The only Australian-born horse in the 2016 Melbourne Cup has come in for local support on the eve of the famous race.
In a 24-horse field dominated by northern hemisphere bloodlines, Jameka is the second favourite to add Tuesday’s 3200m-staying test to her Caulfield Cup win.
She is trained by the astute Ciaron Maher, whose mop of curly hair makes him look more like a rock star than a man who meticulously prepares a large team of thoroughbreds from stables at Caulfield in Melbourne and Pakenham out of town.
The 36-year-old has faith in Jameka’s ability and her stamina and punters have again warmed to the mare who is at $7.50 with only Godolphin’s imported Hartnell more favoured at $5.50.
The mare will be up against a sea of royal blue – the colours of Godolphin, the racing operation and passion of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed, who will be represented by five runners led by Hartnell who handed Jameka a comprehensive beating in the Turnbull Stakes before she won the Caulfield Cup.
Because of that win, Jameka is closer in the weights to Hartnell after getting a 1.5kg penalty but Maher says that should not stop her.
“She’s a big strong free-flowing horse, so it’ll have some effect, but hopefully not enough to stop her from winning,” Maher said.
Trained in Australia by John O’Shea, Hartnell will be joined by four horses from England – the Charlie Appleby-trained Oceanographer and Qewy and Beautiful Romance and Secret Number from the stable of Saeed bin Suror who has been bringing horses to Australia for almost two decades in quest of the race.
O’Shea, who joined Godolphin in 2014, says a Cup win would be the pinnacle of a career which includes multiple elite level wins as a public trainer.
“I’ve come from a small town in North Queensland. To even have a runner is frightening, let alone to even give consideration to winning it,” he said.
“I don’t think you can go into a Melbourne Cup with confidence. All we are doing is we’re going into the race knowing that our horse is fit, he’ll be well ridden and if he’s good enough at some stage he’ll look the winner.
John Ferguson, Godolphin’s chief executive and global spokesman, says the Melbourne Cup holds a special place in the world of racing.
“We’ve had runners in Kentucky, the Derby, and the classics all over the world and there’s nothing like the Melbourne Cup,” Ferguson said.
“They talk about it as the race that stops the nation – it’s not. Now, in racing terms and sporting terms, it’s the race that stops the world.”
James McDonald is Godolphin’s retained rider in Australia and again rides Hartnell who he has partnered to three wins this spring.
During a stint in England during the Australian winter, McDonald also rode Qewy but has no doubts about the horse he wants to be on and that’s Hartnell.
“He’s the right horse to run in the Melbourne Cup and his form has been fantastic,” McDonald said.