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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Australia Braced for European Invasion at the Melbourne Cup

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Fondly described as the ‘race that stops the nation’, the appeal of the Melbourne Cup spreads far beyond Australian borders.

European horse racing stables have increasingly started to aim their most talented stayers at the race, helping it become a more international affair.

Dermot Weld and Alain de Royer-Dupre are among the European trainers who first recognised the appeal of this iconic Australian institution.

Europe’s interest in the race has ramped up in recent years, with trainers Andreas Wohler, Joseph O’Brien and Charlie Appleby all getting their name on the roll of honour.

A quick look at the latest odds for this year’s race on Melbourne Cup betting sites suggests European raiders will be popular picks with punters.

Top Irish trainer Willie Mullins has the favourite for the race, with the impressive Royal Ascot and Naas winner Vauban currently a best-priced 5/1 to claim victory.

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Comparison websites featuring aggregated reviews from a vast array of sportsbooks will help punters find the best odds on Mullins’ talented dual-purpose horse.

The five-year-old was a runaway winner at the royal meeting, finishing more than seven lengths ahead of stablemate Absurde in the Copper Horse Handicap.

That form was recently handed a significant boost when Absurde powered to victory in the Ebor Handicap at York under jockey Frankie Dettori.

The popular Italian has been winning big races for fun in his final season in the saddle and has told Mullins he wants to ride the horse again in the Melbourne Cup.

Given Dettori’s popularity, odds of 20/1 will likely disappear if Mullins confirms Absurde will join Vauban to contest the Melbourne Cup.

He has never previously won the race and there would no better way to sign off his glittering career than by adding the prestigious event to his glittering CV.

The Mullins-trained pair are not the only European horses in contention to make their mark in Australia’s biggest sporting event.

Desert Hero, bred by the late Queen Elizabeth II and owned by Their Majesties King Charles and Queen Camilla, is in line to participate in the race.

The William Haggas-trained three-year-old won the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot before following up in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.

A positive run in the St Leger at Doncaster in the middle of September would be good enough to set up a tilt at the Melbourne Cup.

British jockey Tom Marquand is in line to ride the horse in Australia having previously won four Group One races there on Addeybb (2021-22) and Dubai Honour (2023).

His wife and fellow jockey Hollie Doyle is also hoping to be booked to ride after enjoying overseas success in Europe, Asia, the United States and the Middle East.

She could even pick up the ride on Desert Hero if Marquand is unable to do the weight, which would set up an intriguing Melbourne Cup sub-plot.

The world’s top-rated female jockey Jamie Kah is set to ride in the race, despite being recently hit with a disrepute charge by Racing Victoria stewards.

Regardless of that intriguing storyline, Marquand is unfazed by the prospect of seeing Doyle replace him in this year’s Melbourne Cup.

He believes Desert Hero has the ideal profile to win the race and has backed Doyle to showcase her talents if she gets the nod from Haggas.

“It’s well-documented if one of us can’t ride you’re always straight away looking at the next person in the household,” Marquand said.

“It would be unrealistic of me to say I wouldn’t want to be aboard him, but if I couldn’t it would be a fairly easy suggestion who the substitute might be.

“He’s tailor made for the Cup and I know obviously the Majesties would, I’m sure, absolutely love to have a runner in a race so significant.”

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