In a global sense, the famous two-mile handicap, run on the first Tuesday every November, has really taken off. European stayers now flock to the race, owners from every corner of the globe get involved, and the race remains a fascination to virtually everybody inhabiting the huge continent sandwiched between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Godolphin have never been more widely represented. John O’Shea saddles the well-fancied Hartnell, fresh from his fighting second to Winx in the G1 Cox Plate, Saeed bin Suroor sends out Secret Number and Beautiful Romance, while Charlie Appleby, who has been mopping up the country cups, has Oceanographer and Qewy.
Local form analysts face a conundrum in Oceanographer. Can he endure his third race in 13 days? It is very unusual for a European stayer to cram in so many races in such a short period.
Oceanographer, meanwhile, appears to be thriving. Appleby reported: “He lost 5kg in body weight during his Lexus win, but (Monday morning) he has put 3kg back on. He looks well and he has eaten well. He has not left an oat since the race.”
Oceanographer turned in one of the best trials seen to win his way into the Cup field. His sectional times in Saturday’s Lexus were exceptional. He is a powerful stayer, just hitting his peak after 11 career starts. With a light weight of 52kg, he can win Godolphin its first Melbourne Cup.
Appleby also has a very healthy regard for Qewy, his Geelong Cup winner. “He is an old favourite in the yard, and is a very good horse on his day. He seems in great form, which he showed at Geelong,” he said.
Qewy, a gelding, is impeccably bred. He is by Street Cry from a half-sister to super stallion Dubawi. He is expected to take up a prominent position early in the race, though it is not imperative that he makes the running.
The Michael Bell-trained Big Orange, fifth in the Cup last year, seems a better and stronger horse this year. He has enjoyed a very good preparation and will be up near the front all the way.
Saeed bin Suroor astutely observed: “There will be pace on all the way this year. If the Europeans are prominent early, they will not take a ‘pull’ and slow the field down. They will keep galloping on.”
Ballydoyle runner Bondi Beach, the mount of Ryan Moore, is expected to run a big race. He will be more mature this year, which will stand him in good stead.
O’Shea believes Hartnell also to be in better form this year. His G1 Turnbull Stakes run was a beauty and very hard to forget. If he reproduces that effort, he can clinch it.
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