Melbourne Cup 2019 field, form guide and sweep

Australia World

Posted November 03, 2019 05:32:00

The stage is set for the 159th running of the Melbourne Cup. Explore our interactive guide to the horses chasing Australian racing’s greatest prize.

$13: 1. Cross Counter

Age, sex 5yo gelding
Starts 12 (6 wins, 3 placings)
Prize money $5,999,553
Trainer Charlie Appleby
Jockey William Buick
Last 5 starts 1st, 1st, 4th, 3rd, 4th
This track 1 start (1 win)
Barrier 5
This distance 3 starts (2 wins, 1 placing)
Weight 57.5kg
Odds $13
Breeding Great Britain

The defending champion is back and will carry the hopes of the Godolphin operation this year following the controversial scratching of stablemate Ispolini last week.

Cross Counter began his 2019 campaign with victory in the Dubai Gold Cup (3,200m) but has since figured in the placings only once.

Twice he was no match for Europe’s champion stayer Stradivarius, finishing fourth in the Gold Cup (4,000m) at Royal Ascot in June, and third in the Goodwood Cup (3,200m) in August.

His Cup preparations were rounded off with another fourth placing, this time beaten four lengths as favourite in the Irish St Leger (2,800m).

While Cross Counter’s season has been planned to culminate with a peak performance in the Melbourne Cup, he’ll face a much tougher task than he did a year ago.

No horse has won consecutive Cups since Makybe Diva (2003, 2004, 2005), while only three horses have carried at least 57.5kg to victory in the past 60 years.

$6.50: 2. Mer De Glace

Age, sex 5yo stallion
Starts 18 (8 wins, 7 placings)
Prize money $5,483,413
Trainer Hisashi Shimizu
Jockey Damian Lane
Last 5 starts 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st
This track First start
Barrier 2
This distance First start
Weight 56kg
Odds $6.50
Breeding Japan

Mer De Glace was building a promising record in his native Japan before he came to Australia and made headlines with a barnstorming win in the Caulfield Cup (2,400m) last month.

At his first try beyond 2,200 metres, Mer De Glace showed devastating acceleration from back in the field to put the race beyond doubt and take his winning streak to six.

The performance earned the five-year-old a 1kg penalty for the Melbourne Cup, yet he remains one of the leading contenders despite stepping up in distance to 3,200 metres.

His cause has also been aided by an inside barrier draw, which should afford him a soft run in transit.

But while Caulfield Cup runners have a good record going on to the Melbourne Cup, the last winner of the race to complete the double was Ethereal in 2001.

Victory on Tuesday will also see jockey Damian Lane become the first in history to win all four “majors” in a single year (Golden Slipper – Kiamichi, Caulfield Cup – Mer De Glace, Cox Plate – Lys Gracieux).

$17: 3. Master Of Reality

Age, sex 5yo gelding
Starts 12 (3 wins, 3 placings)
Prize money $264,854
Trainer Joseph O’Brien
Jockey Frankie Dettori
Last 5 starts 1st, 4th, 3rd, 3rd, 5th
This track First start
Barrier 1
This distance First start
Weight 55.5kg
Odds $17
Breeding Ireland

Trained in Ireland, five-year-old Master Of Reality is one of three runners this year for high-profile owner Lloyd Williams, and comes with form that ties in with a number of rivals he’ll face on Tuesday.

His most recent performance was a fifth in the Irish St Leger (2,800m), finishing behind Southern France and Cross Counter but ahead of stablemates Latrobe and Twilight Payment.

A month earlier, Master Of Reality was also no match for Southern France in a Group 3 event over 2,800 metres, but his stamina was on show at Royal Ascot in June.

At the end of the 4,000-metre Gold Cup, Master Of Reality was only a length behind Europe’s champion stayer Stradivarius and ahead of Cup rivals Cross Counter and Raymond Tusk.

