As it happened: Almandin wins 'Great Race'

Welcome to our live coverage of the 2016 Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse.

The $6.2 million race will run at 5pm.

The Flemington track is rated a good four. A brief shower or two is expected to hit Flemington early in the afternoon, but conditions will be mostly fine for the great race.

Listen to the race LIVE on Newstalk ZB after the news at 5pm


3.30pm: Punters are turning away from the early race favourites on Melbourne Cup Day.

With favourites Hartnell ($6) and Jameka ($8.50) both drifting on the day of the great race, punters have come late for previously unfancied chances in Big Orange ($16 into $12), Almandin ($16 into $10), Qewy ($31 into $26), Wicklow Brave ($21 into $16), Grand Marshall (Steady at 31 on Cup Day) and Who Shot Thebarman ($35 into $26).

The TAB has taken a bet of $6500 on Grand Marshall to win the Melbourne Cup.

The punter stands to collect $201,500 if the Ben Melham-ridden gelding is able to salute.

"Grand Marshal was super impressive winning the Moonee Valley Cup only a few weeks ago," TAB's Shaun Anderson said.

"Punters are jumping off the favourites and looking for some value and Grand Marshal looks amongst some of the best hopes."

Hartnell has drifted from $5 on Saturday out to $6 at 9.30am today with the TAB.

Jameka drifted from $7 on Saturday to $8 on Tuesday morning.

Oceanographer has also drifted from $5.50 out to $9.

Jameka has been the best backed with the TAB from Hartnell and Big Orange.

"After Prince of Penzance last year, punters haven't been scared by the long odds for some horses with some good money coming this morning for Grey Lion, Qewy and Who Shot Thebarman," TAB's Dylan Atkinson said.

The TAB has also taken a bet of $5000 each way on Qewy with a potential collect of $67,500.


BIG CROWDS

A crowd of more than 100,000 is expected to defy predictions of rain to be trackside to see today's $A6.2 million ($6.6 million) Melbourne Cup.

Punters across the Tasman are backing the only Australian-bred horse in the race - Caulfield Cup winner Jameka.

One plunged a staggering $A80,000 ($85,160) at $A9. Other bets on Jameka ranged from $A10,000 to $A30,000 ($10,639-$31,918).

Here in New Zealand, the TAB has Hartnell as the favourite.

Hartnell will be ridden by James McDonald who will be bidding to first Kiwi jockey to win the Cup since 1997 when Jimmy Cassidy won on Might and Power.

There are three New Zealand-bred horses running. They are Who Shot Thebarman, Pentathlon and Rose of Virginia.

The 3200-metre race will be watched by an estimated worldwide TV audience of up to 700 million.

No fewer than 10 foreign trainers, from as far afield as Ireland, Great Britain and Japan, have entered runners.

New Zealand has two of them. Chris Waller, formerly from Foxton, will saddle up Who Shot Thebarman and Grand Marshal. Our other representative is John Wheeler of New Plymouth who will saddle up Pentathlon.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the atmosphere at Flemington at 5pm (NZ time), when the 24 gates clang open and the field charges on to the track, was comparable only to that at the opening bounce at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on AFL Grand Final Day.

"It's going to be pretty hard to beat the fairytale of Michelle and Stevie Payne and a 100-1 shot winning the Cup," he said, referring to last year's triumph by Prince of Penzance.

"But every year since 1861 there has been a story ... history, drama, fashion, romance, and a great boost to business."

One contender for a story to take its place in Cup legend is Katelyn Mallyon, who will climb aboard Assign hoping to repeat Payne's fairytale victory and become the second woman jockey to take out the coveted trophy.

And still trying to write itself into Cup lore is the world's biggest racing firm, Godolphin, which mounted its first campaign way back in 1998.

This year it has placed its hopes on no fewer than five runners, under three trainers.
Favourite Hartnell leads the Godolphin field, ahead of Oceanographer, Geelong Cup winner Qewy, Beautiful Romance, and Secret Number.

