It used to be a golden rule of the Melbourne Cup, the Bart Cummings edict: you had to run on the Saturday before, or you couldn’t win it.
Then Dermot Weld came from Ireland and challenged the Cummings lore and won Australia’s greatest race with a horse who hadn’t raced for a couple of months let alone in the traditional Derby Day lead ups.
In the 18 years since, the wheel has continued to turn and the latest “must run” race is one that is staged 12,000 kilometres away and two months prior to Australia’s greatest.
The Prix Kergorlay, a Group Two race in the French seaside town of Deauville has already produced one Cup winner and two placings in the past decade and this year provides five outstanding prospects.
And this year’s edition of the Kergorlay is overflowing with good Melbourne Cup form and is being scrutinised as closely as such traditional Cup lead-ups as the Caulfield Cup, Turnbull Stakes and Mackinnon Stakes.
Americain, who won last year’s Kergorlay-Melbourne Cup double, is back again after finishing only 10th in the French race this year.
At his only run since, Americain won the Moonee Valley Cup last Saturday and locked himself in as the Melbourne Cup favourite.
Dunaden, another French Stayer, finished ninth at Deauville.
At his only subsequent appearance he won the Geelong Cup and became second favourite for the Cup.
If the Prix Kergorlay form has any merit, the best may yet to be seen.
The English horses Jukebox Jury, Manighar and Red Cadeaux all finished ahead of the French pair and are yet to race in Australia.
Jukebox Jury won the Kergorlay by three lengths and at his only start since took out the Irish St Leger in a dead-heat.
His form is further confirmed by runner-up Kasbah Bliss who at his next run won the Group One Prix du Cadran at Longchamp from Tres Rock Domain who had been eighth in the Kergorlay.
The third placegetter at Deauville was Brigantin who dead-heated for third in the Cadran with Ley Hunter who ran 11th in the Kergorlay.
The next Cup runner to finish behind Jukebox Junior was Manighar in fourth. He has since finished in the same position in the Caulfield Cup.
In fifth place in the Kergorlay was Red Cadeaux who ran a cracking race to finish third behind Jukebox Jury in the Irish St Leger.
It isn’t only recent runnings of the Prix Kergrolay that has provided insight into Australian big-race prospects.
In 1987 the high-class English galloper Almaarad won the Kergorlay for trainer John Dunlop, two years before he claimed the Cox Plate when trained by the late Colin Hayes.
More recently the grand English campaigner Persian Punch won it in 2000 in between his third placings in the 1998 and 2001 Melbourne Cups, and in 1998 it was won by Arctic Owl who ran fifth at Flemington in 2000.
For Mikel Delzangles, the trainer of Dunaden, the omens are significant.
“For sure the Kergorlay has been a good race, and this year it seems it is very good,” Delzangles said.
“Dunaden ran well in the race and wasn’t far from the winner.
“Since he came to Australia he has improved so I’m very happy with him.”
For Manighar, the Kergorlay confirmed a trip to Melbourne for a second Cups campaign and he ran another great race in the Caulfield Cup.
According to stable representative Francesca Cumani, a “wiser and stronger” Manighar has returned to Australia and has run another cracking race in the Caulfield Cup.
“He’s knuckled down and grown up,” Cumani said.
“I was concerned that he was looking a little flat when I arrived in Melbourne, but after riding him I’m very happy with how he feels.”
A record contingent of international runners is in Melbourne for the Cup.
As many as 10 of them are likely to run in the race and they hold the top six positions in the betting.
It won’t surprise anyone if they completely shut out the locally-trained runners.