The vibes around the camp will be good following the booking of Frankie Dettori, who’s remarkably racked up almost 20 Group 1 races this year.

As for Williams, he’s won six Cups, including two of the past three with Almandin (2016) and Rekindling (2017).

$34: 4. Mirage Dancer

Age, sex 6yo stallion
Starts 17 (4 wins, 9 placings)
Prize money $816,505
Trainer Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young
Jockey Ben Melham
Last 5 starts 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd
This track First start
Barrier 13
This distance First start
Weight 55.5kg
Odds $34
Breeding Great Britain

Mirage Dancer is one of several horses in this year’s Cup who have arrived on a one-way trip from Europe.

The lightly raced six-year-old had been in the care of training great Sir Michael Stoute, who placed the horse to advantage in recent seasons.

It meant Mirage Dancer arrived with a record of having missed the place only four times in his career to date.

His final races in England featured a win over 2,400 metres in May and Group 2 & 3 placings at Royal Ascot, Newmarket and Goodwood.

These solid form lines stacked up when he hit the line strongly for third in the Caulfield Cup (2,400m) last month.

Like many of his rivals on Tuesday, Mirage Dancer has yet to tick the 3,200-metre box but his consistency should carry him a long way.

He will be piloted by Ben Melham, who came close to winning the Cup two years ago on Johannes Vermeer who finished second to Rekindling.

$26: 5. Southern France

Age, sex 5yo stallion
Starts 14 (3 wins, 6 placings)
Prize money $626,385
Trainer Ciaron Maher & David Eustace
Jockey Mark Zahra
Last 5 starts 6th, 4th, 4th, 1st, 3rd
This track First start
Barrier 14
This distance 1 start (no placing)
Weight 55.5kg
Odds $26
Breeding Ireland

Southern France is another horse formerly trained in Ireland who brings form that’s interwoven with several runners he meets again on Tuesday.

Boasting a stout staying pedigree, Southern France was placed in the English St Leger (2,900m) and the Queen’s Vase (2,800m) at Royal Ascot during his three-year-old year.

In 2019, he has run champion stayer Stradivarius to three-quarters of a length in the Yorkshire Cup (2,800m), failed as favourite in the Curragh Cup (2,800m) behind Twilight Payment and Latrobe, and defeated Downdraft and Master Of Reality in the Irish St Leger Trial (2,800m).

At his final European start, Southern France placed third in the Irish St Leger (2,800m), finishing ahead of Cross Counter, Master Of Reality, Latrobe and Twilight Payment.

Ciaron Maher, one of his new Aussie trainers, has been pleased with how the horse has settled into his new surroundings and is hopeful of a forward showing in the Cup.

Fun fact: Southern France has drawn barrier 14, which was the gate used by Makybe Diva when she won the Cup in both 2003 and 2005.

$34: 6. Hunting Horn

Age, sex 5yo stallion
Starts 22 (3 wins, 7 placings)
Prize money $1,541,491
Trainer Aidan O’Brien
Jockey Seamie Heffernan
Last 5 starts 6th, 5th, 8th, 8th, 1st
This track First start
Barrier 11
This distance First start
Weight 55kg
Odds $34
Breeding Ireland

Hunting Horn is the first of three contenders this year for champion Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, who is still searching for his first win in the Cup.

This four-year-old had a busy 2018, racing in four countries, which culminated in well-beaten efforts in France’s Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe (2,400m) and America’s Breeders Cup Turf (2,400m).

This year, Hunting Horn has been used as a pacemaker for more-fancied stablemates in some of Britain’s feature staying races. As a result, his victory in the Moonee Valley Cup (2,500m) just over a week ago was his first since claiming the Hampton Court Stakes (2,000m) at Royal Ascot 16 months earlier.

Nevertheless, it again highlighted a lack of depth among Australian staying ranks compared to their European counterparts.

