Sarah Jessica Parker, Dita Von Teese and the Kardashian sisters are among the stars jockeying for position as the biggest drawcards in the celebrity stakes at today's Melbourne Cup carnival.

Von Teese, the world's most famous burlesque performer, was in the advance guard, making her appearance at Flemington's Derby Day on Saturday.

But Parker made it into town in the nick of time yesterday after being delayed by the Qantas industrial dispute. The Kardashian sisters, Kim and Khloe, and veteran actor Joan Collins are also expected.

But the real stars are the horses, and last year's Cup winner, Americain, was last night listed as favourite, paying $4.80, ahead of Dunaden at $7.


Herald racing writer Mike Dillon nominates those two plus Lucas Cranach and At First Sight as the top four in the A$6.1 million race, with the Bart Cummings-trained Illo as the best roughie.

He says Dunaden was stylish in winning the Geelong Cup on his Australian debut and is seen by many as the horse working the best of all the international entries in today's glamour race.

His trainer, Frenchman Mikel Delzangles, wants some "Down Under" revenge in the A$6.2 million Emirates Melbourne Cup for the All Blacks' 8-7 win over France.

Delzangles is not only one of France's bright young trainers, he is a rugby fanatic.

"Football [soccer] has never appealed to me. It is France's national game and an obsession with many people, but I much prefer rugby."

Delzangles grew up in Bayonne in south-western France. "Rugby is at its strongest in the southwest of my country."

He played rugby until the pull of training thoroughbreds got him, but he attends as many of France's international rugby games as possible. "I get very busy, but I somehow make time to watch our team."

Sadly, there are no New Zealand-trained runners in today's Cup. Booming was pulled out after he raced well below expectations at Flemington on Saturday, and Showcause failed to qualify in the Lexus Stakes.


However, there are three New Zealand-bred runners - Precedence, Tullamore and Shamrocker - all of whom are at reasonably long odds.

They used to call the Melbourne Cup the race that stops a nation, but now it stops a bigger part of the world. Helping that is a record 11 Northern Hemisphere runners today.

A crowd of around 100,000 is expected despite patchy weather in Melbourne.

As hugely successful Italian-born English trainer Luca Cumani, who is desperate to win the Cup, says: "It is the biggest racing event on Earth. I will not be happy until I have won it."

He has two runners, Drunken Sailor and Manighar.