Even if the British trail in a minute behind the winner at Flemington Park in four days time, the indignation and fear which their very presence in the field has generated will have made the trip worthwhile. A British victory, though, would hurt the hosts every bit as much as defeat in the Ashes series which starts the same month, and if the latest odds are any guide, success for the tourists this winter is more likely to be on four legs than two.
Taufan's Melody was a 66-1 chance for the Caulfield Cup, but he is now among the favourites for the Melbourne Cup, the race for which all of Australia grinds to a halt. The clear market leader, though, is Faithful Son, runner-up in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown in July and an eye-catching fourth behind Taufan's Melody at Caulfield, when he had no luck in running. In theory, of course, he hails from Dubai, the home base of the Godolphin operation, but this is a technicality which will not trouble punters either in Britain or Australia. The British challenge will be completed by Sheer Danzig (trained by Robert Armstrong), Persian Punch (David Elsworth) and, possibly and somewhat controversially, Paul Cole's Yorkshire.
The doubt over whether Yorkshire will make it to the starting stalls next week is nothing to do with an injury, but instead a result of the tortuous process by which the final line-up for the Melbourne Cup is determined. Only 24 horses can run, and Yorkshire is currently number 25 in the list of qualifiers. He could be even lower than that, though, after several other would-be runners have run in trials this weekend.
Cole, apparently, was not informed of the problem until Yorkshire had already touched down in Australia. Since the cost of sending a racehorse to the other side of the world makes business class on Concorde look like an EasyJet to Ibiza, he was not best pleased.
Strangely enough, a similar problem faced Lady Herries shortly before the Caulfield Cup, when it transpired that Taufan's Melody's career earnings were just short of the total required to qualify for the race. The Victoria Racing Club, the local turf authority, simply exercised its power to allow Taufan's Melody to compete at the expense of a locally-trained runner. The decision was controversial at the time, and all the more so when Lady Herries' runner scraped home in front.
As a result, the VRC will be reluctant to bend the rules a second time to allow Yorkshire into the Melbourne Cup, and Cole's long trip south may have been in vain. Like the rest of the overseas runners, though, he must still exercise each morning, and yesterday he enjoyed a quiet canter at Sandown racecourse along with Taufan's Melody, Persian Punch and Sheer Danzig. Faithful Son, meanwhile, worked at Caulfield.
The final field of 24 runners will be announced at 6pm, local time, tomorrow, which is 7am on this side of the world. Saeed bin Suroor, Britain's champion trainer-elect, arrived in Melbourne yesterday to supervise the final preparation of both Faithful Son and Annus Mirabilis, who will run in the Mackinnon Stakes at the track on Saturday. Success in that race would take Annus Mirabilis's earnings past a million pounds.
It is the Melbourne Cup which everyone wants, though, and even Bart Cummings, the Australian trainer who has saddled the winner 10 times, yesterday joined the clamour for restrictions on the number of foreign-trained runners. It could be that there will be a simple way to tell if any of the British runners has emerged victorious in the small hours of Tuesday morning. Simply open your bedroom window at about 3.40am, and listen for the sound of whingeing Australians.
Melbourne Cup (Flemington, Tuesday) Coral: 4-1 Faithful Son (from 5-1), 8-1 Tie The Knot, 10-1 Taufan's Melody, Aerosmith, 12-1 Doriemus, 14-1 Our Unicorn, Darazari, Jezabeel 16-1 Persian Punch, Sheer Danzig, Yippio, 20-1 others.
William Hill: 7-2 Faithful Son (from 5-1), 8-1 Tie The Knot, 10-1 Aerosmith, Doriemus, Taufan's Melody (from 8-1), 14-1 Darazari, Jezabeel, Our Unicorn, Persian Punch, Sheer Danzig, 16-1 Perpetual Check, 20-1 others.