It’s been 29 years since a winner of the Moonee Valley Cup completed the Melbourne Cup double (Kingston Rule), but Prince Of Penzance ran second at The Valley before causing a 100-1 upset on the first Tuesday in November.

$26: 7. Latrobe

Age, sex 5yo stallion
Starts 15 (3 wins, 7 placings)
Prize money $2,006,579
Trainer Joseph O’Brien
Jockey James McDonald
Last 5 starts 4th, 4th, 2nd, 1st, 6th
This track 1 start (1 placing)
Barrier 22
This distance First start
Weight 55kg
Odds $26
Breeding Ireland

A winner of the Irish Derby (2,400m), Latrobe had his first taste of Australian racing when a close second in the Mackinnon Stakes (2,000m) during last year’s Melbourne Cup carnival.

A return tilt at Tuesday’s big race has been the mission ever since for his high-profile owner Lloyd Williams, who already has six Cup trophies on his mantelpiece.

Latrobe arrives in Melbourne following a sixth in the Irish St Leger (2,800m) in which he finished behind Cup rivals Southern France, Cross Counter and Master Of Reality.

He’d gone into that race with some support following a victory in August’s Ballyroan Stakes (2,400m), his first success since claiming the Derby more than a year earlier.

The horse’s young trainer Joseph O’Brien already has one up on his famous father Aidan, having claimed the Cup two years ago with the Williams-owned Rekindling.

But Latrobe was dealt no favours at the barrier draw, and will start from 22 under champion jockey James McDonald.

$17: 8. Mustajeer

Age, sex 7yo gelding
Starts 20 (4 wins, 6 placings)
Prize money $1,449,839
Trainer Kris Lees
Jockey Damien Oliver
Last 5 starts 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 1st, 6th
This track First start
Barrier 6
This distance First start
Weight 55kg
Odds $17
Breeding Great Britain

Mustajeer entered Melbourne Cup calculations with victory in the rich Ebor (2,800m) in England in August — like the Cup, it is raced under handicap conditions and boasts a large number of runners.

Soon afterwards, the lightly raced seven-year-old was transferred to Australia and into the care of Newcastle-based trainer Kris Lees.

His debut Down Under was a close-up sixth in last month’s Caulfield Cup (2,400m) behind Mer De Glace; adding merit to the performance was the fact that he finished alongside leading Cup fancy Constantinople.

Mustajeer is another horse expected to relish the switch to the bigger Flemington circuit, although he remains untried over 3,200 metres.

But he does have the services of champion jockey Damien Oliver, who’s riding the crest of a wave after claiming a sixth Victoria Derby on Saturday and breaking the all-time record for wins during Cup week.

Oliver has three Cups to his name — Doriemus (1995), Media Puzzle (2002) and Fiorente (2013).

$67: 9. Rostropovich

Age, sex 5yo gelding
Starts 18 (4 wins, 4 placings)
Prize money $1,347,436
Trainer David & Ben Hayes & Tom Dabernig
Jockey Dwayne Dunn
Last 5 starts 5th, 7th, 7th, 9th, 16th
This track 3 starts (no placing)
Barrier 12
This distance 1 start (no placing)
Weight 55kg
Odds $67
Breeding Ireland

Rostropovich is a former European galloper who contested last year’s Melbourne Cup as a three-year-old, finishing a more than creditable fifth.

He’s had a stable change since then and given a three-run preparation this spring heading into Tuesday’s big race.

A first-up seventh in the Makybe Diva Stakes (1,600m) was followed by a ninth-place finish in the Turnbull Stakes (2,000m) at Flemington.

The form guide says Rostropovich then finished 16th of 18 runners in the Caulfield Cup (2,400m), but forget he ever ran after being forced to race wide from an outside barrier.

He is one of three Cup runners for the team led by David Hayes, who’s hoping to add another Melbourne Cup to his resume (Jeune, 1994) before he returns to train in Hong Kong next year.