Godolphin chief John Ferguson declared: "This is the race in the world right now.
"That is largely thanks to the people of Victoria, that you've made it the most unbelievable sporting event. We're just happy to be here."

Aussie businessman Lloyd Williams, chasing a fifth Cup crown, has four runners of his own.

And Hall of Fame trainer Lee Freedman is shooting for his sixth Cup triumph.

Joking that "money" was great incentive, Freedman said: "It's Australia's greatest race, and it's our calling card overseas as well."

Victoria Racing Club chairman Michael Byrne said people were coming from far and wide to enjoy the magic of the Melbourne Cup.

"The international tourism associated with the carnival has been increasing in recent years, so it's great for the city of Melbourne," he said.

Four cruise ships packed with 8000 passengers have sailed into Melbourne in time for the race.

Forecast late morning and afternoon showers and a top temperature of just 18C are unlikely to deter hordes of equine experts, fashionistas, and once-a-year punters.

Many are likely to arrive early, keen to grab prime position on the lawns in front of Flemington's famous grandstand for their picnics.

In the VIP Birdcage enclosure, celebrities including Snakes on a Plane actor Elsa Pataky, leading Australian models Jennifer Hawkins and Rachael Finch, and Olympians Cate and Bronte Campbell and Mack Horton will rub shoulders.

Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula said that the Cup was "the greatest event in this city".

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Melbourne Cup, today, race 7, 5pm (NZ time)
WEATHER: 17C Partly cloudy, shower or two
FIRST RACE: 12.40pm (NZ time)
LAST RACE: 7.15pm (NZ time)


If you only have 10 minutes to find yourself a winner, check out our guide on every runner in the 2016 Melbourne Cup ...

1. BIG ORANGE (7) 57KG (MICHAEL BELL) JAMES SPENCER

Big Orange finished fifth in the 2015 Cup just 2.5 lengths off the winner and comes into this year's edition in spectacular form.
Likes: Distance - what distance? Big Orange has raced over 3200 metres six times, won twice and never finished worse than fifth. Drew perfect barrier.
Dislikes: If there is a knock on the star stayer it is his tendency to wallow in wet going.
Verdict: A frontrunning stayer who will have no trouble with the two miles and will benefit if, as expected, the pace comes early this year. Weight shouldn't be a problem as he's used to carrying big imposts. Can't ignore a horse who can go the distance and comes in to race in form. If the track isn't soggy he's every hope.

2. OUR IVANHOWE (6) 57KG (LEE & ANTHONY FREEDMAN) DWAYNE DUNN

Formerly based in Germany, Our Ivanhowe has been plying his trade in Australia since April 2015.
Likes: His best run to date is a third in the Group One Caulfield Cup in 2015 which he followed up by running tenth in the Melbourne Cup of that year - a race in which like many he had excuses due to a rough-house final 400 metres.
Dislikes: Has not looked as good in 2016. Finished eighth of twelve when beaten nine lengths by Hartnell in the Turnbull Stakes and then finished sixth, 5.3 lengths behind Jameka in the Caulfield Cup.
Verdict: It's worth noting that he made up ground in the final 400 metres of the Caulfield Cup to improve five places, but I don't see him improving further and has plenty of weight to carry.

3. CURREN MIROTIC (18) 56.5KG (OSAMU HIRATA) TOMMY BERRY

The only Japanese horse in the field this year, Curren Mirotic has earned his owners almost $A2 million over his career but has been brutal on punters with just three places over his last 10 starts. Owners have instructed Berry to push the pace (something that will favour true stayers).
Likes: The old boy can stay, and proved it when he finished second in the Group One Tenno Sho over 3200m in May this year. Has the services of Aussie jockey tommy Berry in the race with Berry previously riding Curren Mirotic in June this year.
Dislikes: Has a horrible strike rate of late, no wet form and his last win was almost three years ago.
Verdict: While he is a professional at collecting a cheque for his owners he is a nightmare for punters. Can't see him threatening the top ten - but his determination to make the pace may well decide the finish order. Steer clear.

