The battle for favouritism in the $6.2 million Melbourne Cup is on in earnest as local and international stayers stake their claim on the 3200m classic.
Fame Game ($7.50) carries the hopes of Japan and remains atop the betting markets after charging home to finish a close-up second to Gold Ship in the Tenno Sho Spring (3200m) in May.
The six-year-old entire comes to Australia with a similar form profile to slashing 2014 Caulfield Cup winner Admire Rakti and is a dual Group 3 Diamond Stakes (3400m) winner in Japan. Ty Angland is booked to ride Fame Game during the carnival.
Preferment ($9.00) rocketed into contention with a strong win in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington. The Victoria Derby-winning son of Zabeel has returned in terrific order as a four-year-old for Sydney trainer Chris Waller. Preferment mowed down Godolphin stayer Magic Hurricane to claim the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) at Randwick second-up.
Who Shot Thebarman ($12), also from the all-conquering Waller yard, has not put a hoof wrong this campaign. He ran third in the Melbourne Cup last year and looks to be itching to get out to the 3200m. Major player.
Hartnell ($21) is ticking along nicely while flying under the radar. The Godolphin stayer, who romped to victory in the The BMW last year, charged from near last to finish 1.4 lengths off Preferment in the Turnbull Stakes. He remains one of the top Melbourne Cup hopes with James McDonald in the saddle.
Amralah ($15) will be targeted for the Mackinnon Stakes/Melbourne Cup after cruising to victory in the Group 1 Herbert Power (2400m) at Caulfield. The Lloyd Williams-owned import does his best work when dictating terms up front, with the only knock on him at this stage being his barrier manners after knuckling badly at his past two starts.
Crowd favourite Red Cadeaux ($34) is back and you’d be mad to leave him out of your Melbourne Cup multiples and exotics. The well-travelled veteran grows an extra leg in Australia, having run second in our great race on three separate occasions.
Bondi Beach ($17) and Kingfisher ($21) will fly the Coolmore flag for Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, who returns after not having a runner in the race that stops a nation since 2008. Bondi Beach, a lightly-raced son of Galileo, looks the pick of the two O’Brien starters, having won the Group 3 Curragh Cup at only his third start. Bondi Beach ran a close-up second in the St Ledger (2917m) at his last start.
Snow Sky ($26) could be one of the big shorteners if he can produce a strong performance under champion jockey Damien Oliver in Saturday’s Group 1 Caulfield Cup. The Sir Michael Stoute middle-distance galloper booked his spot in Melbourne Cup with an all-the-way win in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes over 2414m.
Protectionist ($34) looks to be crying out for the two miles after failing to fire a shot in three starts this campaign. Will need to improve by several lengths if he’s to go back-to-back in the Melbourne Cup.
Dandino ($15), Our Ivanhowe ($17) and Rising Romance ($34) have claims for the Darrer Weir, Lee Freedman and David Hayes camps. Dandino would be the pick of the bunch after making good ground in the Group 1 Underwood and Turnbull Stakes.