Internationals plot raid on Australia's great race

Published 2019/11/02

Joseph O'Brien, who won the Melbourne Cup with Rekindling in 2017, will saddle four runners in the 158th edition of 'the race that stops a nation' after Downdraft secured his place courtesy of victory in today's Group 3 Lexus Hotham Handicap (2500m) at Flemington.

Downdraft entered the Hotham Handicap in 24th place in the Order of Entry and was at risk of being overtaken by the winner of the ballot-exempt race, which was claimed last year by Prince Of Arran before he finished third in the Melbourne Cup. But Downdraft put any doubts to rest after powering to victory under Irish jockey John Allen, who retains the Melbourne Cup ride on the son of Camelot.

Downdraft winning today's Lexus Hotham Handicap Please credit images to Racing Photos Downdraft, who was not penalised and so will carry 53.5kg in the Melbourne Cup, is set to be joined in the field by his stablemates Latrobe, Twilight Payment and Frankie Dettori's mount, Master Of Reality.

Charlie Appleby's 2019 Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter will be ridden by William Buick, whilst Ryan Moore has opted to take the ride on Magic Wand, who finished fourth on her Australian debut in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) last weekend.

Her stable companion Hunting Horn, who won the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup under Moore last week, will aim to deliver a first Melbourne Cup win for Aidan O'Brien, who also saddles Il Paradiso (Wayne Lordan) in the Group 1 two-mile contest.

The Richard Hannon-trained Raymond Tusk, whose large syndicate of owners are currently en route to Australia, will be piloted by Jamie Spencer; whilst Australian jockey Michael Walker retains the ride on Prince Of Arran, having won this year's Bet365 Geelong Cup (2400m) on Charlie Fellowes' popular galloper.

The 11-strong international contingent is completed by the joint favourite in the betting markets, last Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) winner Mer De Glace, who is trained in Japan by Hisashi Shimizu.

He will be reunited next Tuesday with Damian Lane, who is aiming to become the first jockey in history to complete a clean sweep of Australian racing's four major prizes in the same calendar year. Twenty of the 24 horses in the field were bred outside Australasia, including Constantinople, who currently shares favouritism with Mer De Glace.

The three-year-old, who joined the local stable of David Hayes, Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig last month after leaving Aidan O Brien's yard, will be ridden by Brazilian superstar Joao Moreira.

Other imported gallopers taking their place in the field include Mirage Dancer, now trained by Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young, and Irish St Leger placegetter Southern France who debuts for the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace stable.