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Europeans look set to win Australia's premier race, the Melbourne Cup, for third successive year

Updated: Monday, 05 Nov 2012 10:29 | Comments

Mikel Delzangles' Dunaden (l) is bidding for back-to-back Melbourne Cups
Mikel Delzangles' Dunaden (l) is bidding for back-to-back Melbourne Cups

Australia's trainers will be hard-pressed to stop the A$6.2 million Melbourne Cup, the world's richest two-mile trophy, being ridden off to foreign lands for a third consecutive year on Tuesday.

Foreign-prepared horses in the field of 24 have dominated betting, with 2010 winner Americain, trained by Frenchman Alain de Royer-Dupre, rated a 6-1 favourite by most agencies on the eve of the "race that stops the nation."

Last year's winner Dunaden, another French horse, vies for second favourite status with British stayer Mount Athos, relegating Maluckyday, the best of the field's locally trained hopes, to 11-1 for the gruelling handicap.

Once an impenetrable fortress for entrants outside Australia and New Zealand, Flemington Racecourse has become a happy hunting ground for the tourists, who have snatched the Cup four times over the past decade.

Their recent domination has been lamented by some local racing identities who claim the 'raiders' are afforded an easier passage to entry.

"We're just losing the plot," Maluckyday owner and former Melbourne Cup winner Nick Moraitis told local media.

"It's not a Melbourne Cup any more. It's a European Cup or something like that."

Once a provincial race of middling quality, the Cup's soaring prize money has prompted the world's top stables to spend small fortunes to fly more of their horses Down Under to run in front of heaving crowds of more than 100,000.

Local racing enthusiasts had better get used to it, according to Mount Athos trainer Luca Cumani.

"I think it is a (worldwide race) and if you want to take racing to the next stage then you've got to make it international," said Newmarket-based Cumani, who has also entered My Quest for Peace.

Punters splurged more than Aus$100 million on the race last year and much of this year's money has rushed toward Dunaden since the seven-year-old stallion won the 2,400 metre Caulfield Cup in the lead-up, a rich local meeting widely regarded a form guide.

The victory saw the Mikel Delzangles-trained Dunaden saddled with a top weight of 59 kilogrammes, 4.5 kg more than he carried to a photo-finish victory over Britain's Red Cadeaux last year.

The weight of history is also against Dunaden, with only five horses winning the race more than once since it was first held in 1861.

A win would hand globe-trotting Frenchman Delzangles another big pay-day and a reward for his long-haul flights to and from the United States, where his horse Flotilla won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last week.

It would also be a fairytale finish for local jockey Craig Williams, who was to take Dunaden's reins last year but lost his ride to Frenchman Christophe Lemaire after being suspended by racing authorities in the leadup.

"(Dunaden's) form is excellent," Williams said last week.
"I believe he is a four-lengths better horse than last year. Only luck will stop him."

Red Cadeaux returns after last year's heartbreak, with Ed Dunlop making another bid to become the first British trainer to secure Australia's most prestigious trophy.

Dunlop lamented last year's finish as a "pixel" off his greatest moment in racing, but is confident of going one better this year, with his horse carrying 3.5 kg less than Dunaden.

"You can say my horse's form has been better in Europe than Dunaden's," he said. "Why can't we?"

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