THE $6 million Melbourne Cup is upon us and the best staying thoroughbreds in the world are at Flemington to take home the riches.
Steeped in history, the Melbourne Cup is the pinnacle of staying racing in Australia and around the world, with past champions such as Phar Lap, Think Big, Might And Power, Saintly and three-time winner Makybe Diva gracing the winner's trophy.
24 runners will contest ‘the race that stops a nation' in the hopes of Group 1 glory this Tuesday at 3pm AEST.
With 11 internationally-trained runners, the 2015 Melbourne Cup is a true global test, but can the Australian locals hold off the raiders?
Japanese star Fame Game has attracted most of the money since the Caulfield Cup, which means there's plenty of value around with the other entrants.
Our runner-by-runner guide breaks down the form and gives punters more insight into the 24 thoroughbreds entered on Tuesday.
1. Snow Sky – $51
Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute
Jockey: Ryan Moore
It's interesting that not many punters are giving Snow Sky a chance in the Melbourne Cup, despite being relatively unlucky in the Caulfield Cup.
Yes, it will have to carry 58kg to victory, but it finished fifth at Caulfield with the same weight and it got held up around the home turn. To finish only 4.75 lengths behind Mongolian Khan in its first run in Australia was credible and it deserves more respect.
It has won five from 15 and has amassed almost $1 million in earnings. Master trainer Sir Michael Stoute has engaged jockey Ryan Moore and he loves riding group 1 winners in Australia.
This multiple group 2 winner shouldn't be paying $51 to win, so keep in mind for place bets.
2. Criterion – $13
Trainer: David Hayes and Tom Dabernig
Jockey: Michael Walker
The five-year-old was no match for Winx in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, but it had plenty of excuses in behind.
The son of Sebring was trailing the eventual winner as they approached the home turn, but it got chopped out and lost its rightful place along the rail. To be fair, it probably wouldn't have won anyway, but to pick itself up and still finish second is a credit to its toughness.
Criterion has done plenty of travelling this year which included a trip to Hong Kong where it finished third in the QEII Cup behind Blazing Speed. That international experience will help it and it was a Group 1 winner just two starts back.
No form at Flemington with only one placing from four starts so that is a concern. It does have form on rain-affected tracks, so if there's some moisture in the ground, its chances improve.
3. Fame Game – $3.50
Trainer: Yoshitada Munakata
Jockey: Zac Purton
Of the beaten brigade in the Caulfield Cup, Fame Game arguably produced the best run of the lot. The lightly-tried horse settled near last and sprouted wings when the race was all over, indicating that the rise in distance would be ideal.
Before arriving in Australia, the six-year-old won the Group 3 Diamond Stakes at Tokyo over 3400 metres and placed in the Group 1 Tenno Sho over 3200 metres. It's an out-an-out stayer and it is almost guaranteed to see the distance out.
That bodes well for punters as many runners in the race have yet to run over two miles. Backing Fame Game takes the guessing work out of it and we all know how hard the Japanese stayers are to beat.
Our top pick based on its distance form and that excellent Caulfield Cup run, but the odds are only getting slimmer so take the $3.50 at Sportsbet.com.au.
4. Our Ivanhowe – $26
Trainer: Lee and Anthony Freedman
Jockey: Ben Melham
This six-year-old import was a real eye-catcher in the Caulfield Cup where it finished third behind Mongolian Khan and Trip To Paris.
The Freedman-trained horse hadn't shown much form prior to this spring, but after two excellent runs over longer distances, the son of Soldier Hollow has come into its element.
This is the same horse that finished only 1.6 lengths from the winner in the Group 1 Japan Cup and that form line should stack up in a Melbourne Cup.
It was unsuited by the shorter distances it faced to begin its Australian campaign, but it's firing now and it's a relatively underrated type.
5. Big Orange – $51
Trainer: Michael Bell
Jockey: Jamie Spencer
Not fancied in the market at $51 despite being twice a winner at group 2 level last preparation. The five-year-old is fresh up, having not raced since August, but it has won and placed from four starts fresh.
It won the Arqana Stakes at Newmarket three starts back and backed that up with another win in the Group 2 Goodwood Cup where it defeated race-rival Quest For More by a half-head.
There isn't much exposed form to get a line on and the lack of betting support would suggest it's just filling a spot in the field. Drawing barrier 23 only diminishes its chances and we're prepared to risk this runner at big odds.
6. Hartnell – $34
Trainer: John O'Shea
Jockey: James McDonald
On form alone it wouldn't appear a genuine chance, but Hartnell has been preparing nicely for this and its run in the Cox Plate was worth noting.
