Overseas entries fuel Melbourne Cup drama

 

The Melbourne Cup, the race that stops Australia every year on the first Tuesday in November, has become embroiled in controversy, partly because of the record seven overseas entries.

The Victoria Racing Committee (VRC) has used its rarely summoned discretionary powers to include Paul Cole's Yorkshire and Australian hope Perpetual Check in the two-mile race, which will be run about 4.30 a.m. Irish time.

Yorkshire and Perpetual Check, ranked 25th and 28th respectively - the race can cater for a maximum of 24 runners - leapfrogged above the higher-ranked Bridle man and Bulta to gain entry.

Coming on the heels of the Taufan's Melody saga in the Caulfield Cup - the British-trained galloper won after the Victorian Amateur Turf Club used discretionary powers to include it among the 18 starters - the VRC's decision was inevitably going to create a stink to match the sewage leak in the members' betting ring on Saturday.

The cries of foul were made worse when the VRC refused to elaborate on the criteria used to exclude the likes of the 23rd-ranked Bridleman.

Brian Lawson, Bridleman's furious trainer, said: "We've done everything right to qualify and we've won the AJC St Leger and run fourth in the AJC Derby. What right have they to say he shouldn't be in the field?"

The positive offshoot of this sorry mess is that the entry criteria for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups will be reviewed after the spring carnival.

Godolphin's Faithful Son, an eye-catching fourth in the Caulfield Cup, is the 9 to 2 favourite under Frankie Dettori. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor said he was happy with Faithful Son's number eight draw.

Persian Punch, trained by David Elsworth and drawn 15, is a 10 to 1 shot and Lady Herries' Taufan Melody (drawn 14) is a 12 to 1 shot after picking up a 5 lb penalty for winning the Caulfield Cup at 66 to 1 two weeks ago.

Robert Armstrong's Sheer Danzig is 16 to 1 after drawing barrier 17 and Yorkshire, which has drawn 10, is the least fancied of the British quintet.

The race will also feature Malaysian hopefuls Three Crowns and Peak of Perfection.

Some argue that the internationalisation of the Cup has worked very well. Others retort that it has worked too well.

Kieren Fallon has great prospects tomorrow of notching 200 winners in a year for the second time when he starts the card at Redcar on 198 winners.

The Irishman can land a double on Agiotage and Raqqasa for trainer Henry Cecil. Agiotage has shown enough on his first two starts that this close relative of Xaar is well up to lifting the opening seven-furlong EBF Birch Maiden.

The son of Zafonic out of a half-sister to last year's outstanding juvenile finished a four-length fourth to Mizhar on his debut at Nottingham after being slowly away.

Raqqasa, who is to run in the Sycamore Handicap, chased home Kimberley at York at her last start, giving the impression her turn was near.