Rostropovich’s jockey, Dwayne Dunn, goes into the race in stellar form and fresh from a winning double on Derby Day which included the Group 1 Coolmore Stakes.

$81: 10. Twilight Payment

Age, sex 7yo gelding
Starts 24 (5 wins, 14 placings)
Prize money $500,140
Trainer Joseph O’Brien
Jockey Hugh Bowman
Last 5 starts 2nd, 4th, 1st, 1st, 7th
This track First start
Barrier 19
This distance 3 starts (1 win, 2 placings)
Weight 55kg
Odds $81
Breeding Ireland

A relatively recent acquisition for six-time Cup-winning owner Lloyd Williams, Twilight Payment is the third pick of his trio of runners on Tuesday according to punters.

The seven-year-old has been an honest performer in Ireland in recent seasons and has two wins to his name this year.

A fourth behind Cup rivals Master Of Reality, Mustajeer and Southern France over 2,800 metres in April was followed by victory in the Levmoss Stakes over the same distance in May.

Twilight Payment then turned the tables on Southern France and Mustajeer in the Curragh Cup (2,800m), winning narrowly from stablemate Latrobe.

Then after being transferred to Joseph O’Brien, who trained Rekindling to Cup success for Williams in 2017, Twilight Payment finished seventh, beaten six lengths, in the Irish St Leger (2,800m).

He’ll be partnered by champion Sydney jockey Hugh Bowman, and while barrier 19 doesn’t look good on face value, it was the gate used by last year’s winner Cross Counter.

$10: 11. Finche

Age, sex 6yo gelding
Starts 14 (4 wins, 4 placings)
Prize money $917,566
Trainer Chris Waller
Jockey Kerrin McEvoy
Last 5 starts 4th, 5th, 1st, 2nd, 5th
This track 2 starts (1 placing)
Barrier 4
This distance 1 start (no placing)
Weight 54kg
Odds $10
Breeding Great Britain

This former French-trained galloper is back for another crack at the Cup after finishing fourth last year.

With the benefit of a long spell under the Australian sun, Finche has furnished into a striking individual and has been prominent in Cup betting markets for some time.

He resumed for a fifth in the Chelmsford Stakes (1,600m) in Sydney, before showing he was on track for the Cups with a dogged win in the Kingston Town Stakes (2,000m).

A close second to stablemate Kings Will Dream in the Turnbull Stakes (2,000m) had him ready to fire for the Caulfield Cup (2,400m), but his chances were dented after drawing an outside barrier.

Finche endured a wide run on that occasion but still battled on well for fifth, beaten less than two lengths.

He’ll certainly be better suited getting back to the more spacious surrounds of Flemington, and will carry the same weight on Tuesday as he did a year ago.

His jockey, Kerrin McEvoy, has won two of the past three Cups aboard Almandin (2016) and Cross Counter (2018).

$21: 12. Prince Of Arran

Age, sex 7yo gelding
Starts 37 (6 wins, 12 placings)
Prize money $1,441,798
Trainer Charlie Fellowes
Jockey Michael Walker
Last 5 starts 5th, 8th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st
This track 2 starts (1 win, 1 placing)
Barrier 8
This distance 8 starts (1 win, 3 placings)
Weight 54.5kg
Odds $21
Breeding Great Britain

Prince Of Arran is a two-time visitor to Australia, where he has developed a following among racing fans because of his consistency and determination.

The connections of this globetrotting galloper are hoping that he can go even better than his third behind Cross Counter and Marmelo in last year’s Cup.

You definitely know that Prince Of Arran will see out a strong 3,200 metres, unlike some of his rivals who are yet to be tested at the distance.

The seven-year-old’s results since his return show he will be more than competitive on Tuesday, and he’s drawn to get a good run from barrier eight.

Prince Of Arran goes into the Cup after a hard-fought win in the Geelong Cup (2,400m), a race he had to win at the time to assure himself a spot in the 24-horse field.