The former European gelding finished fifth and was running on strongly at the finish for James McDonald who sticks with the five-year-old. It had settled midfield before being shuffled back and to run on after that was a nice indicator for this.
Its form throughout the year included a Group 1 win in The BMW at Randwick where it put 1.25 lengths on classy Japanese runner To The World. It did finish behind race-rivals Grand Marshal and Preferment, but it has strengthened nicely since.
7. Hokko Brave – $34
Trainer: Yasutoshi Matsunaga
Jockey: Craig Williams
The second Japanese runner which didn't get much luck in the Caulfield Cup when 10th of 18 runners.
The eight-year-old came in with mixed form in Japan and it hasn't won for awhile now. It did, however, finish only 1.8 lenghs behind Gold Ship in the Tenno Sho and it was running on like a horse that would appreciate the bigger track at Flemington.
The worrying form guide is that Fame Game defeated it by 14 lengths in the Copa Republica over 2500 metres at Tokyo and that doesn't bode well for this.
It appears to like a rock-hard track and it doesn't look like conditions are going to suit. In saying that, always respect the Japanese runners and if it can get some luck from barrier 20, then jockey Craig Williams could produce the upset.
8. Max Dynamite – $15
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockey: Frankie Dettori
What a story Max Dynamite is for connections. The three-time winner was running in novice hurdle events before they decided to run it in the Northumberland at Newmarket in June.
The six-year-old finished second behind Quest For More and even though it has since raced in the Galway Hurdle, it represents a good winning chance on the flat.
It ended last campaign with a stunning 4.5-length win in the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup which made the connections decide that the Melbourne Cup would be its next target.
Running fresh won't worry it as it has won twice and placed once from four starts. Bookmakers have kept it very safe in the market and it looks a natural multiple bet inclusion.
All three career wins have come on a slow surface, so keep an eye on the track conditions and bet accordingly.
9. Red Cadeaux – $26
Trainer: Ed Dunlop
Jockey: Gerald Mosse
The old-timer comes back for another tilt at the Cup as a 10-year-old.
Red Cadeaux is a top-class thoroughbred which has finished second in the Melbourne Cup on three occasions.
It doesn't seem to matter what form it brings into the race, the English gelding just keeps producing the goods on the first Tuesday in November.
Trainer Ed Dunlop admits his pride and joy is in the latter stages of its fine racing career, but there will be plenty of punters cheering it home.
It was only April this year where it finished second in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth at Randwick behind Criterion and if it can reproduce a similar effort, Red Cadeaux could well fill another placing in what could be its swan song.
We're expecting the $26 price to drop on the back of sentimental support.
10. Trip To Paris – $9
Trainer: Ed Dunlop
Jockey: Tommy Berry
The second of the Ed Dunlop-trained duo which ran a cracking second in the Caulfield Cup last start.
The five-year-old by Champs Elysees came to Australia with some top notch form under its belt, with a win coming in the Group 1 Gold Cup at Ascot during the Royal Ascot carnival in June.
Its next two runs came in behind race-rivals Big Orange and Max Dynamite, which bodes well for those runners, but its run in the Caulfield Cup was that of an improving type. With Tommy Berry in the saddle, Trip To Paris settled handy and finished off with a withering burst.
It has won and placed over two miles and Berry should be able to find a nice position from barrier 14. Punters had backed it into $8.50 earlier in the week, but it has since drifted to $9.
Not an alarming drift and we're expecting it to start as second or third favourite.
11. Who Shot Thebarman – $17
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Blake Shinn
New Zealand runner which ran superbly in this race last year and Waller has it ticking over nicely leading into Tuesday.
Who Shot Thebarman isn't a gelding that will win over 2000 metres with regular occurrence, but it is a horse that will peak for whichever race it is being set for.
Waller has planned out its campaign perfectly heading into the Cup and it showed positive signs last time out in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup. The seven-year-old finished seventh and it was running on strongly at the end of the race.
That's a good sign leading into the Melbourne Cup and it loves running on the wide open track at Flemington. In four starts on this track, it has won twice with one placing and it has finished out of the money only once in four starts at this distance.
It's a classic two-miler which will be in the thick of the finish. Big chance and the $17 with CrownBet.com.au looks like great value.
12. Sky Hunter – $41
Trainer: Saeed Bin Suroor
Jockey: William Buick
One of these days Seed Bin Suroor will get his Melbourne Cup, but most punters seem to think it won't be happening this year.
