Sheikh Mohammed’s bid for an elusive Melbourne Cup win is gathering momentum with his global Godolphin operation to field five runners, two at the head of the market.
Locally trained by John O’Shea, Hartnell is the favourite in Melbourne Cup odds race ahead of Oceanographer who cemented his place with victory in Saturday’s Lexus Stakes.
Oceanographer’s English trainer Charlie Appleby also saddles up Qewy, winner of the Geelong Cup earlier this month.
Beautiful Romance and Secret Number, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, round out the Godolphin quintet for the race Sheikh Mohammed has been trying to win for two decades, running second three times and third once.
But it is Oceanographer who has endeared himself to Australian punters as he prepares to line up for his third start in 13 days, something Appleby admits is not the norm in Europe.
“He ate up last night so that’s first and foremost,” Appleby said.
“He had a jog around this morning.
“A lot of people weren’t expecting to see him out this morning but we like to keep them on the move.
“So his usual rider jogged him around and he was having a buck and a kick coming off the track and then went back to the sandpit and had a roll.
“So he looks in good order. At the moment it’s all systems go.”
Ten of the 24 runners are trained in the northern hemisphere while only four can lay claim to being colonially bred.
That quartet is headed by Jameka who has eased to third favourite after being soundly beaten by Hartnell in the Turnbull Stakes before she won the Caulfield Cup.
Pentathlon, trained by New Zealander John Wheeler, is by Pentire, the sire of last year’s winner Prince Of Penzance.
He is also at similar odds to last years’s 100-1 winner with Auckland Cup runner-up Rose Of Virginia, the last horse into the field, also at a big price.
Who Shot Thebarman, also a former New Zealander who won the 2014 Auckland Cup, ran third two years ago and will be joined in the race by his Chris Waller-trained stablemate Grand Marshal.
They are both proven at the 3200 metres of the Melbourne Cup but the markets suggest Australia’s leading Group One trainer may have to wait another year to win.