4. BONDI BEACH (5) 56KG (AIDAN O'BRIEN) RYAN MOORE

A lightly raced five-year-old who raced in the 2015 Melbourne Cup in just his sixth ever start and is back for another tilt at the Spring Carnival.
Likes: His class is undoubted and the four starts since last year's tilt at the Cup will have strengthened the stallion. Handles all conditions and has wins on Good, Slow and Heavy tracks. Has only missed a place once - the 2015 Melbourne Cup.
Dislikes: Still only has the ten starts to his name which is a fraction of many of his more seasoned competitors.
Verdict: Another of the Lloyd/Nick Williams stable, bookies are keeping Bondi Beach safe and you probably should too. If you exclude the premature 2015 Cup run he's never finished further than 2.5 lengths from the winner and he beat Order Of St George when younger.

5. EXOSPHERIC (13) 56KG (LEE AND ANTHONY FREEDMAN) DAMIEN OLIVER

Former UK galloper now in the stables of Lee and Anthony Freedman who ran third in the Caulfield Cup in his only Australian start to date.
Likes: There was plenty to like about his Caulfield Cup run where he settled midfield and closed strongly. Beat Big Orange by nine lengths over 2400 metres in the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket in June of this year.
Dislikes: Has never run further than 2400 metres and can struggle if the ground is wet.
Verdict: Gets a pull in the weights on Jameka from the Caulfield Cup and if the race is run to suit, and it's not too wet, he's a rough hope despite distance queries.

6. HARTNELL (12) 56KG (JOHN O'SHEA) JAMES MCDONALD

He can't beat Winx but there's no doubt he's a top chance to beat this field over two miles.
Likes: Trounced Jameka by three lengths in the Turnbull Stakes. Has a win over 3200 metres in England (Queen's Vase - Listed race) and a fourth over the distance in the Sydney Cup.
Dislikes: Hard to find too many of these. Handles the track, handles conditions, handles the distance and has a lovely barrier. Not short on weight but has had no trouble lugging big weights all season and probably should carry more on current form.
Verdict: Ran 15th is the Frankie Dettori ruined Melbourne Cup of 2015 and is in much better form going into this year's race. Barring another bump-fest on the final turn his name should be ringing out up the final straight. Lots to like.

7. WHO SHOT THEBARMAN (20) 56KG (CHRIS WALLER) HUGH BOWMAN

A grand old stayer having his third tilt at the Melbourne Cup, Who shot Thebarman can certainly stay all day.
Likes: Has been competitive in two of his last three runs where he book ended a disappointing run in the Group One Metropolitan with second places in the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000 metres) 6 lengths behind Hartnell and the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500 metres) where he was beaten less than a length by Grand Marshall. Distance is no problem whatsoever with six runs over two miles already under his belt including a win and two places.
Dislikes: Hasn't had a win since November 2015 and looks past his best. Often outclassed at Group 1 level. Horrible barrier draw so will either need to burn some gas early or get stuck way back at the end of the field.
Verdict: Was unlucky last year as his form was good but he was smashed in the final straight. Form this year is not as good and while he's durable and able to handle any going you have to think his best days are behind him. Pass.

8. WICKLOW BRAVE (24) 56KG (WILLIE MULLINS) FRANKIE DETTORI

An eight-year-old veteran as comfortable over the hurdles as he is on the flat.
Likes: Distance is absolutely no problem for the seasoned stayer who has more than twenty starts over 3200 metres and he's coming here after recording a win over Europe's best stayer Order Of St George in the Group 1 Irish St Leger at his last start. Proved his versatility where he led from the front, in an admittedly small field, in the St Leger and has won from behind on plenty of occasions. His trainer has shown he has what it takes to challenge in the Cup training Simeon to fourth in 2013 and 2015 runner up Max Dynamite.
Dislikes: His form ahead of the St Leger was just fair with plenty of places but no win since May 2015. Has never raced outside of the UK and Ireland. Drawn the outside barrier which in a big field like is a blow to his chances.
Verdict: If he can repeat his effort in the St Leger he would be a legitimate winning chance. If he repeats his form from the 6 races prior to that he'll be lucky to finish in the top ten. Was quite keen on him as a roughie until he drew the carpark. Pass.

