From afar, this race over 3,200 metres has always had a unique fascination for me. My love of racing was generated by watching the Grand National in the United Kingdom but increasingly I have become more and more intrigued and captivated by events at Flemington, no more than a stones throw from the centre of Melbourne.
This has only intensified with each passing year as more and more international raiders make the long journey south to try and earn their place in racing history.
I have to declare a special interest in this year’s renewal as my brother Michael saddles the top weight Big Orange.
A far from disgraced 5th 12 months ago, he comes into the contest reportedly in even better shape. A strong pace should suit but I fear this horse may be undone in the closing stages.
The class Australian horse is Hartnell, one of five representing the Godolphin team. Second to Winx last time out, Australia’s top- rated horse, and with the extremely-talented jockey James Mcdonald is a justifiably the favourite with home fans.
However, that last race just may have taken its toll on him and the horse that I think could take home the AUS $3 million plus (Dh8.4m) first prize is Bondi Beach.
Aidan O’Brien has had a stellar year and the Irish trainer has made this race Bondi Beach’s primary target. Last year it was a bit of an afterthought coming 16th but the talk all week has been extremely bullish about the horse, which is co-owned by Lloyd Williams who has won this race a record-equalling four times as an owner.
The fact he made a rare trip to early morning gallops last week suggests he is optimistic about his chances. Another huge plus is the booking of Ryan Moore, without question the best ‘big race’ jockey in the world and a decent draw in the fifth barrier which means in my mind he will be hard to beat.
My heart hopes that the mighty Big Orange becomes the first British-trained winner of Australia’s greatest race, however my head increasingly tells me Bondi Beach is the one they all have to beat.
Know more about Sport360 Application