Melbourne Cup: Sheikh lines up handy Cup team

By Mike Dillon

Oceanographer strides past Tom Melbourne on his way to winning the Lexus Stakes at Flemington on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images
Oceanographer strides past Tom Melbourne on his way to winning the Lexus Stakes at Flemington on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images

Money can buy you most things in life - love and Melbourne Cups being definite exceptions.

Ask one of the planet's richest men, Sheikh Mohhamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler Of Dubai.

For 18 years, the Sheikh has tried to win the Cup with his Godolphin stable, the 500-plus horse might that rates as the world's largest thoroughbred operation.

The all-blue army has finished second three times: Central Park in 1999, Give The Slip in 2001 and Crime Scene in 2009, but success has eluded the world's one person who most wants to win the Cup.

It does not come down to money. The winning stake of tomorrow's A$6.2 million Melbourne Cup will not even go close to what the Sheikh has spent on his Cup forays. However, when Forbes estimates the Sheikh's net worth at around $20 billion, it doesn't need to be about money.

The approach has changed dramatically. Previously the Godolphin raiders have all been trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, but this time Suroor has only two of the five horses that will carry the Sheikh's blue colours: Beautiful Romance and Secret Number.

Englishman Charlie Appelby, who operates another stable in Dubai, will be represented by Qewy and Oceanographer, brilliant winner of Saturday's Lexus Stakes.

The favourite, Hartnell, is from the Sheikh's Australian operation, overseen by Sydney trainer John O'Shea.

Weight of numbers is clearly the object here. No trainer in memory has produced five runners into a single Melbourne Cup.

Weight of public money is behind the Sheikh winning the big one. Late yesterday, Hartnell was $5 favourite with the New Zealand TAB and Oceanographer second favourite at $6 off the back of his fabulous late dash to win the Lexus and force his way into the Cup field.

A similar effort to that would take him close tomorrow.

Oceanographer was at $151 when nominations closed in August and on Thursday a Melbourne punter outlayed $A8000 on him at $26 to win $208,000. That punter must be feeling very pleased with themselves.

Retired great jockey Jimmy Cassidy got it wrong tipping Hartnell to possibly top Winx in the Cox Plate, but he's not put off - he's tipping him to win the Melbourne Cup.

"If I had the choice of rides I wouldn't hesitate to go for Hartnell. He's a top horse."

Hartnell enhanced rather than detracted from his Melbourne Cup hopes with his Cox Plate second. It is an incredibly difficult ask to train a horse to win a Melbourne Cup and try and win a Cox Plate 10 days earlier on the way through.

Train them to win a Cox Plate and expect them to win a Melbourne Cup afterwards is impossible. So having undergone a Melbourne Cup preparation, Hartnell was terrific with his runner-up placing to Winx.

He looked beaten on the home turn, but fought back bravely to hold his placing, a very good sign heading into a 3200m race.

Many think Hartnell is a middle-distance type, but he ran in last year's Cup when not nearly the horse he is today and finished midfield after suffering interference in what was a roughly-run race in certain patches.

He had previously won over 3219m at Ascot, so his stamina is not in doubt. The betting market is tipping a Godolphin quinella and that is not impossible.

Wonder if the Sheikh has ever dreamed of that type of Melbourne Cup result.?

Tony Martin hopes his Irish raider Heartbreak City wins the Melbourne Cup, not for the trainer himself, but in memory of George Swan.

Heartbreak City's former owner died last November, three months after being diagnosed with cancer.

"I'd really love him to win for the man above," Martin said.

"The man was only 50 years of age when he died of cancer."

Martin, who bought Heartbreak City from France as a 3-year-old, organised for three of Swan's friends to buy the gelding after the Englishman's death.

"It was very easy when George passed away to get the boys talking to the family to try to do something."

Martin thought of chasing his first Melbourne Cup after Heartbreak City won the Ebor, Europe's richest flat handicap, at York in August.

"As soon as he won at York that day he showed us he's an exceptional horse," Martin said.

"When he went to York and did what he did in Ebor there was only one place we started thinking about."

Martin couldn't be happier with Heartbreak City's preparation.

He is not fazed by drawing barrier 23, saying the last mile of the race is more important than anything else.

Martin believes fellow Irishman Willie Mullins' Wicklow Brave is the horse to beat. "I think whatever beats him will win."

Melbourne Cup field

1 - 311X Big Orange d (7) (M Bell, Newmarket) J P Spencer 57

2 - X586 Our Ivanhowe (6) (L & A Freedman, Mornington) D Dunn 57

3 - 20X9 Curren Mirotic (18) (Osamu Hirata, Japan) Tommy Berry 56.5

4 - 1133 Bondi Beach m (5) (A O'Brien, Tipperary) Ryan Moore 56

5 - 8353 Exospheric (13) (L & A Freedman, Mornington) D Oliver 56

6 - 1112 Hartnell tdmh (12) (J O'Shea, Flemington) J B Mc Donald 56

7 - 5272 Who Shot Thebarman tdmh (20) (C Waller, Flemington) H Bowman 56

8 - 6431 Wicklow Brave dm (24) (W Mullins, Ireland) L Dettori 56

9 - 8084 Almoonqith d (19) (Hayes/Dabernig, Euroa) M J Walker 54.5

10 - 1X27 Gallante dmb (2) (R Hickmott, Mt Macedon) B Shinn 54.5

11 - 2691 Grand Marshal tdmh (9) (C Waller, Flemington) B Melham 54.5

12 - 7121 Jameka tm (3) (C Maher, Caulfield) Nicholas Hall 54.5

13 - 0111 Heartbreak City dm (23) (T Martin, Meath) J Moreira 54

14 - X210 Sir John Hawkwood tm (14) (J Thompson, Randwick) B Spriggs 54

15 - 9834 Excess Knowledge tmh (21) (Waterhouse/Bett, Flemington) V Duric 53.5

16 - 1553 Beautiful Romance (1) (S Bin Suroor) Damian Lane 52.5

17 - 6511 Almandin t (17) (R Hickmott, Mt Macedon) K McEvoy 52

18 - X921 Assign m (22) (R Hickmott, Mt Macedon) Katelyn Mallyon 52

19 - 3782 Grey Lion m (16) (M Cumani, Ballarat) G Boss 52

20 - 1731 Oceanographer t (11) (C Appleby, Newmarket) C Schofield 52

21 - 12X1 Secret Number m (10) (S Bin Suroor) S Baster 52

22 - 6737 Pentathlon d (4) (J Wheeler, Mornington) M R Du Plessis 51.5

23 - 0221 Qewy m (15) (C Appleby, Newmarket) Craig Williams 51.5

24 - 0940 Rose Of Virginia (8) (L & S Hope, Seymour) Ben Thompson (a) 51

Market: $5 Hartnell, $6 Oceanographer, $8 Jameka, $9 Bondi Beach, $15 Heartbreak City, $16 Big Orange, $17 Almandin, $19 Exospheric, Wicklow Brave; $21 Qewy, $26 Almoonqith, Curren Mirotic; $31 Grand Marshal, Grey Lion; $35 Our Ivanhowe, Secret Number, Who Shot Thebarman; $51 Beautiful Romance, Gallante; $61 Excess Knowledge, $71 Assign, $81 Sir John Hawkwood, $126 Pentathlon, $201 Rose Of Virginia.

- additional reporting, AAP

- NZ Herald

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