9. ALMOONQITH (19) 54.5KG (D & B HAYES AND T DABERNIG) MICHAEL WALKER

A veteran stayer who was brought to Australia in 2015 and placed with master trainer David Hayes.
Likes: Has talent and his staying ability was underlined by a win over 3200 metres in the 2015 Sandown Cup (Listed) and a fifth in the Sydney Cup over the same distance in April this year - a race won by Gallante - and he gets a 4kg pull in the weights over Gallante from that race. His slashing fourth in the Caulfield Cup was a great Melbourne Cup trial.
Dislikes: Is yet to run a place from a combined eight starts at Group 1 and Group 2 level - in fact his last win was the Sandown Cup mentioned above. Done no favours at the barrier draw.
Verdict: He can stay, he handles it wet or dry and has a great trainer. If the pace comes on early, and he can get some luck from the wide barrier, he could finish in the top ten ... top three might be a stretch.

10. GALLANTE (2) 54.5KG (ROBERT HICKMOTT) BLAKE SHINN

Yet another from the Lloyd Williams stable, Gallante looks to finally be showing the promise that Williams hoped for when he bought him.
Likes: Distance is not a problem for Gallante as he showed when he won the 3200 metre Group 1 Sydney Cup in April of this year. Came back from a spell following the Sydney Cup win in great form when he finished behind only Jameka in the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes on 17 September at big odds.
Dislikes: Showed little in the Moonee Valley Cup at his last start.
Verdict: Following the same regimen that led to Sydney Cup success and gets a 2kg pull on Jameka from the Naturalism. You can ignore the Moonee Valley Cup run as he doesn't like the tight MV track and will be much happier on the wide expanse of Flemington. Loves it wet and a genuine roughie hope at big odds.

11. GRAND MARSHAL (9) 54.5KG (CHRIS WALLER) BEN MELHAM

The second of the Chris Waller horses in the Cup and another hoping for more luck than he had in 2015's edition.
Likes: Distance not a problem as has run and won (2015 Group One Sydney Cup) and placed twice over 3200 metres. Comes into the race with a win at his latest start the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup where he saluted at big odds in front of his more fancied stablemate Who Shot Thebarman.
Dislikes: Was trounced in the Metropolitan and Hill Stakes prior to his Moonee Valley Cup run and has not showed his best form for quite some time now.
Verdict: Can't help but feel the seven-year-old is not up to the A grade gallopers these days. Pass

12. JAMEKA (3) 54.5 KG (CIARON MAHER) NICK HALL

Thrashed the Caulfield Cup field to sky rocket to the top of betting for the big race.
Likes: Won the Caulfield Cup in dominant style and runs well at Flemington.
Dislikes: Never won beyond 2500m (VRC Oaks) and the last horse to do the Caulfield/Melbourne Cup double was Ethereal in 2001.
Verdict: Despite the slight distance query her trainer Ciaron Maher is confident Jameka can run out the full two miles, and if she does, she's got to be respected on the back of her Caulfield win. However, is weighted to best following her penalty for winning the Caulfield Cup and her best is over 2000-2400 metres.

13. HEARTBREAK CITY (23) 54KG (TONY MARTIN) JOAO MOREIRA

A European based horse that mixes his time between racing on the flat and hurdles.
Likes: The veteran has found form in 2016 with an impressive win in Europe's richest staying handicap The Ebor (2800 metres) prior to heading to Australia for the Cup. Distance not a problem as he regularly runs over 3200 metres. Has services of leading international jockey.
Dislikes: Other than that Ebor run he's been going around in much softer class than this race. Horrible barrier draw.
Verdict: The bookies are keeping him very safe and he's currently on the fifth line of betting.

