New Zealand Bloodstock has sold a remarkable 14 Melbourne Cup winners since 1966 and has a strong hand in this afternoon's feature with seven runners, three who have already won at Group 1 level.
Graduates of the New Zealand Bloodstock sale ring that have gone on to win the great race include Efficient, Jezabeel, Let's Elope, Empire Rose, Hyperno and two-time winner Think Big. New Zealand bred horses also have a proud history, winning 27 of the last 50 Melbourne Cups.
This year celebrates the 150th running of the time honoured Melbourne Cup, 'the race that stops two nations' and what a way to celebrate the $6 million race with one of the strongest fields the Cup has seen in years. The line up includes 11 Group 1 winners and six Group 1 placed horses.
The current $3 Cup favourite and Australasian sensation, the champion So You Think (High Chaparral x Triassic), is looking to emulate deeds on the track that have not been seen since the greats Phar lap in 1930 and Rising Fast in 1954. Only these two Kiwi bred champions of the turf have won the Cox Plate and Mackinnon Stakes before going on to Melbourne Cup glory. But if there was ever a horse to bring Bart Cummings his 13th Melbourne Cup, it is So You Think.
His win on Saturday in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes was simply exceptional and was just what was needed from the champ, a nice relaxed and settled horse throughout the race. He has drawn well in barrier three which gives him options in the running and jockey Steven Arnold, who has rated the horse so well every time, will no doubt have So You Think ready to fight coming around the final Flemington corner. If the champ can run out the 3200 metre trip, he will be without doubt the horse they all have to beat today.
The John Hawkes trained Maluckyday (Zabeel x Natalie Wood) has burst into contention over the last few weeks. He thrashed his rivals in Randwick over 2400 metres before producing a stunner in the Lexus Stakes at Flemington on Saturday. The Hawkes team see him as a star of the future, jockey Jim Cassidy is calling him the next Kiwi (Cup winner in 1983). He is still learning the racing game yet he has shown he has an immense amount of talent. Throw in the fact he is by Zabeel, the most successful sire in Melbourne Cup history, a great draw running from barrier six, and, only having to carry 51 kilograms, Maluckyday has to be considered the dark horse of the field.
On his day, Monaco Consul (High Chaparral x Argante) is a very good horse. A review of his VRC Derby win last season is a reminder of what he is capable of. Judging by his last run in the Caulfield Cup and his breeding, he is going to enjoy the 3200 metres. Throw in a bit of overnight rain, and he has to be considered a real chance today. Connections are pleased with his wider draw of 14, keen to see him relax in the running and unleash in the straight. His trainer Michael Moroney has tasted Melbourne Cup victory with Brew back in 2000.
What a relief for Bart that Precedence (Zabeel x Kowtow) has made the field. With the form this horse has displayed this season, it would have been disappointing not to give Precedence a shot at the title. He brings one of the stronger form lines of any horse into the race. He ran a brilliant forth to Whobegotyou, Typhoon Tracy and Shoot Out in the Group 2 Dato' Tan Chin Nam Stakes over 1600 metres. He loved the step up to 2040 metres in the Group 3 JRA Cup where he produced an emphatic win. He was unlucky in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes over 2400 metres but ran a good third before going on to produce a superior staying performance winning the Group 2 Mooney Valley Gold Cup.
He has drawn barrier 15 for the race and is one of the forgotten horses with the TAB paying as much as $30 for the win. He has slow track form and although he is making his Group 1 debut today, with Bart as his trainer, he cannot be ignored.
It seems fitting that one of the best staying influences in the stud book, the powerful Galileo has a runner in the Cup. Linton (ex Our Heather), like Maluckyday, is a lightly tried horse with plenty of potential. He has only had eight starts in his career and he has won three of them including a Group 3 as a three-year-old and the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) two starts back. He ran a strong race in the Lexus Stakes behind Maluckyday on Saturday and is another who should relish the 3200 metres.
2007 Caulfield Cup winner Master O'Reilly, winner of over $2.9 million in stakes earnings is looking to go three better than last year's Cup where he ran a strong fourth to Shocking. Although he has yet to win a race this season he will have no trouble with the distance, he has won at Flemington in the past and he has wet track form. He has drawn wide with barrier 18 but is primed to give another good site this afternoon.
Last season's Auckland Cup, Trentham Stakes and Wellington Cup winner Red Ruler (Viking Ruler x Ransom Bay) is another entry having his first attempt at 3200 metres. He has performed well in Australia running second to Nom Du Jeu in the Australian Derby and third in the Sandown Classic to Zipping. He too has slow track form and has drawn handily with barrier eight.
The gates will open for the Melbourne Cup at 5.00pm NZ time this evening and it is a race not to be missed. New Zealand Bloodstock wishes the best of luck to all its graduates.