04:00 Tuesday - Lexus Melbourne Cup (Group 1 Handicap, 2m)
Incentivise The Headline Act
Home hopes are set to be carried steadfastly by the Peter Moody-trained Incentivise. He won last month's Caulfield Cup in superb fashion, defying a wide trip to come sweeping home and win by close to four-lengths for his ninth successive victory. He's got a 4lb penalty for that win last month and is surely the one to beat back up in trip from 1m4f.
As things stand, he's set to be the shortest-price runner in the Melbourne Cup in close to a century. In the run-up to raceday, Incentivise had traded as short as 6/4, a scarily short price for a race of this nature - and one which tends to produce bunched finishes.
There's no doubting that the Brett Pebble-ridden runner has a massive shout but those cramped odds scarcely moved when they were handed gate 16 in the much-anticipated Barrier Draw. That's wide than optimal and it wouldn't take much to go wrong in the run to leave Incentivise with some problems. He could simply be too good again, but at the current odds it's worth looking elsewhere.
Europe's Domination May End As Numbers Reduced
European runners have won three of the last four Melbourne Cups but strict new vetting guidelines have made it much more problematic for northern hemisphere horses to get into Australia and be cleared to race.
The incredible rise in the fledging training career of Joseph O'Brien has seen him win two Melbourne Cups in the last four years with Rekindling (2017) and Twilight Payment last year. He famously pipped his father's horses - Johannes Vermeer in 2017 and Tiger Moth 12 months ago to land those races - ensuring Aidan O'Brien still has to check this great race off his bucket list.
He won't be represented this time around but, fresh from taking the Cox Plate with State Of Rest a couple of weeks ago, Joseph O'Brien once more sends Twilight Payment into battle at Flemington.
The great Makybe Diva's hat-trick from 2003-05 represents the only time since 1975 that any Melbourne Cup winner has been able to defend the title. The task in front of Twilight Payment is a major one, but he arrives in good form and is well towards the front of the betting market.
European horses have won three of the last four Melbourne Cups, with Charlie Appleby's Cross Counter scoring in 2018.
The other leading candidate travelling this year is Andrew Balding's Spanish Mission, a Group 2-winning stayer in the UK who has been placed in the Ascot Gold Cup this season, won the Yorkshire Cup and finished a narrow second behind Stradivarius in the Lonsdale Cup on his most recent start. He's amongst the closest pursuers of Incentivise in the betting.
Persan Back For Second Bite
Previous experience in this great race is no bad thing and joint trainers Ciaron Maher & Dave Eustace will be hoping that PERSAN can improve on last year's fifth placing behind Twilight Payment.
On that occasion, he turned the final bend as far back as 18th in a packed field but managed to run by plenty rivals up the famous Flemington home straight to eventually finish around 2¼-lengths behind the winner.
After a pleasing comeback at Caulfield in April, he didn't quite build on that in his next two and was duly gelded - something that should prove a positive in regards to his Melbourne Cup dreams.
Though beaten in two Flemington starts since the gelding operation, his overall record of four wins in ten visits to this racetrack is a plus-point. On his latest start he was third in the Caulfield Cup won by Incentivise last month.
No match for the winner there, he was some five-plus lengths behind at the line. That was over 1m4f and coming back up in distance to this testing two-miles should be a help. A year older and wiser, Persan has a good opportunity to show up well back in the Melbourne Cup and he's certainly an each-way contender trading at odds as big as 25/1 in the countdown to the big event.
Tralee Rose A Contender Off Light Weight
Amongst those carrying light weights in the race is TRALEE ROSE for trainer Symon Wilde. The 5YO mare comes into this race on the back of winning the Geelong Cup last month over 1m4f.
She justified favouritism in good style in that race, fending off Dr Drill in second spot with the pair clear of the remainder.
She was a winner at this meeting 12 months ago in one of only two previous Flemington starts. That came over 1m½f, while her second start at this venue saw her finishing second in the Group 3 Bart Cummings (1m4½f) at the beginning of last month, preceding the Geelong victory. The Bart Cummings run was behind another Ciaron Maher & David Eustace Cup hopeful, Grand Promenade and both are lively each-way hopes now.
Tralee Rose has only had one previous attempt at the two-mile Melbourne Cup trip, when she was fourth in the Adelaide Cup back in March of this year at Morphettville as a 4YO. Connections will be leaning on the idea she can see the trip out better now as a five-year-old mare with more experience in the locker.
Dean Holland rides and Tralee Rose strikes as one with a low-miles profile - just seven career starts - that could still have improvement in her.
Spanish Mission is the leading hope for another European win in the Australia's big race, but this year the home team are surely going to dominate the Melbourne Cup.
Incentivise simply could be too strong for them, certainly looking at the Caulfield Cup demolition job, it's not hard to see that outcome. The hopes of a nation will be on the short-priced favourite.
With experience of the Cup in his favour, look for Persan to show up well once more on raceday, while Tralee Rose is one with scope for better things in her career and another to consider keeping onside.
Next Best: Tralee Rose