Each year 24 horses square up in the Melbourne Cup which is now regarded as one of the most prestigious racing events in the world.
See below for the final field of 24 runners in the 2016 Melbourne Cup. There are 14 Australian-trained runners, one New Zealander, one Japanese and eight European entrants.
1. Big Orange (GB)
This British runner finished 5th in the 2015 Melbourne Cup after being the frontrunner for much of the race. His lead-up form looks slightly better this year as he won the 3219m Goodwood Cup by a bigger margin than last year. He has won 7 of his 18 starts over distances from 2000-3219m and has to be counted as one of the chances.
2. Our Ivanhowe (GER)
Last year this runner from the Freedman stable was 3rd in the Caulfield Cup then 10th in the Melbourne Cup. This year he was one of the strongest closers when coming from well back for 6th in the Caulfield Cup, and could improve on his performance last year.
3. Curren Mirotic (JPN)
At nine-years-old, this Japanese runner is the oldest in the field. He has raced over this distance twice for 2 placings. When he came a close 2nd in the Group 1 Teno Sho, the time of 3 minutes 15.3 was faster than any Melbourne Cup ever run, as the Cup record set by Kingston Rule in 1990 was 3:16.3. Could be interesting to watch but a horse over seven hasn’t won since Catalogue in 1938.
4. Bondi Beach (IRE)
This Aidan O’Brien trained horse is back for his second try at a Melbourne Cup. He ran 16th last year when he was the baby of the field and has raced 4 times since then for 2 wins and 2 places, but in small fields. His trainer wouldn’t have brought him here again if he didn’t think he could go better than last year, but he will carry 3.5 kg more.
5. Exospheric (GB)
This British stallion ran home strongly for 3rd in the Caulfield Cup at his first Australian start. He has won 4 of his 11 starts, all over distances of 2000m to 2414m. Like over half of this field he is unproven at the 2 miles, but his Caulfield Cup run puts him in with a chance. He will be ridden by Damien Oliver who has won this race 3 times. He is a good runner to put in the multiples.
6. Hartnell (GB)
Last year he ran 4th in the Chelmsford, 6th in the Turnbull, 5th in the Cox Plate then 15th in the Melbourne Cup. This year he won the Chelmsford by 7.8 lengths, then the G2 Hill Stakes by 5.8 lengths then the Turnbull Stakes by 3.25 lengths, then came 2nd to Winx in the Cox Plate when she decided to give him a galloping lesson. He is the early favourite and deserves to be. He has won over this distance at Royal Ascot in 2014 and will run a big race. One of the major chances.
7. Who Shot Thebarman (NZ)
One of two runners from the Chris Waller stable, this eight-year-old has won over this distance in the 2014 Group 1 Auckland Cup. In 2014 he was 13th in the 2014 Caulfield Cup, then 3rd in the Melbourne Cup then in 2015 he was 7th in the Caulfield Cup and 11th in the Melbourne Cup. He is in good form with a 2nd in the Moonee Valley Cup over 2500m last start and goes well at Flemington. He will run the trip out and can go in the multiples.
8. Wicklow Brave (GB)
One of the most interesting runners in the race, this Irish-trained eight-year-old has won 6 times over this distance. Some of his racing has been over hurdles including a hurdle win over 3420m. (1993 Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop also raced over hurdles.) He is having his first start in Australia and clearly the distance won’t be a problem – looks a genuine chance.
9. Almoonqith (USA)
Last year this horse won the Geelong Cup by 1.75 lengths at his 5th Australian start then ran 18th in the Melbourne Cup. Less than 2 weeks later he won the Sandown Cup over 3200m before spelling. He had 3 fairly ordinary starts this campaign before flashing home from near last to run 4th in the Caulfield Cup last start. That was a very good lead-up to the Cup and he is one of the chances.
10. Gallante (IRE)
This six-year-old gelding is one of 3 runners trained by Robert Hickmott. He won the 3200m Sydney Cup in April after leading most of the way, so is proven at the distance. He resumed for a solid 2nd in the Naturalism Stakes then looked to run out of fitness when trying to lead and fading for 7th in the Moonee Valley Cup last start. With a quieter ride he can improve.
11. Grand Marshal (GB)
Another Waller runner, this stayer won the 2015 Sydney Cup then only managed to beat a few home when 21st in the 2015 Melbourne Cup. He won the 2500m Moonee Valley Cup last outing and will get the distance but probably won’t be in the first few home. Not the worst.
