Those in attendance at the early morning gallops at Sandown Park here yesterday could not fail to notice the enthusiasm shown by connections as Taufan's Melody completed his preparation.
Despite the controversial aspects of his victory at Caulfield - his jockey, Ray Cochrane, was banned for a month and received a hefty fine for careless riding - Lady Herries' charge ran a courageous race. That form, if repeated tomorrow, would give him the verdict. Cochrane is replaced by a local rider, Patrick Payne. With four other British challengers, plus a pair from Singapore and 17 Antipodeans, Taufan's Melody will need to be at his best to take the near-pounds 1m first prize.
On paper, the best of the visitors is the favourite, Faithful Son. The Godolphin runner has by far the most eye-catching form, with an impressive trio of Group One victories. However, Frankie Dettori's mount has yet to race over two miles and, although he was a fast-finishing fourth to Taufan's Melody at Caulfield, he may not last out the extra four furlongs.
Dettori sounded a note of caution yesterday: "My main priority is to make sure the horse doesn't get bumped around. We have got a good draw and we are looking for a good position. If he stays, he stays. If he doesn't, he doesn't."
Of the remaining British runners, Persian Punch is an out-and-out stayer who can go close provided he is not taken off his feet in the early stages. Sheer Danzig is being freely tipped as an each-way chance by Robert Armstrong, his trainer.
Yorkshire is the dark horse. He is in the race only after being given special permission to compete by the Victoria Race Committee and like Taufan's Melody, whose participation at Caulfield was also in doubt until the officials stepped in, he has the ability to win at a big price.
Local opinion suggests the home team is not quite as strong as the visitors this year. But the three-year-old Arena is certain to be backed despite no horse of that age group having any success since 1941. In his latest race, he registered an impressive Victoria Derby victory.
It would be folly to rule out Doriemus, who followed his 1995 Melbourne Cup win by finishing a close runner-up to Might And Power in last year's contest. Champagne was the chief sufferer in the scrimmaging involving Taufan's Melody at Caulfield and cannot be overlooked.
At a press conference involving British connections yesterday, Paul Cole - Yorkshire's trainer - said: "I've always known he's a very, very good horse and he's given some cracking good performances when he's been right. On his day he's very, very good, and he gets the two miles and he has a tremendous turn of foot. If he's right on the day, he's certainly not a no-hoper."
Lady Herries said of Taufan's Melody: "He took about a week to recover from the Caulfield Cup, but since then he's done everything right.'' Taufan's Melody dictated the pace at Caulfield, but may not necessarily do so tomorrow. "He has the pace to race anywhere, but apparently Three Crowns is going to go on very fast, so it really depends how the race pans out. You can't really plan, I don't think, in advance," Lady Herries said.
David Elsworth was happy with his charge, Persian Punch, on his arrival. Elsworth said yesterday that all seemed well after a skin disorder, but added: "He recovered very quickly. The only problem may have been that we had to slow down on him for a week."
Armstrong said of Sheer Danzig: "I just think he's coming to a peak and I hope that peak is on Tuesday and I hope that it doesn't rain in between." The advance going is Good.
MELBOURNE CUP (William Hill): 7-2 Faithful Son, 8-1 Tie The Knot, 10-1 Arena, 11-1 Doriemus, Persian Punch, Taufan's Melody, 14-1 Darazari, Sheer Danzig, Aerosmith, Champagne, 16-1 Jezabeel, Perpetual Check, 20-1 Yippyio, The Hind, Yorkshire, 22- 1 Gold Guru, 25-1 Skybeau, 33-1 Three Crowns, 40-1 Markham, 66-1 Joss Sticks, Peak Of Perfection, Second Coming, Ancient City, 150-1 County Chivas.Reuse content