14. SIR JOHN HAWKWOOD (14) 54KG (JOHN THOMPSON) BLAKE SPRIGGS

An eight-year-old veteran who has bounced around various stables since being brought to Australia from Ireland in 2013.
Likes: His best win was in this preparation when he saluted in the Group 1 Metropolitan (2400 metres) in October 2016.
Dislikes: A class below this field despite the win in the Metropolitan and there has to be a query over his ability to run 3200 metres.
Verdict: Definite pass.

15. EXCESS KNOWLEDGE (21) 53.5KG (WATERHOUSE & BOTT) VLAD DURIC

Gai Waterhouse backs up this veteran stallion that surprised many with his seventh placed effort in the 2015 Melbourne Cup.
Likes: Showing good form without winning in races this preparation. Ran a solid third in the Group 3 Bart Cummings and backed that up with another nice pre-Cup hit out for fourth in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup.
Dislikes: Will carry 2.5kg more than he did in the Cup last year, and it's fair to say that seventh placing was a direct result of a slew of talented horses being taken out behind him on the final turn of the rough and ready 2015 event. Hasn't won a race since his win in the Lexus prior to the 2015 Cup. Poor barrier.
Verdict: Gives every impression of not being a true stayer, rather a 2000-2400 metre horse being asked to extend himself. With the promise of early pace this year we should see a truer staying battle and he'll struggle come the straight. Pass.

16. BEAUTIFUL ROMANCE (1) 52.5KG (SAEED BIN SUROOR) DAMIAN LANE

A Godolphin import, the five-year-old mare can be hard to catch as a punter.
Likes: Her best win was in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes over 2100 metres. Has two places over 2400 metres.
Dislikes: Hard to catch and has been well beaten when racing in top flight company.
Verdict: Prefer her stablemate.

17. ALMANDIN (17) 52KG (ROBERT HICKMOTT) KERRIN MCEVOY 51KG

A lightly raced import from Germany, Almandin has a good strike rate of four wins, three seconds and a third from 11 starts.
Likes: His best win was a win in the Unternehmer (Group 2) in June of 2014 where he beat eventual 2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist. Was snapped up by Lloyd Williams after that impressive showing ... and then spelled for 107 weeks. Showing good form in lead up to the Cup with wins in the Listed H White (2400 metres) and Group 3 Bart Cummings (2500 metres).
Dislikes: Never run past 2500 metres, and yet to run against the top line Cup contenders.
Verdict: There is no doubt about the canny Williams stable being able to pick a Melbourne Cup contender from Europe. Almandin's win over Protectionist franks his class and he gets in with a light weight. Definite chance.

18. ASSIGN (22) 52KG (ROBERT HICKMOTT) KATELYN MALLYON

Yet another from the Lloyd Williams stable, and carries the hope of female jockey fans with Kate Mallyon on board.
Likes: Gets in on a feather weight and shown good recent form, pipped by stablemate Almandin in the Harry White Classic (2400 metres) after doing all the work for the field and then won the Group 2 Herbert Power (2400 metres) at his last start.
Dislikes: Never won or placed beyond 2400 metres, wide barrier draw and the odds have him the clear outsider from his stable.
Verdict: If you like Almandin, and I do, you have to respect Assign.