The youngest of this year’s runners, and one of only three mares, this four-year-old is racing exceptionally well. As a three-year-old she won the Crown Oaks, marking herself as a stayer. At her last 3 races she has won the Naturalism Stakes, ran 2nd in the Turnbull Stakes then raced away for a 3 length win in the Caulfield Cup. She will carry 2kg more here but is very good and is one of the best horses in the race. She is also the only Australian-bred runner.
13. Heartbreak City (FR)
Another European horse having his first Australian start this is another runner who has raced over hurdles and on the flat. He has 2 hurdle wins over 3200m and a flat win over 3319m. He has won his last 3 races with the latest a 4 length win in the prestigious Ebor Handicap over 2816m in a field of 20. He is down in the weights and is one of the best of the Europeans.
14. Sir John Hawkwood (IRE)
This eight-year-old gelding has been very consistent over the last year, finishing in the trifecta for nine consecutive starts before only managing 10th in the Caulfield Cup at his latest start. He has won 3 times over 2400m, but is untested at the 2 miles and won’t be in my trifecta.
15. Excess Knowledge (GB)
Last year this stallion made it into the Cup by winning the Lexus Stakes three days earlier by the narrowest of margins and surviving a protest. He drew the outside barrier and ran 7th. This year his lead-up form has not been quite as good and he has drawn wide again in barrier 21. He is sired by Monsun who has sired two Melbourne Cup winners with Protectionst (2014) and Fiorente (2013). Has some each-way claims.
16. Beautiful Romance (GB)
This lightly-raced mare will be having her first Australian start and has drawn the inside barrier. She has had three wins over 1600m, 2100m and 2335m. She is one of the five runners for Godolphin (under three different trainers). Not for me.
17. Almandin (GER)
This son of Monsun has had 5 starts in Australia, and at his last 2 starts has won the Harry White Classic over 2400m by 2 lengths then The Bart Cummings over 2500m by 1.5 lengths. He is in peak form and looks the best of the three Hickmott runners. One for the multiples.
18. Assign (IRE)
At his last 2 starts he has ran 2nd in the Harry White Classic to his stablemate, then won the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes over 2400m by a narrow margin. He will be ridden by Katelyn Mallyon who will be the only female jockey in the race. He might find the 3200m too much for him.
19. Grey Lion (IRE)
At his first Australian start this striking-looking grey horse was a close 2nd in the Geelong Cup . His previous start in Europe was over 3000m so he should get the distance but I don’t expect him to be in the first few home. He will be ridden by three-times Melbourne Cup winning jockey Glen Boss.
20. Oceanographer (GB)
One of three runners in the Cup who raced on Saturday (the others are Pentathlon and Rose Of Virginia), he made it into the field by winning the Lexus Stakes after coming 3rd in the Geelong Cup at this first Australian start. He ran on strongly in the Lexus and should not be troubled by the distance. One of the chances.
21. Secret Number (GB)
This Godolphin runner came to Australia last year where he ran 2nd in the Group 3 Queen’s Cup over 2600m at Flemington. He has only had one race since then, where he won by 1.8 lengths in the Doonside Cup over 2012m at Ayr. He has not been tested at the distance but should run well with only 52kg.
22. Pentathlon (NZ)
He has won over this distance in New Zealand and was 4th in the Auckland Cup earlier this year. He is sired by Pentire who was the sire of 2015 winner Prince of Penzance. He was only 7th in the Lexus on Saturday, and although he will get the distance others will get there more quickly.
23. Qewy (IRE)
Almost 2 weeks ago he won the Geelong Cup by 0.2 lengths at his first Australian start. That has been a good guide to the Melbourne Cup in the past with dual Geelong/Melbourne Cup winners including Dunaden (2011), Americain (2010) and Media Puzzle (2002). He has won a hurdle race over 3319m and was a close 2nd over 4024m at Ascot, so he is adaptable and will have no problems with the distance. Put him in the multiples.
24. Rose Of Virginia (NZ)
At the end of last campaign this mare came 0.8 length 2nd in the Auckland Cup over 3200m. She has been disappointing in her 4 runs this campaign and only beat one horse home in the Lexus. She is the outsider of the field and perhaps the only reason the owners paid up for her yesterday is so they could have bragging rights to a runner in the Melbourne Cup. Not for me.