With Queen Gone, Who Will Take Melbourne Crown?

Edited press release

With Makybe Diva retired, the Nov. 6 Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) appears a free-for-all. The champion mare won the Cup three years in a row, but that crown will go to another horse this year.

Last year, Makybe Diva broke a 51-year drought when she became the first horse since Rising Fast (1954) to carry the No.1 saddlecloth to victory. One of the most successful in the Cup, post position one has won the race 10 times; five of those wins came in an eight-year period from 1946-1954.

This year, the inside post will be occupied by Ireland's champion stayer, Yeats, who rounded out his preparation for the Melbourne Cup, Australia's most popular race, with a steady canter at Sandown Racecourse Nov. 5.

Jamie Osborne, who trains Cup entrant Gordieland, believes the fact the Melbourne Cup is a handicap could help his horse's chances. Gordieland finished second to Yeats in the Goodwood Cup in August.

"In the Melbourne Cup, we have a (6.6-pound) pull," Osborne said. "Added into the equation is the fact that I think my horse is much better now than he was then. On pure math, we have a fair chance of beating Yeats."

Yeats' handler, Andrew Murphy, said: "I think we beat him easily at Goodwood. You'll find that Yeats was also being eased down."

Pop Rock and Delta Blues, in from Japan, have been among the most strongly supported horses in the race. And after favorable post draws alongside each other and impressive gallops at Sandown Nov. 4, they remain two of the strongest chances.

Pop Rock won the gallop under jockey Damien Oliver, who sat quietly on his horse, while Delta Blues came under the whip. Neither horse appeared on the training track Nov. 5, but trainer Katsuhiko Sumii said it was normal for the pair to rest after a gallop.

Sumii joined Oliver in predicting Pop Rock would beat Delta Blues in a reversal of their Caulfield Cup finish. "I'll go for Pop Rock because his condition is improving, and he's at his peak at the moment," Sumii said through an interpreter.

The international contingent is completed by Glistening and Land 'N Stars, both longshots, and Tawqeet, who joined the David Hayes stable earlier this year having displayed good form in England, where his record included a third-place finish in the St. Leger Stakes behind Scorpion.

Tawqeet won the Caulfield Cup two weeks ago, and according to Hayes has held his form. A Melbourne Cup victory would give Tawqeet's owner, Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, two of the world's richest races in a span of three days. Sheikh Hamdan, who has won two Melbourne Cups, won the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) with Invasor Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

The Emirates Melbourne Cup is the world's richest handicap race at $5.5 million. It will be run at Flemington Racecourse. The race will be shown live in North America at racetracks and off-track betting outlets and through account wagering systems, and also will be available in Great Britain and Ireland.

Post time for the Melbourne Cup, which will be shown live on HRTV, is 11 p.m. Eastern time. The first race on the program is set for 6:20 p.m. Wagers from more than 10 countries will be commingled into Australian racing pools via the hub at Woodbine in Ontario, Canada.