That came after a narrow defeat to The Chosen One in the Herbert Power Stakes (2,400m) at Caulfield.

His trainer, Charlie Fellowes, is familiar with the hype of Melbourne Cup week having spent a year here with five-time winner Lee Freedman.

$15: 13. Raymond Tusk

Age, sex 5yo stallion
Starts 12 (3 wins, 4 placings)
Prize money $426,073
Trainer Richard Hannon
Jockey Jamie Spencer
Last 5 starts 6th, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 4th
This track First start
Barrier 3
This distance 1 start (1 placing)
Weight 54kg
Odds $15
Breeding Ireland

This English-trained galloper is no stranger to travelling — and he’s bringing along his large syndicate of owners who are thrilled to have their first Melbourne Cup runner.

Prepared by leading horseman Richard Hannon, Raymond Tusk last appeared for a close-up fourth behind Mustajeer in the rich Ebor Handicap (2,800m) in August.

The five-year-old now gets a handy weight turnaround on his Cup rival from that occasion and he has been kept safe in betting markets.

Raymond Tusk (who could have some appeal to fans of Netflix’s House Of Cards) was thrown into the deep end during his three-year-old season, which culminated in a Group 2 victory in Italy.

This year he has been around the mark in staying events up to 3,200 metres, although he was no match for Stradivarius and others over the marathon Gold Cup (4,000m) at Royal Ascot.

Raymond Tusk will be piloted by Irish jockey Jamie Spencer, who is no stranger to Australia and rode a winner during the recent Cox Plate carnival.

$17: 14. Downdraft

Age, sex 5yo stallion
Starts 18 (7 wins, 3 placings)
Prize money $468,783
Trainer Joseph O’Brien
Jockey John Allen
Last 5 starts 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 1st
This track 1 start (1 win)
Barrier 15
This distance First start
Weight 53.5kg
Odds $17
Breeding Ireland

A rails-hugging ride by John Allen helped send Downdraft to victory in Saturday’s Hotham Handicap (2,500m) and lock in the final spot in the Melbourne Cup field.

The five-year-old was pretty much compelled to race on Derby Day, after a third-place finish in the Moonee Valley Cup (2,500m) a week earlier left him at risk of being leapfrogged by a horse lower in the Cup’s order of entry.

Downdraft looked a class above his rivals in the Hotham, and he’s being kept relatively safe in betting markets despite facing a much tougher assignment on Tuesday.

He does have form in Europe around some of his Cup rivals, splitting Southern France and Master Of Reality when second in the Irish St Leger Trial (2,800m) in August.

That was Downdraft’s final race before coming out to Australia, where he’ll be one of four Cup runners for young Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien.

While only 10 Hotham winners have backed up to claim the Cup (Shocking was the last to do it in 2009), they nonetheless perform well in the big race — Prince Of Arran finished third to Cross Counter last year.

$26: 15. Magic Wand

Age, sex 5yo mare
Starts 19 (2 wins, 9 placings)
Prize money $3,388,856
Trainer Aidan O’Brien
Jockey Ryan Moore
Last 5 starts 2nd, 11th, 2nd, 2nd, 4th
This track First start
Barrier 24
This distance First start
Weight 53.5kg
Odds $26
Breeding Ireland

Magic Wand is perhaps the classiest of Aidan O’Brien’s trio of Cup runners this year, but there are some questions around whether she’ll see out the 3,200-metre distance.

It’s worth noting though that Ryan Moore, one of the world’s best jockeys, had his pick of the O’Brien team and elected this mare as his Cup ride.

Although she’s been out of the winner’s circle since claiming the Ribblesdale Stakes (2,400m) at Royal Ascot in June 2018, Magic Wand has raced consistently in high-class events around the world.

A runner-up at Group 1 level in the US and Ireland before coming to Australia, she ran a brave fourth in the Cox Plate (2,040m) a week ago.

