Trainer Ciaron Maher has been given a heroes’ welcome at the 2016 Melbourne Cup parade thanks to his mare Jameka.
The VRC Oaks and the Caulfield Cup winner is Maher’s pride and joy and, clearly, a crowd favourite.
“She means everything (to me),” the trainer told AAP on Monday.
“We bought her from the sales, and she was so impressive there.”
Jameka is the only Australian-bred horse in this year’s $6.2 million Melbourne Cup field.
That’s reason enough for Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to back her.
The four-year-old is slightly disadvantaged having to carry extra weight from her big wins but still remains one of the top favourites alongside Godolphin’s Hartnell and Oceanographer.
With a Melbourne Cup eluding Godolphin for almost two decades the Australian-trained Hartnell might be Sheikh Mohammed’s best chance yet.
Hartnell’s jockey James McDonald isn’t daunted by the expectations surrounding his ride.
“I’d rather be in that position than riding a 50-to-1 horse,” he said on Monday.
“He’s the right horse to run in the Melbourne Cup and his form has been fantastic.”
Godolphin’s chief executive John Ferguson is trying to keep calm but is starting to contemplate what winning a Melbourne Cup would do to the stable’s reputation.
“We’ve had runners in Kentucky, the Derby, and the classics all over the world and there’s nothing like the Melbourne Cup,” Ferguson said.
“They talk about it as the race that stops the nation – it’s not. Now, in racing terms and sporting terms, it’s the race that stops the world.”
Thousands lined Melbourne’s streets on Monday to show their appreciation for the sport and congratulate the trainers and jockeys ahead of the big race on Tuesday.
The only female jockey with a ride, Katelyn Mallyon, had a large support squad, with her family cheering from the roadside.
“She’s a good jockey … nice, kind,” her 11-year-old cousin Bryce Skelton said.
The parade also brought out champion horses including former winners Might and Power, Rogan Josh, Brew and Efficient.
Sally Velcic and her friends from Sydney weren’t initially interested in the parade but found themselves drawn in after spotting the Cup’s musical guest.
“We didn’t even know there was a parade on,” Ms Velcic said.
“(But) we saw Dami Im, so we followed her and were led here.”
Australia’s 2016 Eurovision entrant will sing the national anthem at the Cup on Tuesday when 100,000 people flock to Flemington racecourse for the 156th running of the race.