19. GREY LION (16) 52KG (MATT CUMANI) GLENN BOSS

An Irish raider trained by Matt Cumani, the son of legendary trainer Luca, Grey Lion is a lightly raced five-year-old stallion with just 12 starts to his name.
Likes: Has some reasonable staying form in Europe where he had a win over 2500 at Deauville in March this year and a third in the Group 3 Prix D'Hedouvi (2400 metres) in May. Showed he had handled the trip to Australia in fine style with a battling second in the Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400 metres) where he was just pipped by Qewy but beat Oceanographer.
Dislikes: His run in the Group 2 Kergorlay (3000 metres) prior to coming to Australia was pretty poor as he drifted to finish in last place 8 lengths behind the winner.
Verdict: Has a good strike rate but in lesser grade races than this. Has a lightweight, champion jockey Glenn Boss on board and some chance of a minor place.

20 OCEANOGRAPHER (11) 52KG (CHARLIE APPLEBY) CHAD SCHOFIELD

Another from the Charlie Appleby stable, this five-year-old Godolphin horse ran a beautiful Cup trial in the Lexus.
Likes: Stormed home in the Geelong Cup to finish within a length of winner Qewy and then came from last to gobble up the field in the Lexus on Saturday. Also finished strongly in the Ebor (a race won by Heartbreak City) in his last start before heading to Australia.
Dislikes: Has never run beyond the 2800 metres of the Ebor.
Verdict: His strong finishes in shorter races indicate he should get the two miles, and the slashing finish in the Lexus caught everyone's attention. Lovely barrier draw, light weight. Definite chance.

21. SECRET NUMBER (10) 52KG (SAEED BIN SUROOR) STEPHEN BASTER

The second Godolphin import and probably the hardest horse in the field to rate.
Likes: A tricky horse to get a hold on, Secret Number has had just the one start - the far from prestigious Doonside Cup - in the last 12 months. Showed immense talent in Europe before coming to Australia by recording wins over quality horses such as Red Cadeaux, Dandino and Gatewood.
Dislikes: Has any horse ever come into the Melbourne Cup with a win in the Doonside Cup so prominent on their resume?
Verdict: If you're playing safe with multiples leave him in, if you're searching for value be prepared to risk this talented but unpredictable horse.

22. PENTATHLON (4) 51.5KG (JOHN WHEELER) MARK DO PLESSIS

Dour Kiwi stayer who has run and won over 3200 metres.
Likes: Showed he can handle the distance with a win in a BM85 at Trentham, second in the Group 2 Wellington Cup and fourth in the Group 1 Auckland Cup all over two miles.
Dislikes: Form this preparation has been average. Ran a fair third in the Moonee Valley Cup behind Grand Marshall and Who Shot Thebarman and then did little in the Lexus won by Oceanographer on Saturday.
Verdict: Pass

23. QEWY (15) 51.5KG (CHRIS APPLEBY) CRAIG WILLIAMS

Yet another from the Godolphin stable, Qewy is a versatile horse as happy on the flat as he is over jumps.
Likes: Led all the way to win the Geelong Cup by a small margin over Grey Lion. Distance not a problem with the gelding having won over 3300 metres and placed at 4000. Gets in with a feather weight and has services of top jockey Craig Williams.
Dislikes: Will need some luck in running early as he lacks the tactical pace required to make the running if the field goes hard early.
Verdict: American (2010) and Dunedin (2011) did the Geelong Cup/Melbourne Cup double and Qewy has some hope of doing the same. Definite rough chance.

24. ROSE OF VIRGINIA (8) 51KG (LEE & SHANNON HOPE) BEN E THOMPSON

A seven-year-old Kiwi mare who is making up the numbers.
Likes: Ran second in the Group 1 Auckland Cup over 3200 metres.
Dislikes: Has shown nothing since the Auckland Cup run. Was flogged in the Lexus on Saturday.
Verdict: Nope

FINAL VERDICT

Tier One: Hartnell (6), Oceanographer (20), Big Orange (1)
Tier Two: Jameka (12), Almandin (17), Wicklow Brave (8)
Tier Three, Almoonqith (9), Bondi Beach (4), Exospheric (5), Gallante (10), Qewy (23), Assign (18), Grey Lion (19), Heartbreak City (13)

- NZ Herald

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