European trained horses might dominate the betting for Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup but the Australian challenge is alive and well albeit with a northern hemisphere flavour.
Master trainer Bart Cummings is part of a growing trend with Illo, one of his two runners, travelling from Germany after being bought by Richard Pegum.
The winner of 12 Cups, Cummings is fond of the New Zealand bred stayer and his other runner on Tuesday – Precedence – fits that mould but his form is less impressive than many of his rivals.
Illo’s first Australian start was satisfying when he finished third to defending titleholder Americain in the Moonee Valley Cup with Cummings’ biggest worry the amount of weight he lost on his way to Australia.
“He has put on more than 20 kilos,” Cummings said.
But the more important weight statistic might be that he meets Americain 3.5 kilograms better on Tuesday.
Cummings is one of eight trainers with two runners in the Cup with fellow Sydneysiders Chris Waller and Gai Waterhouse also double handed.
Like Cummings, one of Waller’s runners Hawk Island is from overseas having been bought in England as a young tried horse.
A few years ago, Waller identified the October sale at Newmarket as a source of European stayers who would be suited to Australian conditions.
Waller was just getting established in Sydney and was looking for horses to keep his stable going through the winter months never dreaming of getting them to the highest level.
His success with those cheaper horses led to his clients buying into more expensive stayers such as Stand To Gain and My Kingdom Of Fife who claimed Group One wins last season.
“It’s every trainer’s dream to have a runner in the Melbourne Cup and to have two is amazing,” Waller said.
His other runner, The Verminator, is home grown as is the Waterhouse-trained Older Than Time.
Waterhouse’s other runner Tullamore began his career in New Zealand and after being placed in the Caulfield Cup, is the more favoured to give the trainer her first Cup win.
Lloyd Williams’ private trainer Robert Hickmott is the fourth local trainer with two runners and will saddle up imports Mourayan and At First Sight with their owner looking for his fourth Melbourne Cup.
Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin will be represented by Modun and and Lost In The Moment, Mark Johnston has Jukebox Jury and Fox Hunt engaged, Brian Ellison has his first runners Moyenne Corniche and Saptapardi while popular visitor Luca Cumani has Drunken Sailor and Manighar.
Cumani got a taste of what could be when Purple Moon ran second to the Williams-owned Efficient while a year later he almost had it in his hand when Bauer was nosed out by the Cummings-trained Viewed.
Godolphin has tried hard with Central Park (1999) Give The Slip (2000) and Crime Scene (2009) all running second while Beekeeper was third in 2002.
Mike Moroney and Anthony Freedman have also searched wide for their respective Cup runners – Glass Harmonium from England and Lucas Cranach from Germany.
But it seems the French have the upper hand with last year’s winner Americain favourite ahead of Dunaden.
The French attack has been meticulous with Americain winning last year’s Geelong Cup on his way to a historic victory at Flemington.
The Geelong Cup has grown in stature as a form guide to the big one since Media Puzzle completed the double in 2002.
With that in mind, Dunaden impressed all who saw him when he stretched out to win this year’s event at Geelong.
Americain eased slightly to $4.20 after drawing barrier 15 while Dunaden was at $8 with TAB Sportsbet after coming up with gate 13.
So do the French have a mortgage on the race? Maybe, but it may also be worth noting it was the Germans who plundered their most famous race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when Danedream took the prize.