O’Brien has been happy enough with her recovery to have a tilt at the Cup, hoping for a firmer track for the daughter of legendary sire Galileo.

And while victory may be in her stars, consider the fact that mares don’t have a great Cup strike rate — 16 wins in 158 runnings, with three courtesy of Makybe Diva (2003-05).

$201: 16. Neufbosc

Age, sex 5yo gelding
Starts 13 (3 wins, 3 placings)
Prize money $371,118
Trainer David & Ben Hayes & Tom Dabernig
Jockey Luke Nolen
Last 5 starts 8th, 14th, 7th, 13th, 9th
This track First start
Barrier 23
This distance First start
Weight 52.5kg
Odds $201
Breeding France

Neufbosc was purchased by Australian interests on the back of a promising three-year-old season in France last year, but he’s yet to recapture his best form this spring.

The grey galloper could perhaps be forgiven for his ninth in last month’s Geelong Cup (2,400m) behind Prince Of Arran, having found the track a little too firm for his liking.

But his earlier performances this spring were also below expectations and he’ll start at long odds on Tuesday.

Initially safely held over unsuitable shorter distances, Neufbosc was then well in the market for The Metropolitan (2,400m) in Sydney but finished a well-beaten 13th.

Hall of Fame trainer David Hayes, who’ll return to ply his trade in Hong Kong next year, says the horse will appreciate the recent rain to take the jar out of the Flemington surface.

Meanwhile, Luke Nolen will take the ride after being replaced on another Hayes runner, Constantinople, who was luckless in the Caulfield Cup (2,400m) behind Mer De Glace.

$101: 17. Sound

Age, sex 7yo stallion
Starts 24 (7 wins, 3 placings)
Prize money $498,655
Trainer Michael Moroney
Jockey James Winks
Last 5 starts 4th, 8th, 14th, 7th, 10th
This track 4 starts (no placings)
Barrier 10
This distance 3 starts (1 win)
Weight 52kg
Odds $101
Breeding Germany

Formerly trained in Germany, Sound is back for a second tilt at the Melbourne Cup — he raced under the name Sound Check last year when he finished 18th.

He is yet to recapture his winning European form for trainer Michael Moroney, who tasted Cup success with Brew in 2000.

Sound’s best result since arriving in Australia came when he finished fourth to the highly rated Avilius in Sydney’s Tancred Stakes (2,400m) in March.

He comes into the Melbourne Cup with three runs under his belt, the most recent of which was 10th, beaten four lengths, in last month’s Caulfield Cup (2,400m).

On that occasion, the seven-year-old made a long-range move with the eventual runner-up Vow And Declare, and could have finished closer if he hadn’t struck interference in the straight.

Sound was sent out a 100-1 chance that day at Caulfield and looks like he’ll be friendless again on Tuesday, despite drawing nicely in barrier 10.

$15: 18. Surprise Baby

Age, sex 5yo gelding
Starts 10 (5 wins, 2 placings)
Prize money $723,735
Trainer Paul Preusker
Jockey Jordan Childs
Last 5 starts 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 4th, 1st
This track 4 starts (1 win, 2 placings)
Barrier 20
This distance 1 start (1 win)
Weight 53.5kg
Odds $15
Breeding New Zealand

At just his sixth start, Surprise Baby’s dominant Adelaide Cup (3,200m) win in March had his connections setting their sights on the first Tuesday in November.

He came close to booking his Melbourne Cup spot when he narrowly lost a titanic tussle with Steel Prince in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes (2,800m) in May.

But fast-forward to early October, and Surprise Baby got the berth he deserved by claiming the win-and-you’re-in Bart Cummings (2,500m) in good style.

Since then, trainer Paul Preusker has been happy for the five-year-old to fly under the radar and go into the Cup with a month between runs — it’s a program that worked for Almandin in 2016.

And while Surprise Baby is one of Australia’s best hopes of defying the overseas raiders, a win on Tuesday will not come without some controversy.

