Tiger Moth set to soar in the Melbourne Cup
Irish raider gets wide barrier but is the early favourite for the Melbourne Cup
Australia's "race that stops a nation" - the Melbourne Cup - will be staged at Flemington racecourse today, devoid of the roars from tens of thousands of punters when the classic is run behind closed doors for the first time in its long history.
Held on the first Tuesday of November since 1876, the punishing 3,200m handicap is so important that race-day is a public holiday in the state that hosts it, Victoria, with the winning horse becoming a household name in Australia.
Hordes of colourfully dressed spectators usually flock to Flemington for a boozy day out. But the track will be eerily quiet this year because of Covid-19 restrictions, with fans instead huddled around televisions, radios and live streams.
Melbourne emerged from months of coronavirus lockdown last week, sparking hopes that some spectators would be allowed, only for organisers to decide it was too soon.
"While we are very disappointed not to be able to welcome our members and racegoers to Cup Week, we understand the (Victoria) government's commitment to keeping our community safe," said Victoria Racing chairman Amanda Elliott.
Regarded as the ultimate test of stamina and staying power, the Melbourne Cup has A$8 million (S$7.67 million) in prize money. A third of the 24-strong field are international horses, mostly Irish and British, despite the pandemic.
Tiger Moth was handed a horror barrier draw, but heads into the showpiece as the early favourite, alongside fellow Irish raider Anthony Van Dyck.
For Tiger Moth's jockey, Kerrin McEvoy, who last month claimed the A$15 million Everest for the third time in Sydney, the draw could not have been worse as he targets a fourth victory.
The four-year-old stallion will start from Gate 23, the second widest.
Another fancied horse - this year's Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet - fared better with Gate 14.
Caulfield Cup runner-up Anthony Van Dyck, with jockey Hugh Bowman in the saddle, will spring from Gate 3.
Tiger Moth, trained by Aidan O'Brien and a narrow second in this year's Irish Derby, will be making only his fifth start and McEvoy knows he is up against it.
"I think Anthony Van Dyck will be hard to beat," said the rider who won on Brew in 2000, Almandin in 2016 and Cross Counter two years ago.
"I liked the way he looked the other morning and you can make a case for a lot of them."
He also pinpointed as dangers the Caulfield Cup winner Verry Elleegant and fourth-placed Prince Of Arran, last year's Melbourne Cup runner-up and third in 2018. - AFP
Time for Sovereign Rose to go one better
RACE 1 (1,200M)
(6) FORT RED found one to beat in his last two starts. Should be competitive again.
(1) DOUBLE CHARGE has improved after being gelded. Was third over a similar trip last time. Further progress likely.
(3) CARLO COLLODI, (4) PAPER TRAIL and (5) STAR CAPTAIN have shown enough to get a look-in, too.
RACE 2 (1,200M)
(1) SOVEREIGN ROSE has hit the woodwork in her last three starts. Time to go one better.
(2) OHWHATANIGHT has shown ability in three outings. Has scope for improvement and should play a prominent role.
(5) GLITTER IN THE AIR caught the eye on debut. With natural improvement, she should make her presence felt.
(3) MADAM SEVILLE, (4) CROWN DIAMOND and (6) GRAND PRINCESS should come on with experience.
RACE 3 (1,800M)
(1) KNIGHTS TEMPLAR made a pleasing comeback when staying on over a shorter trip. Should have more to offer stepping up in trip.
(5) MYHOPESANDDREAMS, his stablemate, has been in good form with cheekpieces fitted. Could also improve with the extra distance.
(3) SILVER DE LANGE and (6) SUDDEN STAR have fitness and solid recent form.
RACE 4 (1,600M)
(1) SOMERSET MAUGHAM appreciated firmer ground when bouncing back to form last time. The step-up in trip should bring further improvement. The one to beat.
(3) BEZOS ran third over this trip on his local debut. Ought to have come on to pose a threat.
(2) KAPTEIN and (4) BLINGKING are better than their last-start sixth-place finishes suggest. Can improve to play a role.
RACE 5 (1,600M)
(2) REGINA ISABELLA improved when stepped up to this trip last time, staying on to finish third. With further progress, she is the one to beat.
(3) DO ANGELS CRY was a length behind that rival in her first start beyond sprints. Should pose a threat.
(1) ROSEMARY MEADOW blew her chances at the start when finishing behind them. She needs only to jump on terms from gate No. 1 to upstage them.
(7) MAGNETIC DIME makes most appeal of the remainder.
(4) EN GARDE (cheek-pieces fitted) and the well-bred (8) MARGARET ERLYNNE are worth considering if improved.
RACE 6 (1,600M)
(6) SIR MICHAEL caught the eye over an inadequate trip in his first start after a rest, during which he was gelded. Could prove better than rated.
(4) SING OUT LOUD should also be a factor with the step-up in trip, after a pleasing comeback over a shorter trip.
(3) MORE MAGIC and (5) HERODOTUS are well-performed sorts. They are capable at this level. More Magic is preferred as the trip suits.
(1) WILD COAST was just off the best of his generation as a three-year-old. Worth following with progress this term.
RACE 7 (1,800M)
(2) ELUSIVE FORTUNE won a similar contest from a wide draw in her last outing. The four-point penalty is unlikely to prevent her from following up.
(7) FYNBOS has a bit to find after a recent meeting, but can also make her presence felt on these terms.
(5) REWRITE THE STARS and (6) BOLD DIVA finished behind (4) CATCH-AFALLINGSTAR over 2,000m at this level recently. There is not much among the trio again over this trip.