travelling horses from one side of the world to the other.
sportinglife: Green Moon was something of a surprise winner 12 months ago but looks to have been campaigned solely with this race in mind; can he regain his crown or do team Williams have a stronger candidate?
SA: Team Williams have a staggering six runners - a quarter of the field, which is unprecedented - and it is safe to say that Green Moon probably ranks the fifth best prospect. It is so hard for horses to win up in the weights so the 57.5kg will make life difficult for him. His form this campaign is better than what it reads and the blinkers go back on, so he will likely race close to the speed. Lloyd Williams best chances probably lay with Sea Moon, who was a star in the UK, and he has struck form at the right time after initially suggesting that he hadn't acclimatised well; Fawkner, who won the Caulfield Cup impressively at his most recent start which was his first at a staying trip; and Seville, who won the Metropolitan over 2400m two starts ago very strongly before having little luck in the Cox Plate last start (similar to Green Moon last year). Masked Marvel was considered the leading chance by the stable until his failure in the Cox Plate last start where he raced fiercely but should not be discounted from his good barrier. His English St Leger win, where he was too good for Brown Panther, Sea Moon and Seville shows what he is capable in a staying race on a big, flat track. Mourayan doesn't appear to be going well enough.
sportinglife: Fiorente was one back in 2012 and he's plenty of people's idea of the winner following an eyecatching run in the Cox Plate; is he a solid favourite?
SA: Gai Waterhouse could not be more pleased with his progression since last year's race. He looks a vastly different horse to twelve months ago, far more muscular and imposing. Gai has spent time promoting the speed in him, she raced him in Group One 1400m races on a couple of occasions and he went enormously well. His one problem is that he can be a touch tardy from the barriers which has resulted in him being a couple of lengths further back in the run than ideal. Damien Oliver will ride him in the Cup and he is very excited about Fiorente's chances.
sportinglife: Verema appears to have gone under the radar to some extent but there's been growing confidence behind the French trained filly. How do you assess her chances?
SA There is so much to like about her prospects. She has a lovely turn of acceleration in the French staying races, and the tempo of those races matches the Melbourne Cup more closely than the staying races run in the UK. Verema is trained by a master in Alain De Royer Dupre and will get every chance in the run under Christophe Lemaire. From barrier 3, you would expect her to settle in a lovely position mid field and in the 'running line', likely one horse off the rail. 53kg seems like a light weight but only Makybe Diva has carried more weight to victory for the mares, that should be considered.
sportinglife: Give us a roughie for the race and you're best exotic?
SA: I think that Lloyd Williams will win the race for a fifth time. I am tipping Seville to win, with his stable mate Sea Moon as the main danger. I also think that Mount Athos and Verema are the other two leading contenders. The two best 'roughies' for the race are Masked Marvel, and I am happy to tell you that I am on him each way at 100/1, and the French three year old Tres Blue. He profiles very well in that European three year olds have run well in this race from limited tries, he has very strong French form, and appears to have tactical speed.
sportinglife: What are the best bets on the Flemington undercard?
SA: Melbourne Cup day is traditionally the hardest day to bet on every year as everyone wants a runner on Cup day, resulting in so many different form lines. However, I thought that the former UK galloper Midsummer Sun would be hard to beat in race 8. He is trained by young trainer Sam Kavanagh, son of Melbourne Cup winning trainer Mark, and he has long set him for this race. Expect him to give a decent each way shout at double figure odds.
Shane is from RSN Racing and Sports and can be followed on twitter @globalgallop.
You can download the Racing Ahead Melbourne Cup podcast at http://www.rsn.net.au/downloads.