Melbourne Cup favourite Americain has completed his preparation for Tuesday’s race just as he began it, only faster.
The defending champion moved smoothly over 2000m at Werribee racecourse on Monday under the scrutiny of trainer Alain de Royer Dupre, assistant trainer Stephanie Nigge, part-owner Gerry Ryan and with his regular rider Louise Zuili in the saddle.
All four proclaimed him ready to become only the fifth horse in history to win Australia’s greatest race in successive years.
“I think I cannot make him any better than he is now,” de Royer Dupre said.
“He is better than last year, it is only the weight that is difficult for him.”
Americain is a $4.80 favourite for the $6 million race in which his main danger looks to be another French runner, Dunaden.
The local runner Niwot is the next pick at $10.
Americain’s training has replicated that of 12 months ago when he stormed to victory.
Every morning he jogs for 2000m, walks the same distance and then gallops again over 2000m.
“He likes it, he is happy,” said Nigge, who has supervised the horse’s training for the past month in Melbourne.
“Since he came here he has improved every day and now he is better than he was last year.”
The only obvious flaw is the barrier 15 from which Americain will start.
But Ryan dismissed the wide gate as a trivial obstacle.
“It simply doesn’t matter,” he said.
“He had barrier 11 last year, it’s hardly any different.”
While Americain represents France, should he win the race it won’t mean the Cup – or the horse – will leave Australia.
His four owners are all locals and the horse is to remain in this country.
Obvious rival Dunaden was restricted to 1600m work which trainer Mikel Delzangles said he had covered in a strong canter.
With Craig Williams failing in his last-ditch bid to ride in Tuesday’s race, Christophe Lemaire has flown in from Japan for the mount.
An astonishing 18 of the 24 Cup runners are either prepared by foreign trainers or began their racing careers in the northern hemisphere.
Eleven of them are usually trained in England or France.
Among them are Lost In The Moment and Modun representing the world’s most powerful racing operation, the Godolphin stable of Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum and his family.
The only concern for Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor leading up to the race has been the Qantas grounding which left Lost in The Moment’s jockey William Buick stranded in Singapore en-route from London.
But bin Suroor said he was confident Buick would be in Melbourne by Monday night.
Another of the raiders, Fox Hunt, is owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s son Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum while a member of the Qatari royal family, Sheikh Fahad al Thani owns Dunaden.
Fox Hunt also worked freely at Werribee on Cup eve along with stablemate Jukebox Jury.
Trainer Mark Johnston who has missed out in three previous attempts to win the Cup gives both his horses strong chances.
“They have different racing styles so hopefully one of them will be suited,” Johnston said.
The Luca Cumani-trained pair Manighar and Drunken Sailor, both veterans of previous trips to Melbourne, completed leisurely workouts on Monday as did another English-trained runner Red Cadeaux whose chances would be enhanced in proportion to the amount of rain that may fall on the Flemington track.