Your 2016 Melbourne Cup guide

THE field for the 2016 Emirates Melbourne Cup today with thoughts on all of the 24 runners.

Big Orange (Trainer: Michael Bell Jockey: Jamie Spencer)

Beaten two and a half lengths into fifth in last year’s renewal and is set to carry a similar weight so every reason to think he can be on the premises again. Has enjoyed a similar preparation in winning at Newmarket and Goodwood but bypassed York this season so is a slightly fresher horse and that may well count in his favour.

Our Ivanhowe (T: Lee & Anthony Freedman J: Dwayne Dunn)

Didn’t enjoy the best of runs when finishing 10th last year, finishing only four lengths behind shock winner Prince of Penzance. Has been running well in the main since then and although he’s finished behind Jameka and Hartnell the last twice, the step back up to two miles will suit and he holds each-way claims once again.

Curren Mirotic (T: Osamu Hirata J: Tommy Berry)

Japanese runners have enjoyed some notable success in Australia and this eight-year-old was under three lengths off Flintshire in Hong Kong in 2014 and third to Gold Ship in the two-mile Tenno Sho the following spring. His close second in this year’s renewal of that race is his standout piece of recent form and surprising if he’s good enough to lift this prize.

Bondi Beach (T: Aidan O’Brien J: Ryan Moore)

First past the post in last year’s Leger but failed to land a blow when 16th in last year’s renewal. However, it would be no surprise if his campaign had been geared around this race given he is part of the Lloyd Williams team and he’s been running well enough over an inadequate 12 furlongs to suggest he’s in good enough form. But does he have the speed needed for this test?

Exospheric (T: Lee & Anthony Freedman J: Damien Oliver)

Failed to deliver on the promise of his impressive winning reappearance at Newmarket for Sir Michael Stoute (when named Exosphere) and was sold after finishing fifth behind Postponed in the Juddmonte International. Made a fine start for his new connections when third in the Caulfield Cup and they should know a little more about him now so it’s reasonable to expect some improvement.

Hartnell (T: John O’Shea J: James McDonald)

Never landed a blow from a high draw and a hold-up ride last season but has proved himself to be a top-class performer with an impressive hat-trick over Cup rivals Grand Marshal, Who Shot Thebarman and Jameka before running into the brilliant Winx in the Cox Plate. Has reportedly come out of Moonee Valley in good form and merits the utmost respect.

Who Shot Thebarman (T: Chris Waller J: Hugh Bowman)

Third in 2014 and may have finished a spot or two closer with a clear run last year but was essentially well held in 11th. Looks to be hitting form at the right time, finishing second to stablemate Grand Marshal in the Moonee Valley Cup – Prince of Penzance was runner-up in the same race last year before winning this prize but hard to see him following suit. Place claims.

Wicklow Brave (T: Willie Mullins J: Frankie Dettori)

Benefited from a fine ride to beat Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger when proving his tactical versatility. Has a 2lb swing with Big Orange for a three and a half length defeat in the Goodwood Cup which may not be enough to see him reverse the form but Willie Mullins’ two previous runners in the race finished fourth and second, and this experienced seven-year-old is unlikely to let his supporters down.

Almoonqith (T: David A & B Hayes & Tom Dabernig J: Michael Walker)

Came into last year’s renewal among the more fancied runners having won the Geelong Cup but could only finish 18th (met with trouble). Without a win to his name this season but latest fourth in the Caulfield Cup (where he ran a fast-closing final fraction) suggests that he could be peaking at the right time and it wouldn’t surprise to see him improve on last year’s performance.

Gallante (T: Robert Hickmott J: Blake Shinn)

Sent off at 33/1 when winning the Grand Prix de Paris for Andre Fabre in 2014 and struggled in his first year in Australia. Showing his true colours this season, winning the Sydney Cup over two miles in April under Kerrin McEvoy before chasing home Jameka at Caulfield in September. Flopped when fancied for the Moonee Valley Cup though and has something to prove as a result.

Grand Marshal (T: Chris Waller J: Ben Melham)

Slashed in price after winning the Moonee Valley Cup but the handicapper didn’t deem that victory worthy of a penalty for this race so is able to race from the same mark which is one he raced from when beaten into 21st last year. He was yet another who met with interference so that may not be a true reflection but he was sent off at 60/1 and hasn’t obviously improved since.

Jameka (T: Ciaron Maher J: Nicholas Hall)

Named after Serena Williams as trainer Ciaron Maher said the filly ‘had the best rear in the world’ and has also proved herself a champion with a dominant victory in the Caulfield Cup. Bidding to become the 12th horse to complete the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups double but will need to set a weight carrying record in the race for a four-year-old if she’s to do so.

