The Melbourne Cup has transformed over recent years with the European bred stayers tending to dominate the home team in terms of the number of challengers. The prize money on offer has seen plenty of International winners with the Australian bred stayers not quite up to the level.
Lloyd Williams acquired the current favourite Yucatan, earlier in the summer from Ballydoyle and he made a decent stab at pattern-level races in the UK and Ireland with a career best win in the Group 3 International Stakes at The Curragh prior to a Group I placing in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
Yucatan made an emphatic impression on his first start in Australia, in the Herbert Power, and has been handed a 2.5kg penalty as a result. There’s no doubting that he has some talent on his day.
But I’m not sure Yucatan has the staying minerals for this and he has also been handed an outside draw in 23, which will be difficult to overcome, and is not one for me at the current odds.
I have liked the chances of MAGIC CIRCLE for a while and ever since Withhold was ruled-out, it’s difficult to find a horse with much better recent staying-credentials than this son of Makfi.
Magic Circle was purchased by Dr. Marwan Koukash earlier in the year having had success with Ralph Beckett and Magic Circle has shown a marked improvement in his performances since the switch to the underrated Ian Williams yard.
The owner has been sending out very positive vibes about the horse and believes that he’s even better than Mouth Athos, who finished third in this in 2013.
Magic Circle has thrived over the two mile trip on his only two starts this year. Firstly destroying a decent-field in the Chester Cup handicap by six lengths off a long layoff whilst carrying a big-weight, before following that up by doing exactly the same thing two weeks later against Group horses – again comfortably winning by six lengths.
Magic Circle, who will be ridden by last year’s winning jockey Corey Brown, could have the right type of devastating turn-of-foot to claim a Melbourne Cup and the yard have kept him fresh for this having been mooted as a potential Gold Cup horse for Royal Ascot.
People often like to see a horse run in Australia before going nap on them, but I don’t think the lack of a prep is an issue for Magic Circle as he goes very well fresh.
The handicapper could have been a little kinder with his weight of 56kg. But his draw in 17 could be much worse (Almandin coming from this stall in 2016) as he likes to be held up and with some rain on the way to aid his chances, he could end up much shorter on Cup day than 8/1.
Godolphin go in search of victory with three runners this year and all have excellent credentials.
Best Solution has been in great form over 1m 4f including a win in Australia, but there are question marks over this trip for him. The same can be said about Avilius who has an interesting profile, and could go close from a decent draw if seeing out this distance.
But the pick of Godolphins’ runners looks to be CROSS COUNTER who gets in with a featherweight – carrying only eight stone – despite officially being rated 115 by the British Handicapper. To put this in to perspective, Magic Circle is officially rated 117 and is giving Cross Counter 11 pounds here.
Admittedly Cross Counter is yet to tackle this sort of trip, but he looks like an emerging classy stayer and has been progressing in each of his starts this season.
Rekindling proved last year that three-year-olds can progress to win this race without a prep and he carried 0.5kg more than our selection.
Cross Counter is by Teofilo (who’s sire was Galileo) and he has produced some decent staying-types in his time as a stallion to provide confidence over this trip.
His draw in 19 is a bit of a shocker, but he has two-time winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy steering and Charlie Appleby’s horses have been red hot in international competition claiming honours from France to America in recent weeks.
Appleby could add another one here in Australia with his young gun difficult to ignore at the weights.
1pt each-way Magic Circle @8/1, 4:00AM Flemington, Tuesday (six places, 1/5 odds with William Hill)
1pt each-way Cross Counter @8/1, 4:00AM Flemington, Tuesday (six places, 1/5 odds with William Hill)