A competitive field of 24 is set for the $6,410,000 Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aus-I), including the event’s two most recent winners, French stayers Americain and Dunaden, who will square off in Australia's greatest race on Nov. 6 at Flemington.
Both will have to overcome hefty weigh assignments, however, as they each bid for a second win in the two-mile (3,200-meter) test, which will be run for the 152nd time. Only five horses have won the race more than once, most recently Makybe Diva in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
Gerry Ryan's and Kevin Bamford's Americain, winner of the 2010 Melbourne Cup and fourth to Dunaden last year, is the pre-race favorite after drawing post 12 Nov. 3. He will carry 58 kilograms (127 pounds), compared with Dunaden, who is the first horse in the Melbourne Cup’s recent history assigned 59 kilograms (130 pounds). After metric weights were introduced in 1972, no horse has won the race carrying more than the 58.5 kilograms (128 pounds) since Think Big in 1975. Carbine, an Australian legend, carried highest weight ever to victory, 145 pounds (65 kilograms) in 1890.
Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, Americain has met Dunaden four times previously, with his rival besting him in each race. The 7-year-old Kentucky-bred horse by Dynaformer enters off a strong fourth to his rival after losing both front shoes in the 1 1/2-mile Caulfield Cup (Aus-I) Oct. 20. Americain is seeking to become the first two-time winner in non-consecutive years since Peter Pan in 1932 and 1934.
"We might be the favorite with the bookies, but there's a lot of competition and (we are) just hopeful we've got the best horse on the day," Ryan told Racing Victoria. "The horse is in great condition."
Sheikh Fahad Al Thani's Dunaden is perfect all three of his Australian starts for trainer Mikel Delzangles, including last year's thrilling Melbourne Cup, in which he defeated Red Cadeaux by a nose, the slimmest margin in race history.
In his most recent start, the 6-year-old French-bred horse by Nicobar broke from the widest post in the Caulfield Cup and stormed from near the back of the field under top weight of 128 pounds to win by a half-length from Alcopop.
Sheikh Fahad said Dunaden is fit and ready for the Melbourne Cup. A win would make him the 12th horse to complete the Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup double the same year.
"We are very pleased with the horse as we thought he was 80 percent fit for the Caulfield Cup," Sheikh Fahad told www.news.au.com.
"He has come on a lot since then and is 100% for the Melbourne Cup. The horse loves Australia, he definitely improves down here."
While Americain is the favorite, Sheikh Fahad said it is another he considers the biggest threat to his horse.
"Red Cadeaux is the horse I fear most."
Red Cadeaux, who has finished in the top three in six subsequent starts since last year's heartbreaking loss in the Melbourne Cup, has not raced in three months since his third to fellow Melbourne Cup entrant Fiorente in the Princess of Wales's Goldsmith Stakes (Eng-II) July 12 at Newmarket.
"He runs very well fresh and he looks fantastic," trainer Ed Dunlop told www.sportal.com.au about Red Cadeaux, who will break from post 18 while toting 55.5 kilograms (122 pounds). "My team have done a great job.
"He is a horse that has proven he runs well first time out. But this is a tough race and we need a little luck. Maybe it will be our turn."
Red Cadeaux won the Sportingbet Yorkshire Cup (Eng-II) in May, finished second to St Nicholas Abbey in the Investec Diamond Jubilee Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) in June at Epsom, and was third to Dunaden in the 2011 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase (HK-I).
The Melbourne Cup field also includes Italian group I winner Jakkalberry, third to Cirrus Des Aigles in the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) in March at Meydan and winner of the 1 11/16-mile American St. Leger in August at Arlington Park before finishing unplaced in the Caulfield Cup; and four-time U.S. grade I winner Winchester, who is unplaced in three Australian starts since being transferred to Australian trainer John Sadler, including his ninth in the Caulfield Cup.
Newmarket trainer Luca Cumani is hoping for a breakthrough victory after close seconds with Purple Moon in 2007 and Bauer in 2008. He will send out two runners in Mount Athos, who enters on a three-race win streak, including the Geoffrey Freer Stakes (Eng-III) in August at Newbury in his most recent outing; and My Quest For Peace, a group III winner at Goodwood this summer who finished fifth in the Caulfield Cup.
Trainer Bart Cummings, seeking a record 13th Melbourne Cup win, will saddle Sanagas, winner of the 2011 Hollywood Turf Cup (g. IT) winner and a Keeneland track record setter for trainer Graham Motion. He is unplaced in four Australian starts for Cummings.
Godolphin's French group I winner Cavalryman has two wins and two seconds in four starts this year, including a listed stakes at about two miles in July at Sandown.
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