The Protectionist To Halt An Entire Nation
Recognized as the “the race that stops a nation”, Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup at Flemington features a strong contingent of European challengers hoping to lift one of the biggest prizes in racing.
The main hope from Europe comes via the German-trained, Protectionist (7/1, stall 11), who won a couple of Group 2’s this summer prior to a fourth in a Group 2 Handicap at Caulfield three weeks ago (1m4f, good). Beaten under 1l that day, where the Australian-trained, Signoff (7/1), was 1/2l in front in second, Protectionist, demonstrated that he is in form over a trip on the sharp side – his previous win came over 1m7f (soft).
Craig Williams was aboard Protectionist that day, but deserts him for Godolphin’s, Cavalryman (16/1, stall 3), though his replacement, Ryan Moore, is a huge booking. Moore also tasted recent success “Down Under” when acclimatizing to racing in Oz, and his chance on Protectionist is there for all to see.
The aforementioned, Cavalryman, has enjoyed a cracking season but never figured in this race 12 months ago, and will find it harder as an 8yo this time around – for the record, 9 of the last 10 Melbourne Cup winners ere 4-6yo’s.
Godolphin also have last year’s Ebor handicap winner, Willing Foe (25/1), but he has a bit to do from stall 17, while Ed Dunlop’s, Red Cadeaux (16/1), was an agonizing runner-up in last year’s Melbourne Cup and bids to go one better. Considering he managed second from stall 23, he has to be considered as each-way material from stall 15 off just 1lb higher.
But, let’s not forget this year’s Ebor winner, Mutual Regard (10/1, stall 12), who has been rested since that 1m6f victory at York, and is a proven 2m winner. Murtagh has enjoyed early big-race success as a trainer, and victory here would put him firmly on the worldwide map.
Signoff was mentioned earlier as having finished runner-up at Caulfield last month, but has already gained compensation in landing a Group 3 Handicap here at Flemington on Saturday (1m4f, good). While this 4yo arrives in top form, he still has it to prove over 2m from an unfavorable wide draw in stall 16.
The 7yo, Fawkner (8/1) has also attracted money from stall 9, having won a Group 1 at Caulfield last month (1m2f, good), and was a 6l sixth in this race 12 months ago. He arrives in form following a short head second to Ballydoyle’s, Adelaide, last month, and his chance is respected.
The leading trial for this race is the Group 1 Caulfield Cup Handicap (1m4f, good) which took place a fortnight ago and was won by the Japanese-trained, Admire Rakti (4/1). As a winner over 2m1f last year, this trip will hold no fears, and while he has to carry top weight of 9st3lb, this 6yo heads to Flemington with every tick in the box, including a decent draw in stall 8.
There were a number of Tuesday’s runners in behind Admire Rakti at Caulfield, including the respective third to seventh placed runners, Lucia Valentina (7/1), Brambles (33/1), Araldo (33/1), Lidari (50/1) and Junoob (20/1). The 4yo, Lucia Valentina (stall 2), is already a winner at Flemington last month (1m2f), but is another who has it to prove over this trip, as does the seventh-placed, Junoob (stall 7), who won a major Group 1 Handicap at Randwick last month (1m4f, good).
A fiercely competitive renewal, where luck in running from a decent low to middle draw will be vital.
One who fits that profile is Protectionist, who will stay the trip, is in form, has an excellent draw in stall 11 and is ridden by Ryan Moore.
At 6/1, he could be the one.