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The French challenge for the Melbourne Cup is approaching full speed again with defending champion and favourite Americain and second favourite Dunaden stepping up their work after their recent wins.

Americain had been given an easy few days following his Drake International Cup success at Moonee Valley on Saturday and Dunaden had also been allowed plenty of time to recover from his victory in last week’s Geelong Cup.

Assistant trainer Stephanie Nigge said Americain had recovered more quickly from this year’s Cup lead-up than he had 12 months ago.

“He didn’t have a hard run on Saturday and mentally he has recovered better,” Nigge said.

“He was still a bit stiff this morning, but that’s because he was going slower.

“If we stretched him out he would feel fine.”

Americain resumed his normal schedule on Wednesday, walking a lap of Werribee before he clicked into gear for his usual strong canter over 2000 metres followed by a another 20 minutes walk.

He is now a clear $4 favourite to win his second Melbourne Cup, with Dunaden at $7 and German import Lucas Cranach next best at $8.

Nigge said Americain would maintain his present schedule leading up to next Tuesday’s race.

“He is ready now and we don’t need to do anything different before the Cup, just keep him happy,” she said.

Trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre arrives in Melbourne over the weekend to supervise his final few days of preparation.

Dunaden also had his most serious work since winning the Geelong Cup when he galloped over 1500 metres without being fully extended.

The same could not be said for Luca Cumani’s notoriously poor trackworker Drunken Sailor who failed to exert himself against stablemate Manighar in a 1400m gallop.

Wearing blinkers for the first time, Manighar and his lead horse finished on terms, four lengths in front of Drunken Sailor, covering their last 800 metres in 49.4 seconds and last 400 metres in 24.6s.

Cumani said he was hopeful the blinkers would sharpen up Manighar, but he is still undecided whether they will be added to his gear for next Tuesday’s assignment.

Eight hours later, Cumani endured further disappointment when his former Chilean galloper Sahara Sun ran poorly in the Bendigo Cup (2400m).

The horse had held the final place in the Melbourne Cup order of entry, but is now less than certain of taking his place.

Should Sahara Sun not run, the chances of his stablemate Bauer making the field would be slightly improved.

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