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The $3.6 million winner’s cheque is not the only reason trainer Wayne Hawkes wants to win the Melbourne Cup – he rather fancies having a yarn with Camilla.

“I just hope I’m up there next to Camilla and ask her a few questions about Charles,” Hawkes says.

There’s a fair bit more on the line than a cheeky chat with the Duchess of Cornwall. Local pride, for one.

As the co-trainer of the biggest Australian hope in the best international field assembled for a Melbourne Cup in its 152 years, Hawkes hopes Maluckyday can go one better than his second place in 2010 and put him in the winner’s circle next to the duchess.

On his second visit to Flemington for the Melbourne Cup, Prince Charles will take a back seat to wife Camilla who will hand over the trophy he gave to the connections of What A Nuisance in 1985.

The royal couple is due to join another 100,000 or so spectators a couple of hours before the Cup, just as forecast thunderstorms are predicted to clear for a bright afternoon.

But the chances of presenting the Cup to Hawkes or any other of their loyal Australian subjects is slim.

French pair Dunaden and Americain, who won the last two Cups, and British stayer Red Cadeaux, who came second in the closest finish in history last year, are joined by another UK starter Mount Athos as the top four favourites, ahead of Maluckyday.

And few experts are going beyond those four in tipping their winner.

Cups king Bart Cummings has two chances to win his 13th Cup with American horse Sanagas and the enigmatic Precedence, but says Americain is the horse to beat.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has also tipped Americain, but admits it wasn’t because of any close study of the form.

“I’m going to go for Americain on the basis that everybody is very focused on the US elections,” she said.

The multinational field includes French, American, Irish, British, German and New Zealand bred horses as the Melbourne Cup has become a major target of the world racing elite.

It’s become such an international event, the TAB is even offering patriotic bets – $2.20 for an Australian-trained winner, against $1.65 for an international. It’s even going so far as offering an Ashes bet – $1.28 for Australian horses against $3.60 for British runners.

Dunaden’s trainer Mikel Delzangles describes the Cup as “something I wish we had in France”.

He’s talking about the race and the festivities that accompany it, of course. The Cup itself has been in Chantilly for the past 24 months thanks to Americain and Dunaden.

And between the pair of them, a third one might be heading there in a few days.

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