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Irish raiders will be among the favourites when the world’s finest stayers battle for fame and fortune in the Melbourne Cup on November 3. Thoroughbreds from the Emerald Isle have enjoyed plenty of success in the famous Group 1 race over the years, but they reached a new zenith by securing an unprecedented 1-2-3 in 2017.
Joseph O’Brien’s Rekindling won the race ahead of his father Aidan’s star stayer, Johannes Vermeer, while National Hunt legend Willie Mullins saddled third-placed Max Dynamite. Australians have been obsessing over Irish raiders ever since, but they have failed to live up to the hype in the past two years.
Aidan O’Brien’s Il Paradiso finished third last year, and he will spearhead the Irish charge in the race that stops a nation in 2020. Will we see another Irish winner?
Anthony Van Dyck Heads Down Under
O’Brien senior will have another strong hand in the 2020 Melbourne Cup. The Ballydoyle maestro put Anthony Van Dyck, Santiago, Tiger Moth, Armory, Magic Wand and Wichita into quarantine in September and they will head Down Under in early October in a bid to conquer all that stands before them.
Anthony Van Dyck, Santiago and Tiger Moth are all expected to run in the 3200m Melbourne Cup at Flemington on November 3. Anthony Van Dyck will be the first Epsom Derby winner to ever bid for glory in the Melbourne Cup.
It is dubbed the race that stops a nation due to its popularity Down Under, but it is reportedly enjoyed by a TV audience of 750 million, and the Irish contingent will certainly be cheering on Anthony Van Dyck in the prestigious AU$8 million (€4.8 million) race.
He is a supremely versatile horse. He won the Derby at Epsom over 1m 4f 6y (2420m) last year, before placing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic over 1m 4f in November. Anthony Van Dyck made his seasonal reappearance when finishing second to Ghaiyyath, the world’s top-rated horse, in the Coronation Cup over 1m 4f at Newmarket in June.
He finished ahead of Stradivarius, the world’s top stayer, in that race, so Melbourne Cup handicapper Greg Carpenter had no hesitation in assigning Anthony Van Dyck a top weight of 58.5kg for both the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup.
That heavy load might thwart his chances of success of the longer distance, but he will certainly be in contention.
Santiago won the Irish Derby with a tremendous performance in June. He was then third in the Goodwood Cup and fourth in the St. Leger at Doncaster. Aidan O’Brien clearly thinks he has what it takes to thrive over 3200m in the Melbourne Cup, and he will carry a more modest 53.5kg in the race.
That puts him in the same tier as homegrown hero Russian Camelot, winner of the SA Derby in May, who is currently the antepost favourite for the race. Check out Punters for all the latest news as the race draws closer.
The lightly raced Tiger Moth also looks like an exciting prospect. He finished just a head behind stablemate Santiago in the Irish Derby, and then picked up a dominant victory in the Group 3 Kilternan Stakes in September. Carpenter hit Tiger Moth with a 2.5kg penalty for that victory, meaning he will now carry 52.5kg in the Melbourne Cup, and he could end up vanquishing his vaunted opponents.
If he succeeds, Tiger Moth would become the least experienced Melbourne Cup winner in 140 years, having raced just four times. However, northern hemisphere three-year-olds like Rekindling and 2018 winner Cross Counter have thrived at the Cup in recent times.
Can Master Of Reality Conquer Melbourne?
Jospeh O’Brien is expected to have two runners in the Melbourne Cup: Twilight Payment and Master Of Reality. They were first and second in the Group 2 Curragh Cup over 1m 6f (2816m) in July, and they should both relish a longer trip in the Melbourne Cup.
Twilight Payment has also won the Group 3 Vintage Crop Stakes this year, while he finished third in the Irish St. Leger, both over an identical distance. He has been assigned a weight of 55.5kg, and Master Of Reality was given 56kg.
Master Of Reality finished second in last year’s Melbourne Cup, but he was demoted to fourth after a stewards’ inquiry. Jockey Frankie Detorri was also handed an eight-day ban after Master Of Reality was adjudged to have impeded Aidan O’Brien’s Il Paradiso, who was bumped up to third. Master Of Reality’s form has been uninspiring since then, but he did win a Listed race over 1m 6f at Down Royal at the start of September.
Mullins is better known for his dominance over the jumps racing scene, but he has two possible runners in the Melbourne Cup. Stratum was runner-up in the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup at York on August 21, while True Self won the VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Flemington last year. They have been handicapped on 55kg and 52kg respectively for the Cup.
There are plenty of Australian stars to contend with include Russian Camelot, the impressive Surprise Baby and talented mare Verry Elleegant, but there is definitely a strong chance of an Irish raider clinching a famous win in the 2020 Melbourne Cup.