Vice President of the UAE and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum will make his 18th attempt at an elusive Melbourne Cup win on Tuesday as some of the world’s biggest trainers descend for Australia’s most prestigious race.
The 154-year-old Melbourne Cup over 3,200 metres (two miles) has become a global event and its bumper Aus$6.2 million ($4.4 million) prize money lures the big names of thoroughbred racing, from Japan to the Gulf and the British isles.
While Japan’s Fame Game is the pre-post favourite, a roll call of leading international trainers are trying their luck, some of them not for the first time.
A record-equalling contingent of 11 foreign-trained horses are running at Flemington racecourse, where the Cup has gone to an international winner only six times.
Godolphin, the Dubai racing and breeding monolith owned by Sheikh Mohammed, is back for the 18th time after three second placings — Central Park (1999), Give The Slip (2001) and Crime Scene (2009).
Godolphin’s main chance this year is Sky Hunter, but the stable also has the locally trained Hartnell in the running.
“You need to bring horses that have the speed, stay the trip and handle the ground and I think we have three good chances this year,” said Saeed bin Suroor, trainer of Sky Hunter.
“At home, we have some good horses but they have to carry too much weight (in the handicap race). So, I have to think what is our best chance. “This is a great race to win, we’re trying. We’ll come back next year and the next year.”
Michael Stoute has been a champion trainer 10 times in England and he has won races all over the globe, including victories in the Dubai World Cup, the Breeders Cup and the Japan Cup along with five Epsom Derbies and two Ascot Gold Cups.
— Andrew Bensley (@AndrewBensley) November 1, 2015
But he has also yet to capture the Melbourne Cup and gets his chance with top-weight Snow Sky, owned by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Khalid Abdullah, 10 years after his last Cup runner Distinction.
“I love the race. For years I’ve wanted to come and be competitive in it,” Stoute said. “We’ve brought a much better horse this time because we have to.”
Newmarket trainer Ed Dunlop has come close to winning the Melbourne with Red Cadeaux — the 10-year-old gelding has been a runner-up in three of the last four years.
“If he runs in the top four it would be an astonishing result for a horse of his age to come to this country six times,” Dunlop said.
Dunlop also has a strong chance with Trip To Paris, who finished second to Mongolian Khan in the shorter main leadup race the Caulfield Cup (2400m) a fortnight ago.
— Dubai Eye Sport (@DubaiEyeSport) October 31, 2015
Irishman Aidan O’Brien is hoping to replicate the trailblazing successes of compatriot trainer Dermot Weld with Vintage Crop (1993) and Media Puzzle (2002) for his two runners, Kingfisher and Bondi Beach.
O’Brien hasn’t had a Cup runner since 2008 but both this year’s entries have strong credentials.
Bondi Beach won the English St Leger after an inquiry, while Kingfisher finished second in the Ascot Gold Cup.
Another Irish contender Max Dynamite, will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
The Melbourne Cup has been won six times by internationally trained horses: 2014 (Protectonist, Germany), 2011 (Dunaden, France), 2010 (Americain, France), 2006 (Delta Blues, Japan), 2002 (Media Puzzle, Ireland), 1993 (Vintage Crop, Ireland).
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Racing returns to the UAE at Jebel Ali Friday afternoon and Champion Trainer Musabah Al Muhairi is seeking to complete a hat-trick in the featured 1,000m handicap for himself and Sheikh Hamdan.
The pair combine with two of the seven runners this year, including Fityaan, successful 12 months ago and again the choice of jockey Dane O’Neill, retained by the owner.
That leaves Pierantonio Convertino, riding in the UAE for the first time, to partner stable companion Rafeej, who has to concede weight to his six rivals.
O’Neill said: “These choices are never easy but I won the race on Fityaan last year so it makes sense to stick with him. Rafeej also runs well fresh and should not be far away.”
Sheikh Hamdan also owns the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained duo of Mujaazef and Nawwaar with the latter to be partnered by Tadhg O’Shea, recently appointed stable jockey for Al Raihe.
O’Shea said: “I am really looking forward to getting started in the new job and obviously hoping for a good season. Nawwaar is fit and well but perhaps better on turf and I think Rafeej will be hard to beat.”
Dhruba Selvaratnam trains on the track, predominantly for racecourse patron Sheikh Ahmed and they combine with Morawij, the mount of Chris Hayes, another jockey making his local debut.
The yard are also represented by Roicead, third in the race in 2013 and fifth last year when one place ahead of Kilt Rock who completes the septet this year.
Second to Rafeej on his most recent outing, he is trained by Doug Watson, a handler who appears to hold major claims throughout the card.
Looks like Fernando Jaro is the man to fill the void at Musabah Al Muhairi’s yard, as was due to be the case 12 months ago
— Stephen Molyneux (@SMolyneux79) October 25, 2015
Watson said: “He normally needs his first run of the season but is fit and well. He gets weight from Rafeej and Fityaan which can only help. He should run well and we know he likes the track.”
Among Watson’s leading hopes would appear to be Mizbah who will seek to win the opening 1,950m handicap for the second year in succession. He will be ridden by Champion Jockey Richard Mullen who will be hoping to get his title defence off to a flying start.
Mullen, stable jockey to Satish Seemar who is not represented in the race, added: “It looks a great spare ride and Doug and his team sound hopeful. It is always nice to get an early winner on the board and this looks a decent chance to do so.”