Against a backdrop of heightened concern for racehorse welfare, it will be noted that Preusker received a four-year ban in 2007 for possession of a jigger (Taser-like device).

$8: 19. Constantinople

Age, sex 4yo stallion
Starts 9 (2 wins, 5 placings)
Prize money $447,973
Trainer David & Ben Hayes & Tom Dabernig
Jockey Joao Moreira
Last 5 starts 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 4th
This track First start
Barrier 7
This distance First start
Weight 52.5kg
Odds $8
Breeding Ireland

This former European galloper was elevated to the top of Melbourne Cup betting markets after a luckless run in last month’s Caulfield Cup (2,400m).

He got shuffled back approaching the home turn and struck interference making his way through the field, yet he closed off strongly for fourth, beaten less than two lengths.

Formerly trained by Irish master Aidan O’Brien, Constantinople is now in the care of the team led by hall-of-famer David Hayes.

The horse fits a similar profile to last year’s Cup hero Cross Counter — which also finished second in the UK’s Great Voltigeur Stakes (2,400m) — and 2017 champion Rekindling.

While the weight relief these Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds received has now been reduced, there remains confidence around the Hayes camp of a bold showing on Tuesday.

Constantinople has also been central to a game of jockey musical chairs since the Caulfield Cup, with Luke Nolen losing the ride to Glen Boss, who was then replaced by Hong Kong-based star Joao Moreira due to suspension.

$15: 20. Il Paradiso

Age, sex 4yo stallion
Starts 8 (2 wins, 4 placings)
Prize money $125,154
Trainer Aidan O’Brien
Jockey Wayne Lordan
Last 5 starts 1st, 7th, 1st, 3rd, 5th
This track First start
Barrier 17
This distance 2 starts (1 win, 1 placing)
Weight 52.5kg
Odds $15
Breeding United States

Il Paradiso is another Northern Hemisphere three-year-old targeting the Melbourne Cup in light of the recent successes of Cross Counter and Rekindling.

One of three runners this year for Irish training legend Aidan O’Brien, Il Paradiso has only faced the starter eight times for two victories.

The Cup will be by far the horse’s biggest test to date, but he is attracting plenty of respect because of the O’Brien name alongside him in the racebook.

Il Paradiso last raced in mid-September when he finished fifth behind undefeated star Logician in the English St Leger (2,900m).

Before that he wasn’t beaten far by Europe’s champion stayer Stradivarius — finishing third of four runners in the Lonsdale Cup (3,200m).

Unlike many of his Melbourne Cup rivals, Il Paradiso has proven he can stay the distance by claiming an Open Handicap at the Curragh in Ireland in July.

$67: 21. Steel Prince

Age, sex 6yo gelding
Starts 21 (8 wins, 6 placings)
Prize money $605,012
Trainer Anthony Freedman
Jockey Brett Prebble
Last 5 starts 1st, 1st, 4th, 6th, 7th
This track 3 starts (2 wins, 1 placing)
Barrier 16
This distance First start
Weight 52.5kg
Odds $67
Breeding Ireland

Steel Prince was the first horse to book his place in this year’s Cup, claiming the win-and-you’re-in Andrew Ramsden Stakes (2,800m) in May, defeating Surprise Baby in an epic run to the line.

Early signs this spring indicated the former European galloper was shaping up well, but then came a hiccup when he missed the Herbert Power Stakes (2,400m) due to a barrier mishap.

The stable of Derby-winning trainer Anthony Freedman weren’t too perturbed and instead entered Steel Prince in the Geelong Cup (2,400m), however, the six-year-old produced a disappointing effort on face value to finish seventh, beaten almost five lengths, behind Prince Of Arran.

As a result, Steel Prince has drifted in Cup betting despite his record of two wins from three starts at Flemington.

Freedman is a master at peaking his horses for their target race and he’ll be hoping Cup-winning jockey Brett Prebble (Green Moon, 2012) can help Steel Prince rediscover his best form.