Heartbreak City (T: Tony Martin J: Joao Moreira)

A progressive stayer who backed up mid-summer hurdle wins with a dominant display in the Ebor Handicap at York which was sufficient to persuade an Australian syndicate group to buy into the six-year-old. The owners have similar history having previously bought into Dandino and Jakkalberry who went on to finish fifth and third and it wouldn’t be any surprise to see this fellow run a big race for all that he meets some of the British and Irish runners on worse terms than he would at home.

Sir John Hawkwood (T: John P Thompson J: Blake Spriggs)

Ran Real Love close in the JRA Cup, the first of three second placed finishes before winning a Grade One at Randwick over 12 furlongs at the start of October. Well held in the Caulfield Cup subsequently (reportedly didn’t handle the track) and this seven-year-old has plenty on his plate here.

Excess Knowledge (T: Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott J: Vlad Duric)

Ran in the 2013 St Leger when with John Gosden and has continued to perform with credit in top races for his new connections. Hasn’t found winning easy but his seventh placed finish in last year’s renewal suggests he could be knocking on the door again. This race has, not surprisingly, been the plan for some time and improvement can be expected from his fourth in the Moonee Valley Cup.

Beautiful Romance (T: Saeed bin Suroor J: Damian Lane)

Winner of the Middleton Stakes on her seasonal reappearance prompting connections to talk her up as a Group One filly but she has failed to match that form in three subsequent outings, albeit in the face of some stiff tasks. Has been given a chance by the handicapper but has enough to prove on the face of it over a new trip.

Almandin (T: Robert Hickmott J: Kerrin McEvoy)

European import who chased home Solow and beat Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist in 2014 before joining the powerful Lloyd Williams team that have already won this race four times. Has since impressed in Australia, showing a good turn of foot when winning the Bart Cummings at Flemington and looks a leading player with stamina not expected to be an issue and Kerrin McEvoy booked for the ride.

Assign (T: Robert Hickmott J: Katelyn Mallyon)

Ex-Aidan O’Brien inmate who missed 2015 but has returned as good as ever, winning the Herbert Power Stakes last time under a positive ride from Katelyn Mallyon who said ‘I didn’t think I was ever going to be beaten, he’s barely blown a candle out after it and he’s a very good horse’. Rogan Josh (1999) was the last horse to win both races but Shocking and Protectionist have both used the race as a launchpad to glory subsequently and a bold bid could be on the cards.

Grey Lion (T: Matt Cumani J: Glen Boss)

Ex-Andre Fabre colt who was fancied to run a big race on debut for Matt Cumani and duly did so but he found Qewy a head too strong in the Geelong Cup. Entitled to come on for that outing as connections get to know him but obviously needs to take a step forward in order to trouble the best of these.

Oceanographer (T: Charlie Appleby J: Chad Schofield)

Enjoying a fine spell in Australia, finishing third to Qewy in the Geelong Cup before gaining his spot in this race by landing the ‘win and you’re in’ Lexus Stakes. Charlie Appleby doesn’t believe the quick return to the track will be an issue and he has a handy swing in the weights with Heartbreak City from their Ebor running. Has to be on the short-list.

Secret Number (T: Saeed bin Suroor J: Stephen Baster)

Proved he could cope with racing in Australia when second to Dandino in the Queen’s Cup last November and won his only subsequent start at Ayr in September. Saeed bin Suroor believes he has improved physically from last season, he has a nice racing weight and the trip shouldn’t prove to be a problem. Improvement’s required but he could find it.

Pentathlon (T: John Wheeler J: Mark du Plessis)

Finished seventh, third and seventh in races won by Almandin, Grand Marshal and Oceanographer in the build-up to the Cup so clearly has it all to do if he’s to become another shock winner.

Qewy (T: Charlie Appleby J: Craig A Williams)

Enjoyed a decent spell over obstacles for John Ferguson but has taken his Flat form to a new level since joining Charlie Appleby’s team, finishing second at two big summer festivals in the UK before winning the Geelong Cup. There may well be more to come from this resolute galloper on his second spell on the level, but he could be vulnerable to a rival with a better turn of foot.

Rose Of Virginia (T: Lee & Shannon Hope J: Ben E Thompson)

Down the field in the Lexus Stakes on Saturday and the Auckland Cup runner-up has it all to do.

Hartnell failed to reward each-way support for this column last year but certainly wasn’t helped by his wide draw the way that things panned out; he is better berthed and has enjoyed a great season this time but that is reflected in his price. Godolphin have a really strong hand and Charlie Appleby has enjoyed a fantastic Carnival but it’s Saeed bin Suroor’s Secret Number who takes the eye at a big price with this race having been the target since his win Down Under last year.

Caulfield Cup winner Jameka is expected to see out this trip but the handicapper may have got to her and a bigger threat may come from Almoonqith although his draw in 19 is not ideal. Kerrin McEvoy would probably prefer to be lower than 17 on ALMANDIN but he’s riding on the crest of a wave at the moment and this classy European import is fancied to make the most of his low impost.

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