Sky Hunter has had only 11 starts as a six-year-old which is concerning, but it has won six of those including the Group 2 City Of Gold Stakes two starts back. It then finished third at group 3 level last September and even though it is untested at this distance, there is a good amount of untapped ability.
Punters taking the $41 are gambling on the fact that it could see out the 3200-metre distance and at those odds, it's probably worth the risk. It ran sixth behind Mount Athos over 2650 metres which wasn't inspiring, but Godolphin have trained plenty of long-shot chances in the Cup and they have almost came through.
A roughie worth including in exotics.
13. The Offer – $51
Trainer: Gai Waterhouse
Jockey: Damien Oliver
Long considered a wet tracker, The Offer proved critics wrong this week when it won the Bendigo Cup this week on a dry track.
The Offer was set for the 2014 Melbourne Cup last year and after winning the Group 1 Sydney Cup, things looked positive, but a string of poor performances saw it removed from the field.
365 days later, The Offer is in the field and it has a legitimate chance of winning. We know it will see out the distance and if there's any rain in the Melbourne area, that will only improve its chances.
We can't remember the last time it had the luxury of carrying only 54kg. It hasn't carried less than 59kg in its last five starts and they included weights of 60kg, 61kg and 62kg. It looks a solid each way chance if everything goes its way and Gai has the magic touch.
14. Grand Marshal – $41
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Jim Cassidy
Grand Marshal is a dead-set stayer which has been prepared for the Melbourne Cup ever since it won the Group 1 Sydney Cup back in April.
Along the same lines as The Offer last year, Grand Marshal hasn't done much in four runs since, but it has been running on solid enough to stay in the running for this.
The son of Dansili doesn't have the strongest turn-of-foot as opposed to the likes of Fame Game, but it grinds home and if it can settle in the first half of the field, it could provide some cheek.
It won its only start at Flemington which bodes well for this and track conditions won't be an issue as it has form on all surfaces. Drawing barrier 15 won't be an issue as it can settle back in the field if it needs to, and it's a dangerous prospect at the weights.
It won the Sydney Cup carrying 52kg and in its next three runs it was forced to carry 59kg. This suits much better and Chris Waller can't do much wrong at the moment.
15. Preferment – $9
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Hugh Bowman
The highly-touted son of Zabeel is a former Derby winner which will be looking to remain unbeaten at Flemington.
Preferment is bred for the Melbourne Cup and after quality wins in the Group 2 Hill Stakes and Group 1 Turnbull Handicap, it looks a handy chance to win.
Forget the Cox Plate run as Moonee Valley doesn't suit its running style. The four-year-old likes to have room to warm up and gradually wear down the leaders. Flemington allows that to happen, hence why it hasn't tasted defeat in two starts here.
Punters are extremely confident about its chances at $9 at Bet365.com.au. Hugh Bowman is riding very well currently and he should ensure it gets a nice trip in transit.
It's another runner that will appreciate having weight off its back and it should be included in all trifecta and first four options. Top three chance.
16. Quest For More – $126
Trainer: Roger Charlton
Jockey: Damian Lane
We were very keen that Quest For More's European form would hold up, but our positive vibes got thrown out the window at Geelong.
The six-year-old son of Teofilo was a $6 chance in the Group 3 Geelong Cup on October 21, but the run couldn't have been any worse if it tried. It finished 16th of 17 runners, 8.4 lengths behind Almoonqith and it all but dashed its chances of winning.
But, do we allow it another chance based on its form prior, which is arguably some of the best in the Melbourne Cup field. It won the Northumberland by beating Max Dynamite by 1.25 lengths and that victory came over this distance.
It then finished second in the Group 2 Goodwood Cup behind Big Orange and that form should stack up nicely for this.
We can't find any excuses for that effort last start however, so we'll have to risk it at the big price.
17. Almoonqith – $14
Trainer: David Hayes and Tom Dabernig
Jockey: Dwayne Dunn
Almoonqith started its Australian career in pretty average fashion, but it cleaned up its rivals in the Group 3 Geelong Cup.
The 1.75-length win was a great indicator of its ability and the Geelong Cup is usually a very good form guide to the Melbourne Cup.
It had been knocking on the door of a major victory as it ran on nicely behind Magic Hurricane in the Group 1 Metropolitan and its start prior when sixth behind Magnapal in the Group 3 Naturalism.
Unsure as to how the American breeding lines will stack up in a Melbourne Cup, but bookmakers have the six-year-old safe in the market at $14 and it should give punters a run for their money.
18. Kingfisher – $34
Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
Jockey: Colm O'Donoghue
Whenever you see the name Williams in the ownership, you should always take notice around this time of the year.