$101: 22. The Chosen One

Age, sex 4yo stallion
Starts 15 (5 wins, 2 placings)
Prize money $646,821
Trainer Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman
Jockey Tim Clark
Last 5 starts 1st, 5th, 9th, 1st, 9th
This track First start
Barrier 18
This distance First start
Weight 52kg
Odds $101
Breeding New Zealand

The Chosen One has drifted in Cup betting markets since he was safely held behind Downdraft in the Hotham Handicap (2,500m) on Saturday.

The New-Zealand-trained four-year-old had earlier been in fair form, as seen when he claimed the Herbert Power Stakes (2,400m) from eventual Geelong Cup (2,400m) winner Prince Of Arran.

He backed up a week later in the Caulfield Cup (2,400m) and produced an effort that was better than it looked.

To make up ground from back in the field, The Chosen One ran race-fastest splits from the 800m-600m and 600m-400m — the effort told in the end and he weakened late to finish ninth behind Mer De Glace.

The jury remains out over whether the horse will be any better suited over the 3,200 metres on Tuesday, but he does come from a stable with an enviable record in staying races.

There are few better training operations in New Zealand than the team of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, who’ve regularly tasted success when travelling horses across the Tasman.

$11: 23. Vow And Declare

Age, sex 4yo gelding
Starts 12 (3 wins, 5 placings)
Prize money $1,072,690
Trainer Danny O’Brien
Jockey Craig Williams
Last 5 starts 6th, 2nd, 1st, 4th, 2nd
This track 3 starts (1 win, 1 placing)
Barrier 21
This distance First start
Weight 52kg
Odds $11
Breeding Australia

Many consider Vow And Declare to be the leading hope this year for Team Australia — the handful of horses in the field to have not started their careers in Europe or Japan.

Yet his trainer, Danny O’Brien, has adopted a European-style campaign for the four-year-old, giving him a light spring campaign of just two runs before the big race.

After an unlucky second in the Queensland Derby (2,400m) in June, Vow And Declare showed he was a stayer with a bright future with a dominant display in the Tatts Cup (3,000m), albeit against more moderate opposition.

A fast-closing fourth in the Turnbull Stakes (2,000m) in early October then preceded a bold second in the Caulfield Cup (2,400m) to Mer De Glace.

Vow And Declare couldn’t match the acceleration of the Japanese raider that day, but he was coming back in the closing stages and his stamina will hold him in good stead heading into Tuesday’s 3,200-metre contest.

Craig Williams will be in the saddle as he bids for a career grand slam and add the Melbourne Cup to his previous victories in the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Golden Slipper.

$51: 24. Youngstar

Age, sex 5yo mare
Starts 21 (4 wins, 5 placings)
Prize money $998,587
Trainer Chris Waller
Jockey Tommy Berry
Last 5 starts 8th, 7th, 8th, 7th, 3rd
This track 2 starts (1 placing)
Barrier 9
This distance 1 start (no placing)
Weight 52kg
Odds $51
Breeding Australia

Youngstar is another horse lining up on Tuesday for a second shot at Australia’s biggest race.

The Chris Waller-trained mare was a brave sixth last year — beaten six lengths — and has been prepared all spring with this race in mind.

The five-year-old rounded off her Cup preparations with a third in the St Leger Stakes (2,600m) in Sydney, where clear running didn’t come at the right time yet she was strong at the finish.

However, Youngstar faces a much tougher task in the Cup, as she looks for her first victory since landing the Queensland Oaks (2,200m) in May 2018.

History also says it won’t be easy — mares have won the Cup just 16 times in 158 runnings, with three of those thanks to Makybe Diva in 2003-05.

But she will have leading Sydney rider Tommy Berry in the saddle and should get a nice run in the race from barrier nine.

Prices correct at 1:00am AEDT Sunday

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Topics: horse-racing, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

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