Melbourne Cup punters started rallying for an Australian victory as the nation’s greatest race became a lost cause for jockey Craig Williams.
As betting firms around the country reported a surge of money for Saturday’s Lexus Stakes winner Niwot, Williams failed in his bid for a stay of proceedings pending an appeal over a careless riding charge.
Niwot was backed from $14 to $10 on Monday and the stayer prepared by John Hawkes and his sons Wayne and Michael now occupies the third line of betting.
Conversely, French stayer Dunaden eased to $9 with some bookmakers with the news of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s decision against Williams.
Christophe Lemaire, who has ridden Dunaden twice before, will replace Williams on the Geelong Cup winner.
TAB Sportsbet’s Matthew Jenkins described the Niwot move as a “sensational plunge”.
“The Lexus Stakes winner has been the most popular runner since the barrier draw, firming from $17,” he said.
Favourite Americain has completed his preparation for Tuesday’s race just as he began it, only faster.
The defending champion moved smoothly over 2000m at Werribee racecourse under the scrutiny of trainer Alain de Royer Dupre, assistant trainer Stephanie Nigge, part-owner Gerry Ryan and with his regular rider Louise Zuili in the saddle.
All four proclaimed him ready to become only the fifth horse in history to win Australia’s greatest race in successive years.
“I think I cannot make him any better than he is now,” de Royer Dupre said of the easing $4.80 favourite.
“He is better than last year, it is only the weight that is difficult for him.”
Jockey Corey Brown is going into the race on Lucas Cranach more confident than two years ago when he won on the Mark Kavanagh-trained Shocking.
Brown’s enthusiasm for his chances of a second Cup victory has been heightened with the hands-on role of five-time Cup-winning trainer Lee Freedman has had in the preparation of the import.
“I spent 18 months, nearly two years down at Freedmans and I have never seen Lee fuss over a horse like this,” Brown said.
“He’s been with it every move and is really looking at everything it does.”
English jockey Neil Callan has spent the past three weeks studying videos to learn how to win the Melbourne Cup on international raider Jukebox Jury.
Callan said he had also armed himself with the advice of 12-time Cup winning trainer Bart Cummings.
“I have been watching videos of it for the last three weeks and seen the last 12 years of it,” he said.
“I am very, very clued up after seeing that many runnings.”
Trainer Mike Moroney is excited about former English horse Glass Harmonium’s prospects with the only question mark being the 3200 metres.
“I’m 50-50 over whether he can stay or not. I think he may be too brilliant but he’s such a good horse he deserves his chance,” Moroney said.
“If he stays, he wins the race and his best chance is this year before weight gets him.”