Lloyd and Nick Williams were offered a share in this five-year-old earlier this year and now it makes its Australian debut for champion trainer Aidan O'Brien.
The well bred son of Galileo comes into this race after a disappointing effort for eighth in the Irish St. Leger where it finished 43 lengths behind the winner Order Of St George.
The best form guide for Kingfisher is when it finished second behind Trip To Paris in the Group 1 Gold Cup at Ascot in June. It was well favoured at $6 to beat the Ed Dunlop-trained runner, but that came over 4023 metres which suggests it might need even more ground than the two miles.
We initially liked the chances of Kingfisher earlier in the season, but after two dismal performances, it's hard to see it turning around so quickly.
19. Prince Of Penzance – $67
Trainer: Darren Weir
Jockey: Michelle Payne
The Darren Weir-trained gelding hasn't been able to cross the line first in recent efforts, but it was game when finishing second behind The United States in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup last start.
The six-year-old has been on the fringe of making the field and if it can replicate some of its performances this season then it has an outside place chance.
It was good enough to run within 2.25 lengths of Boban in the Group 1 Memsie over 1400 metres and it should be better suited over this distance. It looked to enjoy running freely in front last start and from barrier one, we're expecting similar tactics to be adopted in this.
It would take a brave punter to suggest it's a winning chance, but Weir prepares his horses beautifully and it's a long-shot chance based on that.
20. Bondi Beach – $21
Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
Jockey: Brett Prebble
It's not easy trying to win a Melbourne Cup at only your sixth start, but the connections of Bondi Beach are that confident.
The Aiden O'Brien-trained horse has won twice and placed three times from five starts and it has finished second behind some very talented thoroughbreds.
The four-year-old by Galileo defeated the very successful Order Of St George in the Group 3 Curragh Cup and it followed that win up with two very nice placings behind Storm the Stars and Simple Verse.
Typically the form out of the Irish St Leger has stood up worldwide and to finish only a neck away was a very good effort at its fourth start. It clearly has plenty of ability, but it has drawn wide and it does give away plenty of experience to some very handy stayers.
Brett Prebble rides at 52.5kg which makes it a winning chance.
21. Sertorius – $301
Trainer: Jamie Edwards
Jockey: Craig Newitt
We're questioning just how Sertorius made it into the Melbourne Cup field and its odds reflect its realistic chances.
The eight-year-old has won 10 from 41 which is a good strike rate and it did win the Group 3 Easter Cup in April, but it hasn't shown much desire to win in four starts since.
It does do its best racing at Flemington which is a positive for punters taking the $301, but we can't see it featuring in the finish and it should be left out of equations.
22. The United States – $21
Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Joao Moreira
Co-owner Nick Williams is surpremely confident about The United State's chances and to think it wouldn't have made the field if stablemate Amralah wasn't withdrawn on Saturday.
The Moonee Valley Cup winner has looked good in a limited career and even though it's a six-year-old, it has had only 12 starts – winning five and placing in three.
The son of Galileo has the breeding to suggest it will be a main contender and the extra distance should be no problem. It was only warming up late last start and it still managed to win, so that race looks like a good form guide for this.
The Williams family know how to win Melbourne Cups and this runner looks a genuine winning hope at $21 with Sportsbet.com.au.
23. Excess Knowledge – $26
Trainer: Gai Waterhouse
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
Imported runner for Gai Waterhouse which earned its way into the Melbourne Cup via winning the Group 3 Lexus on Saturday.
Surviving an inquiry after the race, Excess Knowledge gets the start and its Lexus win suggests it would be tough to handle on Tuesday. It was forced to race wide throughout the 2500-metre trip and that played against the track bias which favoured inside runners.
It looked a little tried towards the end, but that's granted given the tough run it had. Whether or not it can back up three days later is the big question, but Waterhouse knows what she is doing and the Lexus is generally a good form guide.
Not the worst at $26 and is worth an each way investment.
24. Gust Of Wind – $34
Trainer: John Sargent
Jockey: Chad Schofield
John Sargent is a master trainer of the stayer and Gust Of Wind has been knocking on the door of a major win since winning the Group 1 ATC Oaks at Randwick in April.
The daughter of Darci Brahma is the only mare in the field and after finishing fourth in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup, it has to be respected in this.
Gust Of Wind usually drops back from the outset and runs on strongly, but it was ridden upside down at Caulfield and it still managed to run fourth. That was a huge effort and from barrier 19, we're expecting Schofield to take a sit and play for luck in the straight.
It has been well prepared for the Melbourne Cup and it's a must-include for all first four players.