British galloper Marmelo favorite to win Melbourne Cup
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) —
Marmelo has been installed as the pre-race favorite to win Tuesday’s 157th running of the Melbourne Cup as he attempts to become the first British-trained galloper to win Australia’s richest and most famous horse race.
Although no British-based horse has ever won the Melbourne Cup, Australian bookmakers have listed the English raider at the top of the betting sheets at odds of 7-1, just ahead of last year’s race winner Almandin, who will be ridden by Italian-born jockey Frankie Dettori.
A proven stayer, Marmelo has already won twice in Europe over two miles, roughly the same distance as the 3,200-metre Melbourne Cup, and was promoted to race favorite on the back of his fast-finishing sixth-place finish in last month’s Caulfield Cup, one of the traditional lead-up events.
But Marmelo’s astute trainer Hughie Morrison remains cautious about his horse’s prospects after he was allocated 55 kilograms and drew barrier 16 in the grueling handicap, which has been run annually at Flemington racecourse since 1861.
“He had a good run around (in the Caulfield Cup) but others got interfered with so he caught the eye more than others would,” Morrison said. “His profile is good but he has got plenty of weight.”
Only a handful of horses from outside of Australia and New Zealand have won the Melbourne Cup, with victors coming from Ireland, France, Japan and Germany. But the challenge— and the lure of the $A6.5 million (US$5 million) prizemoney— remains irresistible to overseas connections.
Dettori has won just about every major race in the world during his career but the Melbourne Cup has continued to elude and frustrate him. The British-based rider has been trying to win the race since 1993, describing his quest as “unfinished business.”
Almandin represents one of his best chances. The 8 year old is owned by Australian businessman Lloyd Williams who is attempting to win the Cup for the sixth time and who owns six of the 23 runners in this year’s field. Dettori was offered the plum ride on Almandin when his Australian jockey Damien Oliver was suspended.
Dettori said Almandin “has been there before and he’s won it,” adding: “I’d like to put my name on that famous list of jockeys.”
Trained by Robert Hickmott, Almandin will start from barrier 14 on Tuesday and will carry 56.5 kilograms, the second highest weight in the field, as he attempts to become just the sixth horse to win the race more than once, joining Archer (1861, 1862), Peter Pan (1932, 1934), Rain Lover (1968, 1969), Think Big (1974, 1975) and Makybe Diva (2003, 2004, 2005).
Among the other favored runners are Humidor, which ran a narrow second to superstar galloper Winx in the Cox Plate two weeks ago, as well as Nakeeta, Wall of Fire, Rekindling and Johannes Vermeer.
The Melbourne Cup is dubbed “the race that stops a nation” because Australia grinds to a halt when the race is on with gamblers betting more than $100 million on the outcome.